Monday, May 30, 2011


While listening to four Canadian authors read at the Murder on the Menu luncheon at the CLA conference this weekend, I was struck by the variety of voices. Not only the authors’ personal voices, but the other voices they brought to the table: their characters, their communities, their occupations and their values.

Anne Emery and Pamela Callow are lawyers working in Halifax (and obviously women). You’d think they might think alike, sound alike, reveal setting the same way and maybe even plot alike. But you’d be wrong.

Anne Emery writes from the point of view of Monty Collins, lawyer and bluesman. Through Monty we travel through Halifax society, high and low and we get the Cape Breton voice through his wife, Moira, and the Irish influence of Father Brendan Burke. We also get music and musical voices. The fifth book in the series, Children in the Morning, has just won a silver medal in the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and has won the 2011 Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction.

Pamela Callow brings a very different voice in the Kate Lange legal thrillers Damaged and Indefensible. We get to know a woman in her thirties, practicing law in a blue chip law firm, with all the pressures, conflicts and betrayals that brings. In her own voice, we learn the guilt Kate carries from her sister’s death. We also hear her footsteps as she makes her regular run through Halifax streets and parks, but not away from trouble. As well as giving us a strong woman in a thriller, Pamela Callow also gives voice to her own concerns about troubling bio-medical issues and other contemporary complexities that challenge our legal system and our lives.

Thomas Curran brings the voice of Newfoundland and not just The Rock, but The Rock in 1947. Through his writing you hear the speech patterns, discover the social conventions and a sense of life at the time. Because he also brings his background as a meticulous researcher (and PhD) he gets that right too. You feel that you are there, riding or walking along with Inspector Eric Stride. We get to know Stride’s married lover and we hear the voices of other police officers at many levels, as well as petty criminals and the good citizens of St. John’s. You feel that you are there and it’s a fascinating and unique place to be.

Barbara Fradkin brings her training and experience as a psychologist to her writing. Yes. Another PhD. In her award winning books she gives voice to many disenfranchised people: street people, an elderly recluse, an autistic child to name a few, as well as the lively perspective of Hannah, the challenging daughter of Inspector Michael Green. Then there’s Green himself and his long-suffering wife, Sharon. Green’s Jewish heritage and relatives add other voices to the mix, and lots of interesting food, history and tragedy. Barbara’s latest Green book is Beautiful Lie the Dead. Barbara is offering us a new voice in her Rapid Reads series: In The Fall Guy, Cedric O’Toole, handyman, sounds very real to me (and I wish I could find him!)

I have a better sense of my country and its people because I have heard these voices. I have new insights and new friends. These are authors well worth reading and they are just four of our many Canadian crime writers. So, what wonderful Canadian voices have you discovered? Want to share?

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder, which hit the bookshelves last month, is brimming with names, no two the same.


  1. Great event, Mary Jane! But you forgot to mention your own voice - or rather voices! All distinct, but all bringing your unique voice of humour, spirit and compassion to the struggles they face. Thanks!