The Next Chapter

10 novels to read from The Next Chapter's mystery book panel

The Next Chapter columnists J.D. Singh, P.K. Rangachari and Margaret Cannon reveal their summer mystery and thriller fiction picks.
The Next Chapter mystery panel consists of Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Cannon (left), McMaster University professor P.K. Rangachari (second from left), and bookstore owner J.D. Singh (second from right), seen here with Shelagh Rogers. (CBC)

As is The Next Chapter seasonal tradition, our mystery panel joins Shelagh Rogers to deliver a brand new list of whodunits!

Bookstore owner J.D. Singh, McMaster University professor P.K. Rangachari and Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Cannon have 10 books that mystery fans should read over the summer season. 

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel is a novel by Emily St. John Mandel. (HarperCollins, Sarah Shatz)

P.K. says: "Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is one of my two favourite Canadian novels, the other being Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. The Glass Hotel  picks up on two of those characters who were in Station Eleven: Miranda and Leon. They play a relatively small role but this book also deals with the aftermath of a disaster.

It's about what happens when people suffer.- P.K. Rangachari

"This is a financial disaster — it's not an pandemic — and it's the aftermath of a Ponzi scheme. It's about what happens when people suffer. It's about victims and it's a very complex book. 

"It's a post-disaster book on a smaller scale."

Then We Take Berlin by John Lawton

Then We Take Berlin is a thriller by John Lawton. (Grove Atlantic)

J.D. says: "He's a favourite of mine. He's an exceptionally gifted writer. His characters are memorable. The plotting is intelligent and intricate. He writes historical thrillers almost without equal.

"He has two series of novels. The longer and better known one features his Inspector Frederick Troy at Scotland Yard. But there is another shorter and less known series featuring a small-time thief and con artist by the name of Joe Wilderness. The first one is called Then We Take Berlin.

But what kept me reading this book was the feeling that you were there in post-war Berlin.- J.D. Singh

"It starts in 1963, when Joe Wilderness is offered a rather princely sum of money to smuggle someone out of a locked down Berlin. The story is essentially his backstory. The plotting and the characters are wonderful. But what kept me reading this book was the feeling that you were there in post-war Berlin. That made it that much better than the typical historical novel."

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda, translated by Alison Watts

The Aosawa Murders is a thriller by Riku Onda, translated by Alison Watts. (Bitter Lemon Press)

Margaret says: "This is on my top 10 list for the year. This is one of the most interesting mystery books to come out of Japan in a long time. An entire family is murdered, leaving only one person alive — the 13-year-old daughter who is blind and can tell people nothing. 

This is one of the rare times I did not guess who the killer was.- Margaret Cannon

"Thirty years later, a journalist is examining the various clues and someone confesses and then commits suicide. But even the police don't believe he actually did it. It's a series of interviews with people who were tangential to the case or involved in the case.

"This is one of the rare times I did not guess who the killer was. It's a breathtaking, small book."

The Talented Mr. Varg by Alexander McCall Smith

The Talented Mr. Varg is a book by Alexander McCall Smith. (Michael Lionstar, Pantheon)

J.D. says: "Smith has written more novels than many of us will read in a lifetime. Recently, he introduced a new character in Detective Varg. He's the lead detective of the Department of Sensitive Crimes. The author is probably best known for his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels set in Botswana. 

This new series is a delight.- J.D. Singh

"This is set in Sweden. In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult. It's these crack detectives whose job it is to solve these crimes.

"This new series is a delight. These are sparkling novels and had me chuckling all the way through."

Cage by Lilja Sigurdardottir, translated by Quentin Bates

Cage is an Icelandic thriller by Lilja Sigurdardottir, translated by Quentin Bates. (, Orenda Books)

P.K. says: "This is part of the Reykjavík Noir trilogy by Lilja Sigurdardottir. The third and last book, Cage, is the one I'm talking about. The emphasis is not so much on [protagonist] Sonia, but on her lover Agla, who is a very clever woman who manipulates money. She's brilliant at it.

All the main characters in this book are slimebags, cheats and liars.- P.K. Rangachari

"This book is about financial crimes. There's also a bit of cocaine smuggling, but there are all kinds of characters in it. All the main characters in this book are slimebags, cheats and liars. But the funny thing is one does feel very sympathetic toward them because they all get into trouble and they will suffer one way or the other."

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders is a thriller by Peter Swanson. (Jim Ferguson, HarperCollins)

Margaret says: "This is the perfect book for those who love puzzle plots: a bookstore owner, who's also an authority on murder mysteries, has published a paper of the 10 most perfect fictional murders.

This is the perfect book for those who love puzzle plots.- Margaret Cannon

"The police come and approach him because someone is committing murders, each one reflecting the perfect murder from the paper and they need him to help them figure out what's going on.

"It's a wonderfully put together and a fantastic little collection of puzzles that that will keep you riveted all the way through."

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Sarah Moss is an academic and author. (Sophie Davidson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux Moss)

P.K. says: "It's a slim book. It packs quite a punch. It's about a bus driver and his daughter getting involved in an experiential archaeology summer course.

"It's really good."

A Long Night in Paris by Dov Alfon

A Long Night in Paris is a thriller by Dov Alfon. (Hachette)

J.D. says: "It's nonstop action from the get go. All the national security services are there — the Israelis, the French and the Chinese. 

"Just a terrific, exciting and racy read. It's deeply enjoyable."

The Last High by Daniel Kalla

The Last High is a book by Daniel Kalla. (Simon & Schuster Canada,

Margaret says: "This novel by Canadian author and physician Daniel Kalla involves the opioid crisis, which is an epidemic that we don't think about, even in the middle of a pandemic. It's a terrific story and one that more people need to know. It's also an interesting examination of how police and doctors track the beginnings of infectious diseases. 

"In this case, a group of teenagers are killed after imbibing a very powerful version of fentanyl. The authorities have to figure out how these nice kids from good families all came together and got this stuff and where it came from.

"It's an interesting procedural novel."

The Amateur Spy by Dan Fesperman

The Amateur Spy is a thriller by Dan Fesperman. (, Vintage Crime)

Margaret says: "Fesperman is one of the best of the new spy writers. This one is just great: a burnt-out guy, who's been working for the U.N. for decades managing food in famine areas, has finally retired to an idyllic Greek island with his beloved wife. In the middle of the night he's dragged from his bed and basically forced and blackmailed into taking a job to spy.

Fesperman is one of the best of the new spy writers.- Margaret Cannon

"It's a fascinating read. It takes place in the Middle East and goes to Lebanon to examine all the various underpinnings of the Syrian wars."

The panellists' comments have been edited for clarity and length. 

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