Books·Gift Guide

18 books for the crime and thriller lover on your holiday shopping list

Here are 18 books for the crime and thriller lover on your holiday list.

These 18 books would make great gifts for the crime and thriller readers on your holiday shopping list.

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

Dead Dead Girls is a book by Nekesa Afia. (FizCo Photography, Berkley)

Dead Dead Girls is set in 1926 Harlem, where young Black women like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead. Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. But when a girl turns up dead in front of the café she works at, Louise can no longer ignore that two other local Black girls have been murdered in the past few weeks. 

 Nekesa Afia is a publishing student who recently finished a degree in journalism. She was born in Calgary and is now based in Ontario. Dead Dead Girls is her second novel. 

Nekesa Afia on the inspiration behind Dead Dead Girls.

The Almost Wife by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

The Almost Wife is a novel by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. (gailanderson-dargatz.ca, HarperCollins Canada)

In The Almost Wife, Kira is living the life she's always dreamed. Her fiancé is handsome, wealthy and a great dad to his 13-year-old daughter Olive and their baby Evie. When Kira takes the girls to her childhood summer home, she realizes that her fiancé's ex-wife has followed them.

Gail Anderson-Dargatz is a writer from British Columbia. Her first novel, The Cure for Death by Lightningwas a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her other books include A Recipe for Bees, The Spawning Grounds and Turtle Valley. 

Dishonour in Camp 133 by Wayne Arthurson

Dishonour in Camp 133 is a novel by Wayne Arthurson. (Shawna LeMay, Turnstone Press)

In this sequel to Wayne Arthurson's The Traitors of Camp 133, the men in a Canadian PoW camp thousands of miles away from the front lines are turning on each other. Death isn't far away. It's up to August Neuman, head of security and decorated war hero, to find out what's going on. 

Arthurson is a freelance writer and novelist living in Edmonton. His other novels include The Red Chesterfield and Blood Red Summer

Everything Turns Away by Michelle Berry

Everything Turns Away is a novel by Michelle Berry. (Fred Thornhill, Wolsak & Wynn)

Everything Turns Away is a novel set in the aftermath of 9/11. On Sept. 11, 2001, the lives of two couples are about to be unraveled when their neighbour is murdered, their babysitter goes missing and the World Trade Centre collapses. This domestic thriller is a haunting exploration of marriages and what tears them apart, of what happens to people during shocking events, and of how everything can change in an instant.

Michelle Berry is the author of three collections of short stories and six novels. Her other books include I Still Don't Even Know You, The Prisoner and the ChaplainThis Book Will Not Save Your LifeHow to Get There from Here and What We All Want. Berry lives in Peterborough, Ont., where she operates the independent bookstore Hunter Street Books.

Suture by Nic Brewer

Suture is a novel by Nic Brewer. (Book*Hug Press)

In Suture, Eva, Finn and Grace are three artists who are tearing themselves open to make art. Eva must take out her eyes and use them as batteries to make her films. To make her art, Finn must cut open her chest and remove her heart and lungs. To write her novels, Grace must use her blood to power the word processor. Eva's wife worries about her mental health, Finn's teenager learns from her, using forearm bones for drumsticks and Grace's peers worry about her penchant for self harm. Suture explores the cruelties we commit and forgive in ourselves and others, 

Nic Brewer is a writer and editor from Toronto who lives in Kitchener, Ont. Her fiction has appeared in Canthius, the Hart House Review and Hypertrophic Literary. She is the co-founder of the LGBTQ online literary journal Front.

Red X by David Demchuk

Red X is a novel by David Demchuk. (daviddemchuk.com, Strange Light)

In Red X, men are disappearing from the gay village in Toronto. Their disappearances are ignored by the police and media, but they rock the community — the same community dealing with the HIV/AIDS crisis, police brutality and homophobia. This story unfolds alongside author David Demchuk's own story, as he explores the relationship between queerness and horror and how the scariest monsters that move through his community aren't imaginary, they are all too real.

Demchuk is a writer and a CBC communications officer. His first book, The Bone Motherwas longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn is a former model who lives in London, Ont. with her husband and three children. She is the author of three young adult novels. (Simon & Schuster, Sandra Dufton)

Newfound freedom, insecurity, sexual competition — these are the elements Laurie Elizabeth Flynn mixes together in her psychological thriller, The Girls Are All So Nice Here. The book is about two former best friends, Ambrosia and Sloane, who return to their college reunion to learn that they have been targeted by someone who wants revenge for what they did 10 years before.

Flynn is a novelist based in London, Ont. She is also the author of the YA novels FirstsAll Eyes on Her and Last Girl Lied To.

Laurie Elizabeth Flynn talks to Shelagh Rogers about her psychological thriller The Girls Are All So Nice Here.

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

The Apollo Murders is a novel by Chris Hadfield. (Random House Canada)

The Apollo Murders is a thriller about the Cold War and the space race between Russia and America. Three astronauts aboard Apollo 18 are miles away from home, on a top-secret mission to the Moon. As political stakes are stretched thin, Houston flight controller Kazimieras Zemeckis must do everything to keep the NASA crew together, while staying ahead of the Soviets. But not everyone on Apollo 18 is who they seem.

Chris Hadfield is one of the most accomplished astronauts in the world, serving as NASA's director of operations in Russia and commander of the international space station. He gained acclaim for his photographs and educational videos about life in space. His other books include An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthYou Are Here and the picture book The Darkest Dark.

The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding

The Perfect Family is a novel by Robyn Harding. (Simon & Schuster Canada, Tallulah Photography)

In The Perfect Family, the Adlers seem perfect. They're happy and successful parents, they have a charming house and two happy and healthy teenage kids. But when vandals start attacking their house, this facade unravels. Who is attacking their home, and why? The answer lies in a dark secret that could change everything.

Robyn Harding is a writer and filmmaker from Vancouver. Her thrillers include The PartyHer Pretty Face and The Swap. She also wrote the screenplay for the independent film The Steps, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black Girl is a novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris. (Atria Books, Nicole Mondestin Photography)

The Other Black Girl follows Nella Rogers, a 26-year-old editorial assistant at Wagner Books, who is tired of being the only Black employee at the company. In comes Hazel, who hails from Harlem and starts working in the cubicle beside Nella. They've just started to get to know each other when a series of uncomfortable events makes Hazel the office darling, leaving Nella behind. When threatening notes begin appearing on Nella's desk, she refuses to believe that Hazel is behind them. But as Nella falls deeper into the rabbit hole, she realizes that her career isn't the only thing at stake.

Zakiya Dalila Harris worked for nearly three years in publishing at Knopf/Doubleday before becoming a full-time author. Her writing has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Guernica and the Rumpus. The Other Black Girl is her debut novel.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a novel by Cassandra Khaw. (Raincoast Books, Cassandra Khaw)

In the thriller Nothing But Blackened Teeth, the foundations of an abandoned mansion rest on the bones of a bride. The walls are packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep the bride company. While it seems to be the perfect venue for thrill-seeking friends to celebrate a wedding, their night quickly becomes a nightmare as secrets are exposed and relationships are tested. And lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride who gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Cassandra Khaw is an author, game writer and former scriptwriter at Ubisoft Montreal. Their first novella, Hammers on Bone, received a British Fantasy Award and was a finalist for the Locus Award.

The Creep by Michael LaPointe

The Creep is a novel by Michael Lapointe. (Alex Warrender, Random House Canada)

In The Creep, journalist Whitney Chase grapples with a mysterious compulsion to enhance her coverage with intriguing untruths and undetectable white lies. She calls it "the creep" — an overpowering need to improve the story in the telling. And Whitney has a particular genius for getting away with it. Set against the ramp-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the decline of print journalism, The Creep portrays an increasingly unequal 21st century that eats away at public trust and the fabric of society.

Michael LaPointe is a writer and critic from Toronto. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times and the Times Literary Supplement.

Denial by Beverley McLachlin

Denial is a thriller by Beverley McLachlin. (Jean-Marc Carisse, Simon & Schuster)

In Denial, Jilly Truitt, one of the top criminal defence lawyers in the city, is asked by Joseph Quentin to defend his wife, who has been charged with murdering her own mother in what the media calls a mercy killing, Jilly wants to say no, but she meets with Vera Quentin and reluctantly agrees to take on her case. Vera is adamant she's innocent, and Jilly believes she's telling the truth. As the trial nears, Jilly scrambles to find a crack in the case and stumbles across a dark truth hanging over the Quentin family.

Beverley McLachlin was the Chief Justice of Canada from 2000 to 2017. Her memoir, Truth Be Told, won the Writers' Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize and the Ottawa Book Award for Nonfiction. Her debut thriller, Full Disclosure, was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Best First Crime Novel Award. In 2018, McLachlin became a companion of the Order of Canada.

On the Supreme Court bench, Beverley McLachlin presided over cases that changed Canada's legal landscape for medical assistance in dying. At home, she faced the matter head on, when her first husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Now, the former chief justice joins Piya Chattopadhyay to discuss her new novel Denial, a courtroom drama and murder mystery that centres on a family coping with end-of-life and the law.

Vile Spirits by John MacLachlan Gray

Vile Spirits is a novel by John MacLachlan Gray. (Douglas & McIntyre, Brian K. Smith)

Vile Spirits is the follow-up to John MacLachlan Gray's mystery novel The White Angel, which was inspired by the 1924 murder of Scottish Nanny Janet Smith. Vancouver is once again plagued by two suspicious deaths. Alcohol is legal again after prohibition failed, but anti-booze sentiments remain strong. To attempt appeasement, attorney general Gordon Cunning establishes the Liquor Control Board to oversee supply. But when both Cunning and the wife of a bureaucrat are found dead, people wonder if it's pure coincidence that they were both drinking the same brand of "tonic."

Gray is a writer, playwright, composer and theatre director who lives in Vancouver. He has created many productions, most notably Billy Bishop Goes to War. He's the author of several fiction and nonfiction books, including The White Angel. He is an officer of the Order of Canada.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Velvet Was the Night is a novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (Del Ray, Martin Dee)

In Velvet Was the Night, it's the 1970s in Mexico City and Maite is a secretary who lives to read the latest issue of Secret Romance, ignoring the student protests and political unrest that consume the city. When her next-door neighbour, art student Leonora, disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite searches for her, uncovering Leonora's secret life of student radicals and dissidents. Eccentric criminal Elvis is also looking for Leonora. As Maite and Elvis come closer to finding out the truth behind Leonora's disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives. 

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Canadian writer born and raised in Mexico. She's also the author of novels Mexican GothicGods of Jade and ShadowSignal to NoiseCertain Dark Things and The Beautiful Ones. She has previously won the Goodreads Readers Choice Award and the Copper Cylinder Award. 

Vancouver-based author Silvia Moreno-Garcia has just followed up her bestselling novel Mexican Gothic with a new political noir, Velvet Was the Night. The story is set in the shadowy world of spies, student activists and gangsters in 1970s Mexico City. She joined guest host Ali Hassan to tell us more.

State of Terror by Louise Penny & Hillary Rodham Clinton

State of Terror is a novel by Louise Penny, left, and Hillary Clinton, right. (Jean-Francois Berube, Simon & Schuster, Joe McNally)

State of Terror is a thriller co-written by Canadian writer Louise Penny and former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. The president of a newly sworn in administration has chosen Ellen Adams, a political enemy, as his secretary of state. As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with the secretary in attendance, a young foreign service officer receives a baffling text. The terrorist attacks that follows is revealed to involve the volatile politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, the Russian mob and an American government weakened on the world stage. Now, it's up to Adams and her team to defeat it.

Penny is the author of the bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She's won numerous prestigious literary awards focused on mystery fiction. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture.

Clinton served as the 67th U.S. secretary of state and was the first woman in United States history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She has been in public service for nearly four decades advocating for children and families as an attorney, first lady and senator. 

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny talk to Shelagh Rogers about their novel, State of Terror.

The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill

The Listeners is a novel by Jordan Tannahill. (Yuula Bernivolski, HarperCollins Canada)

In The Listeners, Claire Devon is one of a disparate group of people who can hear a low hum. No one in her house can hear it, and this sound has no obvious source or medical cause, but it starts upsetting the balance of Claire's life. She befriends one of her students who can also hear the hum. Feeling increasingly isolated from their families and colleagues, they join a neighbourhood self-help group of people who can also hear the hum, which gradually transforms into something with devastating consequences. 

The Listeners was shortlisted for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Jordan Tannahill is a playwright, filmmaker, author and theatre director. He has twice won the Governor General's Literary Award for drama: in 2014 for Age of Minority and in 2018 for Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom. He is also the author of the novel Liminal.

Jordan Tannahill talks to Shelagh Rogers about his latest novel, The Listeners

Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe

Hell and Gone is a novel by Sam Wiebe. (Mel Yap, Harbour Publishing)

In Hell and Gone, masked men and women storm an office building in Vancouver's Chinatown. They leave a trail of carnage, resulting in private investigator Dave Wakeland and his partner Jeff Chen getting caught in a mystery that won't let them go. Both the police and the leader of a motorcycle gang want Dave's help, and the deeper he investigates, the more connections he uncovers. When the perpetrators end up dead, Dave realizes the only way to guarantee his safety is to find out who hired them and why.

Sam Wiebe is the author of the Wakeland novels, a detective series focusing on Dave Wakeland that include Invisible Dead and Cut You Down. His other books include Never Going BackLast of the Independents and the Vancouver Noir anthology. He has won the Arthur Ellis Award and the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize. Wiebe lives in Vancouver.

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