Montreal·Books

Solve mysteries and dig into a literary trove with these 6 novels

If you enjoy flexing your amateur detective skills, or if you like engrossing stories sans the drama, check out these novels.

These book suggestions will have you on the edge of your seat, whether you like mystery or not

Canadian author Louise Penny delights the reader once again with her thirteenth novel, Glass Houses. (Jean-François Bérubé)

Mephisto Waltz

The setting for Mephisto Waltz by Frank Tallis is Vienna in 1904. A body is discovered in an abandoned factory and Inspector Oscar Rheinhardt is called upon to investigate the crime. The way the corpse is situated at the crime scene is, the inspector believes, a clue itself. It appears that the murder victim faced some kind of inquisition, suggesting there is a political motive for the murder — the victim has been disfigured and placed in a chair facing three empty chairs. Inspector Rheinhardt calls on his friend, Freudian psychiatrist Max Lieberman, to help solve the crime. The novel is written in short chapters, each one comprising a scene in the story which gives the reader the sense that they are a witness to events.

The Birds That Stay

Playwright Ann Lambert has turned her talented hand to mystery writing in her first novel. In The Birds That Stay, set in the Laurentians, she introduces the reader to Chief Inspector Roméo Leduc, who is called upon to investigate when — of course — a body is discovered. Marie Russel is a resident of the area and she is brought into the investigation. The two characters do not know each other at the beginning of the novel and Lambert has a very clever way of bringing Russel into the action. Russel joins Leduc in the investigation because of something her ailing mother remembers about a crime that had been committed many years earlier. I am certain that mystery lovers will be reading more about Leduc and Russel in future novels.
One of these books is set in the Laurentians and the other in Vienna, but both have much to offer amateur sleuths. (Submitted by Richard King)

Glass Houses

Louise Penny again delights the reader with her 13th novel, Glass Houses. A stranger appears in the peaceful village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships and residents of the town, all of whom know each other, sense that something is off. Sure enough, there is a murder and Inspector Gamache is called upon to investigate the crime. Fans of Penny and Gamache know well that things are not always as they seem, and in this novel, Gamache is forced to face judgment — of a court of law, and his conscience.

Normal People

(Knopf Canada)
Sally Rooney's second novel Normal People has attracted nothing but positive attention from reviewers and readers alike. The young Irish author sets her novel in the small Irish town of Carricklea. Marianne is the daughter of a rich family and at the opening of the novel, she is in her final year of secondary school. Connell attends the same school and he is considered one of the "cool" kids. His mother Lorraine is the housekeeper for Marianne's family. Marianne and Connell pretend not to know one another while at school but they are, in fact, much more than friends. The novel covers a four-year period in the lives of the characters, following them through university. The characters are complex and the reader will find this book difficult to put down.

Machines Like Me

One of Britain's most renowned novelists, Ian McEwan, takes on artificial intelligence in his new novel, Machines Like Me. McEwan sets his novel in 1982 and it opens a week before the start of the Falklands War. Charlie Friend, a disbarred lawyer, spends his last £86,000 on Adam, one of the first synthetic humans. The author combines the past and future by overlaying the 80s with developments in artificial intelligence more usually found in dystopian, futurist novels. McEwan alters history as well — in the novel, Allan Turing is alive and knighted, and the outcomes of military and political events can't be taken for granted. All of this is background for the relationship between the three principal characters, Adam, Charlie and Miranda, the woman they both fall in love with.
Ian McEwan's book looks at the messy relationship between human minds and artificial ones. (Vudi Xhymshiti/Associated Press)

Quill of the Dove

Quill of the Dove is the first novel by Ian Thomas Shaw. Shaw is a former Canadian diplomat who served in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. In the book, journalist Marie Boivin joins the esteemed French journalist Marc Taragon as he reports on the Middle East. Marie has a hidden motive for wanting to work with Taragon — she believes he may be her father. The background to the novel is the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the Civil War in Lebanon. Shaw's knowledge of the Middle East gives the novel a realistic feel, but he never lets politics get in the way of telling an engrossing story.

About the Author

Richard King

CBC Homerun Book Columnist

Richard King is a book columnist on CBC Homerun. He is an author, broadcaster and former co-owner of Paragraphe Bookstore in Montreal. You can hear Richard on Homerun, on CBC Radio One (88.5 FM), once a month on Wednesday afternoons starting at 3 p.m.

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