Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Gift for All Tastes

Now that the holiday season is upon us, I have a simple message for all those floundering to find that perfect gift.

Buy a book!

Not only are there books for every skill level, age, taste and interest, but a book gives three-fold. It enriches the heart and mind of its recipient, it strengthens our collective cultural voice, and it supports the (usually) struggling author who provides that voice. With this in mind, I would urge gift-buyers to venture beyond the blockbuster bestsellers at the front of the store and down the aisles towards the lesser known writers. There are unique and fresh voices to be heard, who rely not on big publicity budgets but on word of mouth, and who deserve much more attention than they receive in today's crowded marketplace.

Crime Writers of Canada is the national association that supports the efforts of Canadian writers to be heard in that crowded marketplace. Swamped by the much bigger and more powerful UK and US publishing juggernauts, and side-swiped by the Scandanavian craze, Canadian crime writers and their publishers struggle to gain much notice, so CWC has launched a social media campaign to encourage people to explore canadian crime writing. Its catchy phrase is "Hot Crime in a Cool Clime".

On the Crime Writers of Canada website, under the link Cool Canadian Crime, you will find a list of all the 2013 books by CWC members. I can't mention all the great books that have come out this year – all worthy gifts for the right recipient – but with some trepidation I have decided to venture into the dangerous waters of "Holiday Lists" by providing a sampling of possibilities. I say with trepidation because these writers are my friends and I hate to leave any of them off the list (bearing in mind they know how to kill too). So I want to provide tantalizing hints of the range and variety available to you, rather than an exhaustive list. To that end I have tried to shine the spotlight beyond the familiar bestsellers onto books written in 2013 and set in Canada (with a few exceptions), that I can personally vouch for. There are many, many more I have not yet had the pleasure of reading, so let this list be a beginning for you, not an end.

For lovers of gritty, urban thrillers, there is ER Brown's Almost Criminal, set in British Columbia's infamous grow-opt trade where a unique, engaging teenager who finds himself way over his head. Or Howard Shrier's Miss Montreal, PI Jonah Geller's third outing in which he battles for truth amid the politics and corruption of Canada's most colourful city.

For those who like some international intrigue mixed in, there is Anthony Bidulka's When the Saints Go Marching In, which finds Disaster Recovery Agent Adam Saint investigating a Russian plane crash that kills a Canadian Governor-General. Or Peggy Blair's The Poisoned Pawn, which brings back Cuban Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, now battling a conspiracy that stretches from Ottawa to Havana to the Vatican.

Readers who like a historical twist to their crime will enjoy Janet Kellough's 47 Sorrows, which highlights the struggles of immigrants fleeing to the Ontario shores from the potato famines in Ireland. And for the best in classic, gritty police procedurals, Vicki Delany's latest Constable Molly Smith novel A Cold, White Sun brings us deadly rage in the idyllic setting of the Rockies.

If your recipient prefers more light-hearted romps to take their mind off the dark days of winter, Gloria Ferris's Corpse Flower is a raucous story about a trailer park divorcee, a pollinating plant, and simple dreams that get out of hand. Even more light-hearted are the latest instalments by two of Canada's divas of cozy crime, Erika Chase, with her latest Ashton Book Club mystery Cover Story, and Victoria Abbott's latest book collector mystery, The Sayers Swindle. Victoria Abbott is the secret identity of Mary Jane Maffini and her daughter Victoria.

All well and good, you say, but my uncle, cousin, sister...whatever... doesn't read. No problem! I have two books to get the most reluctant reader back on track. These books are specifically written for people who can't or don't read for whatever reason. They are easy to read, entertaining, fast-paced, and mercifully short. Brenda Chapman's My Sister's Keeper is an edgy thriller about a bar-hoppng ex-cop forced to confront her past, and if your reader likes a more humorous, madcap romp, try Melodie Campbell's The Goddaughter's Revenge, set in rough-edged Hamilton.

And there is much more where these came from, folks! For more Hot Crime in a Cool Clime, check out

For more reluctant reader books, check out I have two books in this series as well.

For a terrific list of current books by Ottawa writers, check out

And happy shopping!


Mary Jane Maffini said...

And what about Whisper of Legends, you latest good and a terrific read! Just sayin'

Rick Blechta said...

She's too modest -- but shouldn't be. It is a terrific book.