The Next Chapter holiday mystery picks


First aired on The Next Chapter (19/12/11)

Every year, The Next Chapter gathers three great mystery minds together to recommend the best whodunit books of 2011. Whether you're a mystery reader yourself, or need a read for someone in your life, look no further. The Next Chapter has nine fantastic finds for you to check out!

Margaret Cannon is the mystery book columnist for the Globe and Mail. Here are her top three mystery reads of the year:

The Affair by Lee Child

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Cannon calls the latest Jack Reacher novel "a terrific book. It's one of those you can't put down." The Affair may be the 16th novel in the Reacher series, but it actually takes readers back to the very first mystery he had to solve. In 1997, a young woman was murdered and no one knows why. Reacher partners with an ex-Marine MP to figure out why and ends up in over his head. Whether you're a long-time Lee Child fan or new to the Reacher series, The Affair is a satisfying, suspenseful read.

Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke

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When a man is tortured to death in the desert, 80-year-old sheriff Hackberry Holland gets caught up in a mystery more intriguing than any oasis. The genres of crime fiction and the western collide in James Lee Burke's Feast Day of Fools. Add the fact that, as Cannon argues, "it's really a meditation on the end of life" to the mix, and you have a truly original whodunit that showcases the American South "for what it really was."

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

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A Trick of the Light is Louise Penny's sixth book about Inspector Armand Gamache and Cannon calls it "the very best." It's set in the Montreal art world, and Gamache is tasked with solving the murder of Lillian Dyson, a woman who is found dead in an artist's garden, which — unsurprisingly — ruins a hotly anticipated show. Gamache quickly discovers that the art world is filled with smoke and mirrors, and what looked like an open-and-shut case may prove to be his most difficult yet. While this devastates the beloved detective, it should delight fans everywhere.

J.D. Singh is the co-owner of the Sleuth of Baker Street, a mystery book shop in Toronto. Here are his picks for this holiday season:

I'll See You in My Dreams by William Deverell

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I'll See You in My Dreams is the fifth novel in Deverell's Arthur Beauchamp series, and Singh calls it "terrific." In fact, Singh guarantees that "you'll be blown away by how good this guy is." It's been 50 years since Beauchamp's first case, a murder trial that went disastrously wrong. New developments force the re-opening of the case, and while Beauchamp must revisit old wounds, he also gets the opportunity to do things right once and for all.

Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison

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The title of C.C. Benison's latest may be Twelve Drummers Drumming, but Singh assures readers that there's no sign of the holiday season in this novel. Instead, it introduces the Reverend Tom "Father" Christmas, a vicar who turns to detective work when a parishioner is found dead in a drum. While the premise may be cutesy (and the book is the first in a planned 12-book series. The next title is — you guessed it — Eleven Pipers Piping) Singh says the book is filled with "delightful stories" and is "well written, witty and worth the effort."

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

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Sherlock Holmes returns to the page after 125 years in The House of Silk, the first-ever Holmes novel to be commissioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate. Holmes and Watson find themselves stalking an American criminal who leads them into the middle of an international crime conspiracy. Singh thinks this book is "delightful" and is sure to please both long-time fans of Holmes and newcomers to the classic character.

P.K. Rangachari is a professor in the faculty of medicine at McMaster University and a mystery aficionado. He's chosen three great reads to share with the panel:

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

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If you're looking for a mystery with a holiday twist, Rangachari suggests that you should look no further than Alan Bradley's I Am Half-Sick of Shadows. "This is a real Christmas book," he says, "because the mystery takes place at Christmas time." Precocious Flavia de Luce is determined to prove that Santa Claus does exist. Add a real murder mystery and an epic snowstorm that prevents the suspects from taking off, and this latest from Bradley reads like a classic game of Clue with a Christmas twist.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

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Pigeon English is an unusual mystery novel. Eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives in Ghana and wants nothing more than to be a detective. He hones his skills the best he can — by paying close attention to the inner-city streets and becoming an expert at watching, listening to and interpreting others. This comes in handy when a young boy is murdered and Harrison decides to take on his first case and solve the mystery himself. Pigeon English was one of the best-received English language novels of the year, snagging a coveted spot on this year's Man Booker Prize shortlist. Rangachari argues that these accolades are well deserved, calling it "a lovely book."

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

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Turn of Mind is a thriller in the most unexpected ways. The victim is an elderly woman. The suspect is her best friend, Jennifer, a brilliant retired surgeon who happens to be in the early stages of Alzheimer's. As the story progresses, the reader is invited into the inner workings of Jennifer's mind as it slowly unravels. The result is "harrowing," according to Rangachari. Shelagh Rogers agreed, calling the book "mind-blowing."

Don't forget to check out The Next Chapter's children's books panel and the cookbooks panel.

What were your favourite mystery reads of the year? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below!

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