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Vicki Delany -- Night Table Recommendations

by Events Winnipeg - Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011 at 2:17pm

A crime writer I am also a crime reader and probably about 80% of my reading is crime novels. I also like to read books set in Canada whenever possible, and sometimes that makes for a difficult search. Canadian crime writers still have the impression that they have to set their books in the U.S. and pretend to be Americans. There are noticeable exceptions, but despite the success of many Canadian - set mystery books on the world stage, setting a crime book in Canada, with Canadian characters and Canadian issues, is seen as taking a risk.

Fortunately there are a number of excellent Canadian writers prepared to take that risk. One of my favourites of the last couple of years is The Weight of Stones (Dundurn Press) by Ottawa's C.B. Forrest. Weight of Stones is a crime novel in that that protagonist is a Toronto police officer and he is on the trail of some 'bad guys' but (like the very best crime novels) it is so much more. The main character, Charlie McKelvey, is consumed by grief and guilt. Grief over the death of his son, and guilt in what he sees as his part in the death because he threw the troubled young man out of the house. Forrest's portrait of McKelvey's anguish, which has destroyed his marriage and is well on the way to destroying his career, is so heart-rending I was surprised when I met Forrest to find, not a drunk ex-cop with a grudge against the world, but a happy young man in a happy marriage. Excellent writing does that.

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Mystery novels, or as I prefer to call them, crime novels, are often disparaged as not being important or literary. Particularly in Canada the very idea of a crime novel being short-listed for an important award would have people rolling in the aisles in laughter, and grants are almost never awarded to a crime writer. It's been said that in Canada crime writers are expected to sit at the children's table at the literary banquet.

It seems a strange mind-set to me. Crime novels take (usually) normal people and put them through a heck of a lot. Some survive, some do not. Physically as well as mentally or morally.

Crime novels allow the reader to ask him or herself: what would I do in this situation? What would I do if this happened to me? How far would I go to save my child/defeat my enemy/get revenge/save myself? What would I do for money/for love?

Would I do the right thing, or would I fail?

Good crime novels have a psychological edge and one of the best at that is another Ottawa resident, Barbara Fradkin. Fradkin's career was as a psychologist and she has said that in her books she reveals her fascination for how we turn bad.

Note the use of the word we in that sentence.

Fradkin has won two Arthur Ellis awards for her Inspector Green series, the most recent, Beautiful Lie the Dead (Dundurn Press), has a place on my night table.

Another favourite Canadian crime writer is the popular Gail Bowen from Regina. Gail's novels are so family-oriented, so gentle, yet pack a powerful emotional and psychological punch at the impact of the effects of crime on what we might call normal people. Gail is perhaps the most truly Canadian in style of today's mystery writers. Her newest Joanne Kilbourn novel is The Nesting Dolls (McClelland & Stewart).

Perhaps my favourite mystery novel of all is Iain Pear's An Instance of the Fingerpost (Random House UK). A complex novel set in England in the 1660s An Instance of the Fingerpost is about truth and how events and facts can be perceived differently by different people, about the beginnings of the modern mind, and about nothing less than the nature of the divine. This is a book I read every couple of years, just for the pleasure of finding little clues I had not previously noticed and paths that appear minor but turn out to be of vital importance to the understanding of Pears' themes.

Because I write the Klondike Gold Rush books published by Dundurn, I always have a stack of historical books on my night table in case I need to check a detail in the middle of the night. My go-to source is Pierre Burton's Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush (Doubleday Canada). The accompanying book of photographs: The Klondike Quest: A Photographic Essay 1897-1899 is absolutely invaluable for a writer. A newer book I'm enjoying having ready access to is Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in the Klondike (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd) by Charlotte Gray.

When it comes to non-fiction, since I've moved to Prince Edward County and now live in the country, I've become interested in food security, the nature of the food industry and the locovore movement. Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations (Random House UK) by Evan D. G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas is something I keep close at hand and in my mind when I need to remember that we shouldn't be counting on having a readily-available supply of high-quality affordable food at all times.


"It's a crime not to read Delany," says the London Free Press. Winnipeg-born Vicki Delany is one of Canada's most prolific and varied crime writers. She writes everything from standalone novels of gothic suspense (Burden of Memory) to the Constable Molly Smith books, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the British Columbia Interior (In the Shadow of the Glacier etc.), to a light-hearted historical series set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush (Gold Digger, Gold Fever). Vicki visited the Winnipeg and Saskatoon stores in the spring as part of a cross-Canada tour for Among the Departed, the fifth in the Constable Molly Smith series. Gold Mountain, the third Klondike Gold Rush book, will be released by Dundurn in May 2012. Visit Vicki online here.

Categories: Reviews, Authors, Mystery & Crime, Night Table Recommendations

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Gold Mountain

- Trade paperback

by Vicki Delany - $17.99 - Add to Cart

When Fiona MacGillivray refuses the bandit Paul Sheridan, it's up to her son to to save her. Book Three of the Klondike Mystery Series by Vicki Delany! In the summer of 1897, Fiona MacGillivray and her eleven year-old son, Angus, arrive in Vancouver in time to hear the news gold discovered in the Klondike! Fiona immediately sets off for Skagway, Alaska, intent on opening a theatre. After one encounter with infamous gangster Soapy Smith and his henchman Paul Sheridan, she decides to pursue her ambitions on the other side of the border in Dawson City. As a dying man breathes his last, he passes on to Sheridan a map pointing due north to the fabled Gold Mountain, where hills of gold keep the heat from hot springs contained in a valley as warm as California. Sheridan is determined to become the king of Gold Mountain and to marry Fiona and make her his queen. Fiona, of course, wants no part of these mad plans. When Sheridan refuses to take no for an answer, Fiona must rely on Corporal Sterling of the North-West Mounted Police, young Angus, and a headstrong assortment of townsfolk to help thwart his scheme. If you loved Gold Mountain, check out the fourth book of the series, Gold Web.

Among the Departed

- Trade paperback

by Vicki Delany - Constable Molly Smith # 5 (series) - $32.50 - Add to Cart
Large Print Edition

  Fifteen years ago a young girl by the name of Moonlight Smith went to her best friend Nicky Nowak's house for a sleepover. Moonlight joined the family for breakfast the following morning and was then picked up by her mother. Shortly after, Mr. Nowak went for a walk.   He was never seen again.   Autumn has arrived on the mountains above Trafalgar, B.C., and the promise of winter is in the air. Constable Molly Smith is cuddled by the fireplace with Adam Tocek of the RCMP when Tocek and his dog Norman are called to a wilderness camping ground to join the search for a little boy who snuck away from his family looking for bears.   The child is found, dirty, terrified, weeping, but unharmed. Then the inquisitive Norman digs up something else: human bones.   The ID isn't positive, but it is enough to have Sergeant John Winters of the Trafalgar City Police pulling old boxes from the basement to re-open the Brian Nowak investigation. He finds a family shattered beyond recognition by the disappearance of their husband and father. Mrs. Nowak is an empty shell of a woman, dressed in pajamas, never leaving the house. Her son Kyle haunts the streets of Trafalgar at night and spends his days creating beautiful, but highly troubling, art. Nicky Nowak lives in Vancouver and has grown up to be gorgeous, charming, elegant. Yet behind that facade lies a woman whose heart has closed so tightly against human relationships she comes to Trafalgar trailing in her wake a terrifying threat to another innocent family.    As the investigation into the life and disappearance of Brian Nowak grows, old secrets are brought to light and new ones struggle to remain hidden.    

The Weight of Stones

- Trade paperback

by C B Forrest - A Charlie McKelvey Mystery # 1 (series) - $15.95 - Add to Cart

Toronto at the close of 1999. It is a time of change, but Detective Charlie McKelvey's life is stuck on pause since the murder of his runaway son, Gavin. As his wife focuses on healing, McKelvey is burdened with guilt for his role in kicking the teen out of the family home--and his inability to move the case to resolution. Obsessed with the stalled murder investigation, McKelvey's behavior becomes increasingly unhinged. He is convinced the person responsible for the murder is an ex-convict sent to Toronto to establish a chapter of a biker gang, The Blades. The question is, does McKelvey have the right man, or is he blinded by his grief? When unexpected illness forces McKelvey's early retirement--and his wife heads to the west coast to live with a relative--the conditions are finally ripe for McKelvey to focus entirely on his plans for revenge. This novel explores the daily and random decisions we make and their consequences as it stares into the heart of grief and sees the impact violent crime has on all of us.

Beautiful Lie the Dead

- Trade paperback

by Barbara Fradkin - An Inspector Green Mystery # 8 (series) - $16.95 - Add to Cart

Inspector Green explores a web of betrayal and deceit. In the dead of night, the phone rings in the missing persons unit of the Ottawa Police. A brutal blizzard is howling, and a wealthy social activist has not heard from his fiance in over twenty-four hours. Friends, family and police are mobilized to search the snowbound city. He comes to believe that his partner is fleeing for her life, possibly from his own family. When a frozen body is found in the snow, just blocks from the mans home, Green knows that someone is conspiring to keep the truth hidden.

The Nesting Dolls

- Trade paperback

by Gail Bowen - $16.99 - Add to Cart

Just hours before her body is found in a car in a parking lot, a young woman hands her baby to a perfect stranger and disappears. The stranger is the daughter of Delia Wainberg, a lawyer in the same firm as Joanne Kilbourn's husband. One close look at the child suggests that there might be a family relationship, and soon the truth about the child Delia gave up for adoption years ago comes out. The boy must be Delia's grandson. Then his mother is found dead, sexually assaulted and murdered. Not only is there a killer on the loose, but the dead woman's partner is demanding custody of the child.From the Hardcover edition.

An Instance Of The Fingerpost

- Trade paperback

by Iain Pears - $21.95 - Add to Cart

We are in Oxford in the 1660s - a time, and place, of great intellectual, scientific, religious and political ferment. Robert Grove, a fellow of New College is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear about the events surrounding his death from four witnesses: Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; Jack Prescott, the son of a supposed traitor to the Royalist cause determined to vindicate his father; John Wallis, chief cryptographer to both Cromwell and Charles II, a mathematician, theologican and inveterate plotter; and Anthony Wood, the famous Oxford antiquary. Each witness tells their version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth.An Instance of the Fingerpost is a magnificent tour de force: an utterly compelling historical mystery story with a plot that twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing until the very last page.


- Trade paperback

by Pierre Berton - $24.95 - Add to Cart

With the building of the railroad and the settlement of the plains, the North West was opening up. The Klondike stampede was a wild interlude in the epic story of western development, and here are its dramatic tales of hardship, heroism, and villainy. We meet Soapy Smith, dictator of Skagway; Swiftwater Bill Gates, who bathed in champagne; Silent Sam Bonnifield, who lost and won back a hotel in a poker game; and Roddy Connors, who danced away a fortune at a dollar a dance. We meet dance-hall queens, paupers turned millionaires, missionaries and entrepreneurs, and legendary Mounties such as Sam Steele, the Lion of the Yukon.Pierre Berton's riveting account reveals to us the spectacle of the Chilkoot Pass, and the terrors of lesser-known trails through the swamps of British Columbia, across the glaciers of souther Alaska, and up the icy streams of the Mackenzie Mountains. It contrasts the lawless frontier life on the American side of the border to the relative safety of Dawson City. Winner of the Governor General's award for non-fiction, Klondike is authentic history and grand entertainment, and a must-read for anyone interested in the Canadian frontier.