The Next Chapter

12 must-read thrillers from The Next Chapter's mystery book panel

CBC Radio

December 19, 2017

The Next Chapter's panel chooses this season's top suspense novels. (Douglas & McIntyre/Macmillan/Little, Brown and Company/Orion Publishing/Grove Atlantic/Knopf Canada)

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Our mystery books panel on their picks as the best whodunits of the season.  13:10

The Next Chapter's mystery book panel is back for another holiday season. Mystery bookshop co-owner J.D. Singh, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Cannon and McMaster University professor P.K. Rangachari have assembled a list of mysteries to send shivers down your spine this snowy season.

Friends and Traitors by John Lawton

John Lawton tampers with the fate of his characters when Inspector Troy unwittingly becomes involved in a political quagmire set during the Cold War. (Nick Lockett/Grove Atlantic)

J.D. says: "The English writer was fittingly named by the Daily Telegraph as 'One of the 50 Crime Writers to Read Before You Die'. His principle character in Friends and Traitors is an policeman by the name of Frederick Troy. He is the younger son of a Russian immigrant father who has become a wealthy newspaper publisher and a baronet. Defying class and family expectations, Frederick joins Scotland Yard. He and his older brothers are visiting Europe when he's approached by a man who fled to the Soviet Union but wants to return home. That's when the game is afoot."

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Six Degrees of Freedom by Nicolas Dickner

Nicolas Dickner's debut novel, Nikolski, won Canada Reads in 2010. (François Couture/Penguin Random House Canada)

P.K. says: "There are lots of books about missing people. Six Degrees of Freedom is a book about a missing, 40-foot refrigerated container. Linking up this missing container on a ship somewhere in the world are three characters. The first is a girl called Lisa, who is a nerdy, scientifically minded person who wants to do things with her hands and stretch the human experience. The second is Éric, an agoraphobic hacker. The third is Jay, who was indicted for fraud and later recruited as an analyst by the RCMP. This is an absolutely charming book that deals with so many different issues we don't think about, such as how a marriage can fall apart in IKEA or how ships and containers move. The title refers to the movement of rigid bodies in space since it's about containers. If you want one, pure, delightful book for Christmas, this is it!"

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Oregon investigator and novelist tells the story of parents who tirelessly search for their missing child. (HarperCollins)

 

Margaret says: "The Child Finder is the perfect Christmas read — it's grizzly and horrifying and scary as all get-out. The central plot is about a child who has been missing for three years. She disappears while her family is out picking a Christmas tree. The police have long given up and the parents just want to know what happened. The last resort is Naomi 'the child finder'. She works from her own instinctive experience because, it turns out, she was herself a missing child. It is the scariest thing that could happen to anyone. I found this book absolutely riveting!" 

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Bestselling-novelist Michael Connelly tells the story of a police officer working on cold cases well after his retirement from the LAPD. (Little, Brown and Company)

 

J.D. says: "Once you get started with Two Kinds of Truth, you won't want to put it down — so clear up some time. This is Connelly's 22nd novel in the Harry Bosch series. In this one, Harry is working as a volunteer for the San Fernando police department. Due to a lack of funding, the police department is looking for retired officers to teach their rookie staff and go through cold cases. At the same time, a serial killer that Harry had put behind bars several years ago and who has been on death row has managed to convince the district attorney's office to re-examine his case. Harry is also involved with a double-slaying case. The author keeps all three stories going at a very nice pace. A perfect read for a cold afternoon!" 

The Lies We Tell by Theresa Schwegel

After winning the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel with her debut Officer Down, the Chicago novelist returns with a story about a police detective struggling with multiple sclerosis. (Ben Rodig/Macmillan )

P.K. says: "Lots of books have been written about cancer, but there are other conditions that take a toll on people's lives and multiple sclerosis is one of them. In The Lies We Tell, police officer Gina has multiple sclerosis and wants to keep it hidden for fear of losing her job. The problem with a condition like MS is that you don't know when the remissions and relapses will hit you. This is a police procedural novel, but it's also a hospital procedural novel. It takes you through the American hospital system and everything going on around insurance, race and poverty. It's a grim book, but it is well-worth reading." 

The White Angel by John MacLachlan Gray

John MacLachlan Gray's novel The White Angel is set in 1924 Vancouver and is inspired by the cold case of Janet Smith and the mystery surrounding her death. (Brian K. Smith Photo/Douglas & McIntyre )

Margaret says: "The White Angel is a true story out of Vancouver about the murder of a nanny in 1924. The whodunit revolves around a nanny who has been shot in the forehead. Everything is in this fictionalized account — criminal gangs, Chinese exclusionists, the Klu Klux Klan and a secret society of loonies based in the US. If you thought Canadian history was dull, read this book!" 

Bonus recommendations

The panel also recommends William Deverell's Whipped, Craig Johnson's The Western Star, Fiona Barton's The Child, Gilly Macmillan's Odd Child Out, Louise Penny's Glass Houses and John le Carré's A Legacy of Spies

J.D. Singh, Margaret Cannon and P.K. Rangachari's comments have been edited and condensed.