COLUMN: Solving the mystery of the next great read

Folks who love mysteries grew up chasing clues with Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple before graduating to Inspector Morse and Kay Scarpetta.

’Fess up:  you’ve loved a good mystery since Mrs. Peacock did it with the candlestick in the—wait for it—library.

Folks who love mysteries grew up chasing clues with Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple before graduating to Inspector Morse and Kay Scarpetta.

We gobble them up like candy and hoard the wrappers, hoping for more. Chocolate has nothing on P.D. James, Anne Perry, and Ian Rankin.

We have our own resident mystery writer in Deryn Collier, who sets her books in a vaguely familiar place called Kootenay Landing and has so far produced two of a multi-book series in the best tradition of sleuths-you-love-to-follow.

In Confined Space, coroner and ex-forces commander Bern Fortin hopes for a relatively quiet life after the horrors of Rwanda—and of course, it’s not. In Open Secret, Bern uncovers the darker side of the region’s not-so-secret economy.

Sound familiar?

I love Deryn’s novels, and I’m not alone: Confined Space was the One Book, One Kootenay selection for 2013, while out there in the world, celebrated mystery authors have taken note.

Says Ian Hamilton: “her setting may be cozy, but Collier’s style is dark and deep.”

Says Kathy Reichs: “Open Secret is a riveting page-turner from a talented new voice.”

I asked Deryn to spill the secret of her mystery series favourites for the perfect summer read.

“Ian Hamilton’s Ava Lee series makes for great beach reading,” she says.

“Ava is a Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who travels the globe to track down millions of dollars on behalf of swindled clients. She meets no end of trouble on her way.”

As well, Gail Bowen’s books “combine domesticity and danger in a tantalizing way—suspenseful enough to keep you reading but not so terrifying as to leave you looking for bogey men under the bed.”

Finally, the Ruth Galloway series of archaeological mysteries by Elly Griffith: “Set on the coast in Norfolk, they’re not too dark, not too heavy, but delightfully suspenseful.”

Deryn suggests starting with Crossing Places.

I love polling librarians, because they read a lot, and because they’re handy (I can shout at them from my desk.)

Eva suggests Season of Darkness and Beware this Boy by Maureen Jennings, a Canadian author known for her Inspector Murdoch series.

“These newer books feature Inspector Tom Tyler and are set in WWII England with plenty of historical detail and good characterization,” she says.

Also books by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason. “His Reykjavik Murder Mystery series features Inspectors Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli, and their female colleague, Elinborg. Indridason’s writing gives the reader a real feel for the insular culture of Iceland with its long winters as well as the stark beauty of its landscape.”

Helen loves novels by Malla Nunn, author of A Beautiful Place to Die, among others.

“This series is set in South Africa in the early 1950s, just after the time when Apartheid became legal,” she says.

“The protagonist, a white policeman, sympathizes with the non-white population, but has to fit in with his racist co-workers and bosses.”

She also recommends Robert Rotenberg, author of Old City Hall, Guilty Plea, Stray Bullets, and others “for the police procedural and the courtroom drama, but most of all, because the setting is Toronto and the author describes the city exactly like it is.”

Cara has read all of the Sue Grafton Mysteries, in which detective Kinsey Millhone sleuths her way through the alphabet, from A is for Alibi to (so far) W is for Wasted. Three more to go! And then what will happen?

It’s all about solving the mystery of what to read next. And hopefully, this column has helped.


— Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For information visit

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