30 Canadian books for the thriller, horror mystery and crime fan this holiday season
Books make great gifts for everyone! If you know someone who loves a page-turning read that keeps them up all night, check out these 30 Canadian titles.
A World of Curiosities is Louise Penny's 18th book in the Armand Gamache series, which takes place in a warm, eccentric, tight-knit community known as Three Pines. This time out, Inspector Gamache gets caught up in a story involving two young siblings who have appeared in the village. The pair were young when their troubled mother was murdered, leaving them damaged. Gamache must uncover why they have arrived in town — before it's too late.
Louise Penny, a former CBC broadcaster and journalist, is the bestselling author of the Inspector Armand Gamache mysteries.
LISTEN | Louise Penny and École Polytechnique shooting survivor Nathalie Provost discuss A World of Curiosities:
Please Join Us is a novel with themes of identity, belonging and the power of community. Soon to be 40, a woman named Nicole is at a crossroads. Her career and marriage are both ending and she is faced with being evicted from her home. But an invitation from a secret organization leads her to a retreat in Colorado, where she soon discovers the group might be a cult.
Catherine McKenzie is a former Montreal lawyer and author of several bestselling books, including the thrillers Forgotten, Hidden, Smoke and The Good Liar.
When Paris Peralta is arrested in her bathroom covered in blood with her celebrity husband dead in the bathtub, she knows she will be charged with murder. Twenty-five years earlier, Ruby Reyes was convicted of a similar murder in a trial that riveted Canada in the early 1990s. When Reyes is unexpectedly released from prison, she threatens to expose all of Paris's secrets and Paris must confront the dark past she left behind.
Jennifer Hillier is the author of eight psychological thrillers, including Little Secrets. Hillier lives in Toronto.
Kathy Reichs' bestselling mystery books featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan return with the 21st novel in the series. This time around, Temperance is caught up in a case involving a box with a human eyeball and a series of nasty killings that resemble past murders she has solved. Things are further complicated when her own daughter goes missing in the middle of the case.
Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, academic and bestselling crime writer with more than 20 novels to her credit. Her bestselling mystery series about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan was adapted into the hit television show Bones.
LISTEN | Kathy Reichs reveals her favourite writers:
Molly Gray relies on her gran to interpret the world for her, as she struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. When her gran dies, Molly is left to navigate life's complexities all by herself and dives deep into her work as a hotel maid. But her orderly life is upended when she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find him dead. Caught up in a web of deception and suspicion, Molly unites with her friends to find out what really happened to Mr. Black.
Nita Prose is an Toronto author and editor. She is currently the Canadian vice president and editorial director for publishing company Simon & Schuster. The Maid is her debut novel.
LISTEN | Nita Prose discusses The Maid:
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.
LISTEN | Daniel Kalla takes The Next Chapter's Proust questionnaire:
The Other Ones is a novella with elements of horror set in the North. Featuring vibrant illustrations, the tales include a story about eerie occurrences on a frozen lake, supernatural creatures and foreboding notions of travelling to otherworldly realms.
Inuk author Jamesie Fournier's work has appeared in Inuit Art Quarterly, Red Rising magazine, Northern Public Affairs, and the anthology Coming Home: Stories from the Northwest Territories. Jamesie was guest author at the 2018 & 2020 Northwords Writers Festivals and a runner up for 2018 Sally Manning Award for Indigenous Creative Non-Fiction. He lives in Thebacha/Fort Smith between Salt River First Nation, Smith's Landing First Nation, and the South Slave Metis Nation.
Toma Feizo Gas is a Canadian artist and illustrator who has spent 10 years working in entertainment arts, with experience in production art, creative direction and concept design.
LISTEN | Jamesie Fournier discusses The Other Ones:
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.
Midnight Storm Moonless Sky is a collection of Indigenous horror short stories involving the eerie and supernatural. The work melds First Nations legends, dark fantasy, apocalyptic and the paranormal enchantment to explore themes of racism and injustice.
Alex Soop is a Calgary writer of the Blackfoot Nation. His stories focus on identity and the legacy of residential schools.
In Mindful of 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.
LISTEN | Susan Juby talks about Mindful of Murder:
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.
LISTEN | Sarah Weinman on her true-crime thriller Scoundrel:
The thriller novel Are You Sara? revolves around a case of mistaken identity. When two women, each named Sara, get into separate rideshares one fateful night, one of them is murdered. But when the surviving Sara realizes that she might have actually been the target, it sets off a mystery involving race, class and ambition.
Sonya Lalli is a Punjabi and Bengali romance fiction author based in Vancouver. She's written the novels A Holly Jolly Diwali, Serena Singh Flips the Script, Grown-Up Pose and The Matchmaker's List. Her books have been spotlighted in publications including Entertainment Weekly, NPR, the Washington Post, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.
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.
WATCH | Linwood Barclay on the art of crime fiction:
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.
Thomas 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 Water; Green Grass, Running Water, which was a finalist on Canada Reads 2004; The Inconvenient Indian, which was on Canada Reads 2015; and The Back of the Turtle, which won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 2014. He also writes the DreadfulWater mystery series.
LISTEN | Thomas King talks to Shelagh Rogers about Deep House:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Blackwater Falls is the first in a crime fiction series featuring detective Inaya Rahman. When girls from immigrant communities go missing in the American town of Blackwater Falls, Rahman must act to find justice before more go missing or are murdered. The book features themes of isolation, race and belonging as the search for the true culprit involves various twists and turns.
Ausma Zehanat Khan grew up in Toronto and now lives in Denver, Colo. She's a former adjunct law professor and former editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine. She's the author of several crime fiction and fantasy novels. Her debut novel, The Unquiet Dead, won the Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel. Her subsequent mystery novels include The Language of Secrets, Among the Ruins and A Dangerous Crossing.
Vicious Creatures is a novel that merges thriller and horror fiction. Ava is in the middle of a violent breakup with her spouse and flees town with her daughter. She soon learns that you can't go home again and Ava's repressed memories resurface — and the town's troubled and supernatural past comes to light.
Ashton Noone is a Calgary writer and author. Noone has been a finalist in the In Places Between: The Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest and has been published in Across the Margin, Bosie Magazine and Poydras Review. Her short story The Garden of Impossible Flowers was on the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize longlist.
Eleven-year-old Tommie Ware's life is turned upside down after his aunt is found murdered. Tommie is forced to return to his mother, who works as a live-in housekeeper for the wealthy Henneberry family. While his mother works around the clock, Tommie becomes enmeshed in the secrets and games of the Henneberrys and eventually, a cold-blooded murder.
Watch Out for Her is about a young mother named Sarah who thinks her problems are solved when she hires a young babysitter, Holly, for her six-year-old son. Her son adores Holly and Holly adores Sarah. But when Sarah sees something that she can't unsee, she uproots her family to start over. Her past follows her to this new life, raising paranoid questions of who is watching Sarah now? And what do they want?
Samantha M. Bailey is a journalist and editor in Toronto. Her first thriller, Woman on the Edge, was released in 2019.
LISTEN | Samantha M. Bailey discusses Watch Out for Her with Shelagh Rogers:
When Cleo Li wakes up alone with amnesia beside a mountain highway, she fights to regain her identity. She learns that her parents have disappeared after her mother bought a winning lottery ticket worth $47 million. As her memories resurface and the police uncover more details regarding the disappearance of her parents, Cleo finds herself under increasing suspicion and begins to question her reality.
Sandra SG Wong is an up-and-coming Chinese-Canadian crime writer. Her debut novel, Die on Your Feet, was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence for Best Crime First Novel.
LISTEN | Sandra SG Wong discusses In the Dark We Forget:
Private investigator Charlotte Frayne is pulled into a dangerous international plot when her boss, Mr. Gilmore, provides shelter to a relative in grave danger. Stephen, a refugee from Germany, is privy to information that could change the very future of a country still reeling from the devastation of the War to End All Wars — and at his heels are powerful forces that will do anything to ensure his intelligence never sees the light of day. Meanwhile, Charlotte's estranged mother reappears, wanting her help to find a child she gave up at birth 20 years ago. Despite her turbulent feelings, Charlotte agrees to investigate, not knowing that the two cases will connect in surprising ways.
Maureen Jennings is best known as the author of the Detective Murdoch series — a collection of novels that follow Toronto detective William Murdoch as he attempts to solve the city's most gruesome crimes. Murdoch Mysteries is the CBC television drama based on Jennings's books.
LISTEN | Maureen Jennings takes The Next Chapter's Proust Questionnaire:
Noonday Dark is the second instalment of the Doctor Annick Boudreau Mystery series. When the Vancouver police inform Dr. Boudreau that her patient Danielle is missing and there is a suicide note, Dr. Boudreau is shaken. Danielle, who was being treated for depression, was doing well and just finished a job as a speechwriter for a successful mayoral campaign. Joining forces with Danielle's estranged father, a radical journalist turned right-wing blogger, Dr. Boudreau discovers a city embroiled in politics in her quest to bring Danielle home.
LISTEN | Charles Demers recommends some of his favourite mysteries:
Queer Little Nightmares is a collection of fiction and poetry that reexamines monsters through a queer lens. Monsters associated with horror and marginalization are now cast as creatures worth celebrating and including. Contributors include Amber Dawn, Hiromi Goto, jaye simpson and Kai Cheng Thom.
Daniel Zomparelli is a writer and editor from Vancouver. He is the editor-in-chief of the magazine Poetry Is Dead, co-edits the poetry project After You. He is also the author of the short story collection Everything Is Awful and You're a Terrible Person.
LISTEN | Queer Little Nightmares contributor David Demchuck discusses the anthology:
In this time-traveling novel, a homicide detective named Mallory finds herself transported 150 years in the past after she is attacked and left unconscious in an alley. Mallory wakes up in the body of housemaid Catriona Thomson, who was also attacked in the same spot in 1869. Mallory must put aside her shock and find a way to catch her murderer, which hopefully leads her back to her modern life before it's too late.
Kelley Armstrong is a bestselling author of YA and middle grade books, horror novels and thrillers. Her standalone novels include Aftermath and Missing, but she is best known for her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series and her Cainsville and Otherworld series.
In the third book of the Hammerhead Jed mystery series, a mixed martial arts trainer hires pro-wrestler PI "Hammerhead" Jed to extract answers from the tight-knit MMA community. As Jed infiltrates an exclusive fight club, he finds himself pushed to his absolute limit, relying on his closest allies to survive, and forced to make choices he never thought he'd have to make.
A.J. Devlin is an author and screenwriter from British Columbia. Cobra Clutch, the first book in the Hammerhead Jed professional wrestling mystery-comedy series, was released in spring 2018. It was nominated for a Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery and won the 2019 Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.
When Georgia stumbles across the dead body of 13-year-old Ashley James, she teams up with Ashley's older sister Nora to find the killer before he strikes again. Georgia's investigation launches her into a world of unimaginable wealth and privilege, something she has always dreamed about. But as Georgia and Nora close in on the killer, they discover that when money, power and beauty rule, it's not always a matter of who is guilty, but who is guiltiest.
Courtney Summers is the bestselling author of several novels for young adults, including Cracked Up to Be, All the Rage and Sadie. She won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult literature and the 2019 Odyssey Award.
LISTEN | Courtney Summers on what inspired her book, I'm the Girl:
Penny, an artist, finds herself in a long-term care residence after she's had one too many incidents. Initially surrounded by peers, conversing and painting, Penny begins to lose her grip on time and her place in the world. We Spread explores questions of conformity, art, productivity and what it means to grow old.
Iain Reid is an Ottawa-born author. His debut novel, the 2016 psychological thriller I'm Thinking of Ending Things, was adapted into a film by American writer and director Charlie Kaufman for Netflix.
LISTEN | Why Iain Reid writes psychological thrillers:
Abby Lamb is finally putting the darkness from her childhood to rest after meeting her wonderful husband Ralph. But when they move in with Ralph's mother Laura, Laura's depression and cruel ways start to weigh on Abby. After Laura takes her own life, her ghost haunts them and Abby must make the ultimate sacrifice to save her family.
Ainslie Hogarth is an author from Windsor. She has published two YA horror novels, The Lonely and The Boy Meets Girl Massacre, and her short fiction has appeared in Hazlitt, Black Static and elsewhere.
LISTEN | Ainslie Hogarth on how motherhood inspired her horror novel: