The Great White North is not unlike Scandinavia. The nights are long. The winters are long. And the landscapes vary from grey stretches of urban concrete to northern vistas broken by outcroppings of granite, frozen swamps and vast forests. The cold and isolation can send the mind awry, and there are undoubtedly places to hide bodies! Canada has its fair share of top crime writers like Linwood Barclay, but despite its cold climate the country also has some hot new emerging writers you should check out. The following are all worth a read…
The author of Old City Hall and The Guilty Plea is a writer who expertly juggles different storylines while delivering many twists and turns that keep you turning the pages. He also excels at creating interesting and complex characters in a world of lawyers, courthouses and trials that he knows very well – he is a successful criminal lawyer in Toronto. Even during the quieter moments of his storylines, the pace never loses steam and I never lost interest. Watch for his upcoming novel Stray Bullets next year.
With The Water Rat of Wanchai and The Disciple of Las Vegas earlier this year, Hamilton has created more than a good and entertaining series; he’s come up with a lead character who is intelligent, resourceful, and feisty. She also kicks ass! Ava Lee is a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant whose job is to recover massive debts in any way she can. The series has international appeal – from Toronto, Ava travels to exotic places like Bangkok, the Virgin Islands, Guyana and, of course, Hong Kong. Diminutive at 5-foot-3 and 115lbs Ava might remind you a little of a certain Lisbeth Salander, but from the global economics to an insider’s view of the poker world, you never doubt that the author knows what he’s talking about. He’s travelled to many countries and he invites the reader to some of the darkest and most dangerous corners of the world. His next title in Canada will be The Wild Beasts of Wuhan (February 2012). UK readers – grab The Deadly Touch Of The Tigress for your Kindle. You won’t be disappointed.
Watch out for The Damage Done, coming to the UK in paperback format in January. Here, main character Lily Moore is a travel journalist living in Spain but she’s called back home to New York to identify the body of her sister. Turns out the dead woman is not Claudia Moore. But who is she? And where is Claudia? Reading it you’ll suspect pretty much every character and guess many possible scenarios in this tightly constructed plot. After 100 pages I stopped trying to figure it out and just enjoyed the ride. Davidson writes like a seasoned pro in their prime – I never suspected it was her first novel. She creates characters who carry their own distinct baggage of experiences and act accordingly. I was a little put off by the number of movie references, but it certainly wasn’t enough to dampen the intrigue. The suspense builds nicely, progressing to a crescendo that brings a very satisfying ending to what is one of the best debuts I’ve read in the last five years. Can’t wait for The Next One to Fall.
Robin Spano is a Vancouver writer who creates stories that keep you guessing until you run out of guesses. Her lead character is a cop, Clare Vengel, who does undercover work. As you read, you watch her develop – she gets her first assignment in the first book, Dead Politician Society and then her second in Death Plays Poker. Clare is not a seasoned cop but she is tough, intelligent and very likable. Her assignment in book two is to infiltrate a major poker tournament, as a participant, to find a killer – dubbed the Poker Choker – who has strangled a few international star players. Spano’s dialogue is the backbone of her books. It keeps the plot moving forward at train-wreck speed and you won’t want to put on the brakes but you’ll crash well after your usual bedtime.
Readers of gritty, tough and in your face crime novels will enjoy McFetridge’s books. He develops his voice with each one, and his Toronto series gets better and better. My favourite one so far is Swap, where I think McFetridge really hits his stride. The writing is at its tightest, the dialogue sharp, and the characters so alive that I found myself talking back to them, out loud! One of the original aspects of the Toronto series is that it follows various people – cops, bikers, drug addicts, politicians, and so on — but the lead characters change from book to book. The closest comparison that comes to mind is The Wire, but I also love what Sarah Weinman wrote about McFetridge’s style, saying he “keeps the quips to a minimum, preferring punch to panache. As a result, the only time his prose gets purple is when fists are flying”. Beautiful.
If you’ve read any of the authors we’ve talked about, or have uncovered your own Canadian crime writing gem, please post your comments below.