Books·Reading List

12 mystery and crime books to keep you on the edge of your seat this summer

From thrillers to true crime, these Canadian and international page-turners examine the dark side of human nature.

Summer might be all about sun and fun, but it's also the ideal time to dig into a gripping read about crime and the dark side of human nature.

From thrillers to true crime, these Canadian and international page-turners will keep readers guessing at every turn.

The Darkness in the Light by Daniel Kalla

Darkness in the Light is the latest thriller by author and ER doctor Daniel Kalla. (Simon & Schuster, Michael Bednar)

The Darkness in the Light is the latest thriller from internationally bestselling author and physician Daniel Kalla. The novel follows the aftermath of the suicide of Brianna O'Brien, a patient of Dr. David Spears, who blames himself for potentially missing crucial warning signs.

When David suspects Brianna's friend, Amka Obed — whom he's also been treating virtually — is in crisis, he flies to her remote Arctic community in Alaska, only to discover that she has disappeared. What begins as a missing persons inquiry and suspicion over a pharmaceutical cover-up quickly spirals into a dangerous investigation.

Based in Vancouver, Kalla is an emergency-room physician and the bestselling author of 13 novels, which have been translated into 11 languages to date, and his Shanghai trilogy has been optioned for film.

Daniel Kalla, author of The Darkness in the Light, takes The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library is a novel by Australian writer Sulari Gentill. (Jason Henry, Poisoned Pen Press)

The Woman in the Library is a whodunit set in the ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library — where the calm is shattered by a woman's scream. While security guards investigate, four strangers who were sitting at the same table pass the time in conversation — and one of them just so happens to be a murderer.

Sulari Gentill is an award-winning Sri Lankan Australian author who writes crime novels and fantasy stories. She initially studied astrophysics before becoming a corporate lawyer, but went on to become a writer and was nominated for the 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize for her novel A Few Right-Thinking Men (the debut book in the 10-book Rowland Sinclair series). Her novel Crossing the Lines won the 2018 Ned Kelly Award for best fiction.

Framed in Fire by Iona Whishaw

Framed in Fire is the latest novel in the Lane Winslow mystery series by Iona Whishaw. (TouchWood Editions)

The ninth novel in the Lane Winslow mystery series, Framed in Fire finds war-weary ex-intelligence officer Lane arriving in New Denver in spring 1948. There, she and her friend Peter, as well as Tom, an Indigenous man in search of his ancestral lands, uncover human remains next to a garden — and Lane must tell her husband, Inspector Darling, that she's stumbled into his professional territory again.

Meanwhile, Lane and Darling's favourite restaurateurs become victims of arson, and rumours lead to an RCMP investigation into Darling's integrity — all leading to questions about how even trusted neighbours can sometimes be as sinister as a stranger in the dark.

Vancouver-based Iona Whishaw is a former educator and social worker whose mother and grandfather were both spies during their respective wars. The seventh book in the Lane Winslow series, A Match Made for Murder, won the 2021 Bony Blithe/Bloody Words Light Mystery Award, and the eight book, A Lethal Lesson, is shortlisted for the 2022 BC and Yukon Book Prizes' Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award.

22 Murders by Paul Palango

22 Murders is a nonfiction book by retired investigative reporter Paul Palango. (Random House Canada)

A nonfiction book about the shooting rampage in the small community of Portapique, Nova Scotia in April 2020, 22 Murders peels away the layers of this true-life crime thanks to author Paul Palango's long background as an investigative journalist.

Palango, who spent much of his career reporting on the RCMP, digs into the complex story behind the headlines to try to understand the police response — including why the gunman was still on the loose after his initial killings. 22 Murders unearths the failures and malfeasance that cost a quiet community 22 lives.

Palango is an Ontario-born, Nova Scotia-based retired Canadian investigative journalist who began his career at the Hamilton Spectator before joining the Globe and Mail in 1977 as a reporter. Between 1983 and his resignation in 1990, he served as the paper's sports editor, Metro editor and national editor.

Mindful of Murder by Susan Juby

Mindful of Murder is a novel by B.C. author Susan Juby. (Delgado Photography, HarperCollins Canada)

In Mindful for Murder, butler Helen Thorpe is about to start her career serving one of the wealthiest families in the world when she is called back to her previous workplace, a spiritual retreat on one of British Columbia's gulf islands.

Her former employer, Edna, has left instructions for Helen to settle her affairs — but in carrying out the instructions in her will, Helen begins to think someone had reason to want Edna dead.

Susan Juby is a Nanaimo, B.C.-based writer who has published books in several genres. Her first novel was the YA book Alice, I Think, the first in a popular series about a lovable oddball teenager named Alice MacLeod. Other books include the memoir Nice Recovery, which chronicles Juby's battle with alcoholism, and Republic of Dirt, winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour. Juby is also a columnist for CBC Radio's The Next Chapter.

Susan Juby talks to Shelagh Rogers about her novel, Mindful of Murder.

Deep House by Thomas King

Deep House is the latest novel in the DreadfulWater mystery series by Thomas King. (HarperCollins, Sinisa Jolic/CBC)

In the latest book in Thomas King's ongoing DreadfulWater mystery series, Cherokee ex-cop turned photographer Thumps DreadfulWater is trying to find some peace in the small town of Chinook, in the northwestern U.S.

But when Thumps discovers a body at the bottom of a treacherous canyon, he becomes entangled once again in an inexplicable mystery. As more puzzling details come to the surface, Thumps begins to question whom he can truly trust — especially when an unexpected visitor walks back into his life.

King is a Canadian-American writer of Cherokee and Greek ancestry. He delivered the 2003 Massey Lectures, The Truth About Stories. His books include Truth & Bright WaterGreen Grass, Running Water, which was a finalist on Canada Reads 2004; The Inconvenient Indianwhich was on Canada Reads 2015; and The Back of the Turtlewhich won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 2014. He also writes the DreadfulWater mystery series.

Thomas King talks to Shelagh Rogers about Deep House, the latest installment of his Dreadful Water mystery series.

Scoundrel by Sarah Weinman

Scoundrel is a nonfiction book by Canadian American writer Sarah Weinman. (Nina Subin, Knopf Canada)

Scoundrel is a nonfiction account of the real-life story of convicted killer Edgar Smith, who was saved from Death Row in the 1950s thanks to an unlikely correspondence with National Review founder William F. Buckley, one of the most notable figures in the American neo-conservative movement.

Both Buckley and book editor Sophie Wilkins, with whom Smith would have an epistolary affair, advocated for Smith's freedom. He went on to become a bestselling author and an expert on prison reform — before once again going to jail for another attempted murder in 1976.

Sarah Weinman is a Canadian-born journalist and author based in New York City. Her other books include The Real Lolita, which tells the tale of the life of 11-year-old Sally Horner, whose story inspired Vladimir Nabokov's seminal novel Lolita. The Real Lolita won the Arthur Ellis Award for best nonfiction crime book in 2019.

Sarah Weinman on her true-crime thriller Scoundrel, about a convicted killer who conned his way to freedom from Death Row.

The Ghosts of Paris by Tara Moss

The Ghosts of Paris is a historical mystery novel by Australian Canadian writer Tara Moss. (HarperCollins)

The Ghosts of Paris follows former war reporter Billie Walker in 1947 as she begins to find her feet as an investigator. Searching for a wealthy client's missing husband puts Billie on the trail back to London and Paris, surfacing the painful memories of her own former love who went missing during the war. But Billie's investigation unearths more than just personal secrets as her search puts her on a collision course with an underground network of Nazi criminals.

Based in Victoria, B.C., Moss is the bestselling author of 11 books of fiction and nonfiction published in 19 countries, as well as a documentary maker and host, public speaker and outspoken advocate for human rights and women's rights.

She is the writer of the popular Mak Vanderwall crime series, the Pandora English paranormal series, and the feminist memoir The Fictional Woman.

Take Your Breath Away by Linwood Barclay

Take Your Breath Away is the latest thriller by bestselling American Canadian author Linwood Barclay. (CBC, William Morrow)

After his wife Brie vanishes without a trace while he is away on a fishing trip, Andrew Mason is suspected of murder. Six years after hitting rock bottom, Andy has finally put his life back together, but one day, a woman bearing a striking resemblance to his late wife appears at his former home.

As old questions and suspicions resurface, Andy's future depends on discovering what is really going on — if he can stay alive long enough to unearth the answers.

Linwood Barclay is a bestselling American-born, Canadian-based thriller writer with more than 20 books to his credit. His books include the adult thrillers Broken Promise, A Noise Downstairs, Elevator Pitch and the middle-grade novels Escape and Chase.

Barclay has won multiple Arthur Ellis Awards for his work over the years, and his 2021 thriller Find You First was nominated for best crime novel at the 2022 Crime Writers of Canada Awards (formerly known as the Arthur Ellis Awards).

Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe

Hell and Gone is the third novel in the Wakeland series by Sam Wiebe. (Mel Yap, Harbour Publishing)

The third novel in Sam Wiebe's Wakeland series finds private investigator Dave Wakeland dealing with the aftermath of an attack on an office building in Vancouver's Chinatown. Both the police and the leader of the Exiles motorcycle gang want Wakeland's help, and the deeper he investigates, the more connections he uncovers — including ties to organized crime and the police.

When the shooters themselves start turning up dead, Wakeland realizes the only way to guarantee his own safety, and that of the people he loves, is by finding out who hired the shooters — and why.

Vancouver-based Sam Wiebe is the award-winning author of the Wakeland detective series, including Invisible DeadCut You Down and Hell and Gone.

Wiebe's debut, Last of the Independents, won the Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished first novel and the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. His work has also been shortlisted for the Edgar Awards, Hammett Prize, Shamus Awards and City of Vancouver Book Awards.

The Don: The Story of Toronto's Infamous Jail by Lorna Poplak

The Don: The Story of Toronto's Infamous Jail is Toronto writer Lorna Poplak's second nonfiction book. (Dundurn Press)

This nonfiction look at Toronto's notorious Don Jail examines the prison's history from its inception through jailbreaks and overcrowding to its eventual shuttering and rebirth. Initially conceived as a "palace for prisoners" and based on 19th-century progressive penal reform and architectural principles, the institution quickly deteriorated into a place of infamy. Its 20th-century replacement, the New Don, also failed to live up to expectations.

South Africa-born, Toronto-based Poplak is a writer, editor, and researcher with a fascination for the stories behind the facts of Canadian history. The Don, her second book, was shortlisted for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario's 2021 Speaker's Book Award, which recognizes nonfiction works by Ontario authors, and for best nonfiction crime book at the 2022 Crime Writers of Canada Awards.

Last One Alive by Amber Cowie

Last One Alive is a psychological thriller by B.C. writer Amber Cowie. (Simon & Schuster, Ben Greenberg)

In the latest psychological thriller from author Amber Cowie, Penelope, a novelist looking for inspiration for her second book, embarks on a trip with a motley crew of researchers to investigate the myth of a witch on Stone Point on the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

They're headed there to look into the disappearance of the young owners of an eco-lodge on the site of a cabin where a violent death occurred decades ago. Penelope is sure there's a story to be found in the isolated region, but when bodies turn up, she and the remaining members of the team must solve the mystery of the Stone Witch before the killer is the only one left alive.

Cowie is a novelist based in British Columbia. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Globe and Mail and CrimeReads. Her debut novel, Rapid Falls, was a Whistler Book Awards nominee.

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