Your weekly Wednesday book selection: Mystery, murder and espionage

From what's new to hit the shelves, to the latest page-turners, here's what CBC Montreal book columnist Richard King recommends for you this week.

Fall is the perfect season for spy novels and murder mysteries, says CBC Homerun book columnist Richard King

CBC Homerun book columnist Richard King's recommendations for this week include books that bring back classic characters, such as Sherlock Holmes. (Submitted by Richard King)

Every Wednesday, CBC Montreal's Homerun welcomes one of its five book columnists in studio.

From what's new to hit the shelves, to the latest page-turner he's just put down, author and former bookseller Richard King shares his top picks.

Here are Richard's reading recommendations, both fiction and non-fiction, for the month of November.

As the nights grow longer and the weather grows colder, this terrific selection of mystery books will keep you engrossed and entertained.

The Mystery of Three Quarters

Hercule Poirot is back in author Sophie Hannah's The Mystery of Three Quarters. Hannah has successfully taken on the task of bringing Agatha Christie's super sleuth back to readers.

In this novel four people get letters signed by Poirot accusing them of murder. The victim is the wealthy Barnaby Pandy of Combingham Hall. The four recipients confront Poirot and discover that the letters are forgeries. Thus involved, it falls to Poirot to solve the mystery and expose the murderer.

In this novel Poirot's amanuensis, Hastings, is absent; his role is admirably played by Inspector Catchpool of Scotland Yard.

I Know You

In I Know You author Gilly MacMillan introduces the reader to Detective John Fletcher of Bristol, England.

Twenty years previously, two boys had been murdered and Fletcher caught the murder who was sentenced to prison. When the murderer is found dead in his cell, a friend of the two victims, Cody Swift, develops a podcast that casts doubt on the original verdict. Fletcher has to face the possibility that there was a miscarriage of justice and re-investigate the crime. Chapters alternate between Fletcher's point of view and transcriptions of the podcast.

Death Flight

Melissa Yi (nom de plume for Melissa Yuan-Innes) is both an emergency room doctor and mystery writer. In her earlier novels the protagonist, Dr. Hope Sze, an ER doctor at Montreal's St. Joseph's Hospital (a stand-in for St. Mary's Hospital) becomes involved in solving murders.

In Yi's sixth novel, Death Flight, Dr. Sze is in Los Angeles with her soul-mate, Dr. John Tucker. On the flight home, they are called upon to save the life of a passenger — and at the same time worry that there has been in-flight murder. It falls to the two docs to solve the crime before the plane lands.

The World of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes fans will be delighted by The World of Sherlock Holmes by Martin Fido. The author has researched the Holmes canon and provides the reader with details of the facts behind the fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Fido writes about Doyle's novels, the movies and TV shows based on them and connects the cerebral detective who spanned the Victorian and Edwardian eras in England with the American hard-boiled creations of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. This book is a necessary addition to the Holmes-lover's library.
CBC Homerun book columnist Richard King says these books about war and espionage cleverly weave together history and mystery. (Submitted by Richard King)

1947: Where Now Begins

Just over 70 years ago, in 1947, the world's leaders took on the daunting task of rebuilding after the devastation of WW II. A new world order emerged with the United States at its helm. It is important to understand the world as it was in 1947 and the consequences for civilization that grew from it.

In her book, 1947: Where Now Begins, Swedish journalist Elisabeth Åsbrink describes the events of 1947 — international and local, globally important and quotidian. Her book is divided into a chapter for each month of the year and this lends her book an immediacy often absent from history books.

A Spy Named Orphan

The cold war grew out of the hot war and this led to a new kind of espionage. The Soviets, the British and the Americans spied on one another with vigor. The Russians were very much aware that, in the post-war world, the alliance that fought it would disintegrate. It took the precaution of planting moles in the British Foreign Service.

In A Spy Named Orphan, Roland Philipps tells the story of one of the most successful of these spies, Donald Maclean. Maclean was recruited while a student at Cambridge. He found work in the diplomatic core and was both a brilliant diplomat and spy. Maclean spied for ideological reasons, not for money. He defected to the Soviet Union in 1951 to avoid capture.

The Spy and the Traitor

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre reads like a John le Carré novel. He tells the stories of Oleg Gordievsky and Aldrich Ames.

Gordievsky was a KGB agent who spied for the British for ideological reasons and is the only spy successfully ex-filtrated from the Soviet Union. American Aldrich Ames spied on the United States for the Soviets. He was a traitor to earn the money he needed to support his lavish life style. Gordievsky lives a quiet live in England; Ames is in an American prison.

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.