Still Life (2005) by Louise Penny is the first novel the acclaimed author published. (Photo submitted)

Book Talk: Canadian crime creations

A great detective story, crafted by a master of the genre, is not simply about murder

Peter Critchley

For The Morning Star

A great detective story, crafted by a master of the genre, is not simply about murder. It also serves as a moral compass, perhaps more than any other genre, and the mystery authors of this country often lead the way.

Still Life (2005) by Louise Penny is the first novel the acclaimed author published. It is a superbly crafted, insightful work that introduces Chief Insp. Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, one of the most engaging sleuths to be found in any mystery novel.

Gamache and his investigative team are called in when retired schoolteacher Janet Neal is killed by someone using a bow and arrow in the woods near her home in Three Pines, a tiny hamlet in Quebec just north of the American border. The death hits the small community hard, since Heal touched the lives of all the villagers, particularly her neighbour and friend Clara Morrow.

The locals believe it is a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, since hunting season just opened. But Gamache, a seasoned senior homicide investigator, soon determines it is more likely someone murdered Heal and he and his team set out to track down the killer.

Old City Hall (2009) by Robert Rotenberg is a legal thriller roller-coaster with a remarkably brisk plot, well-developed characters with depth, terrific dialog and a conclusion that will leave you breathless. The tale begins when popular Canadian radio talk show host Kevin Brace is accused of murdering his common-law spouse Katherine Torn. Everyone in Toronto believes the case is a slam dunk, especially since Brace confessed to a newspaper deliveryman that he killed her.

Those are the last words Brace says about the case. He refuses to discuss it with anyone, including his lawyer, Nancy Parish, and only uses written notes to communicate with her. The investigating detective, police officers and Crown attorney on the case are not that concerned — Brace’s confession and the evidence speak volumes and should be enough for a conviction.

But all bets are off when the investigation soon digs up a million-dollar radio contract, a private life that belies Brace’s meticulously constructed public persona and information on Katherine’s own checkered past.

Acts of Murder (1997) by L.R. Wright is a riveting novel that showcases the author’s consummate prose and painstaking attention to detail. This is the ninth title in the acclaimed Karl Alberg series set in the sleepy Sunshine Coast town Sechelt.

As Alberg prepares to marry his long-time friend Cassandra Mitchell, a devious killer stalks the village. The killer, known as the avenging angel seeking to ride the community of those who sin and betray, has already killed three residents. And Alberg, with the help of a striking new Sgt. Edwina Henderson, races against the wire to stop the killer before anyone else is murdered.

These three titles are available through your Okanagan Regional Library, www.orl.bc.ca.

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