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Eric Riehl/Metroland Media Group

Eric Riehl/Metroland Media Group

Brenda Jefferies

Between the pages

As a lover of the written word – especially fiction of any genre – I plow through about two dozen novels a year. Not as many as I’d like, for sure, but certainly a respectable number considering the amount of non-leisure reading I do every day (occupational hazard).

The trouble, I’m finding, is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day, or days in a year, to keep on top of all the trends in publishing. The result is that I pretty much read whatever catches my fancy on any given day. That said, a quick review of my library account reveals that I have strayed lately from my traditional allegiance to British murder mystery series to the darker thrills of Scandinavian crime novels. Oh, I’ll still line up for the new Ian Rankin, the latest Inspector Lynley from Elizabeth George or any thriller by Minette Walters, but thanks to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, I (like many North American readers) have warmed to the talents of writers such as Henning Mankell (whose detective Kurt Wallander is portrayed brilliantly by Kenneth Branagh in the BBC television series based on the books), Jo Nesbo and my current favourite, Karin Fossum, who uses the genre to provide insightful character study and social commentary.

Oh, I have long been a fan of CanLit; I have read the requisite Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findlay and Alice Munro and rejoiced at the arrival of fresh voices such as Emma Donoghue, Joseph Boyden and Esi Eduguyan. But I always stray back to the whodunit.

And, depending on my mood, the darker the better. (For those who truly love noir, check out Ken Bruen’s spare, heartbreaking style, put to stunning use in his Jack Taylor novels.)

So imagine my delight at discovering that there is a trend evolving that brings the genre closer to home: the Hamilton mystery/suspense/thriller.

I was excited when I discovered authors such as Linwood Barclay, the former Toronto Star reporter-cum-novelist, and Robert Rotenberg, whose portrayal of Toronto cops and lawyers is exceptional. Coming across Dr. Ross Pennie’s excellent series (two installments so far) featuring public health officer Dr. Zol Szabo and detective Hamish Wakefield, Scott Thornley’s  Erasing Memory (I’m now reading his second one, Ambitious City) and John Lawrence Reynolds’s Beach Strip, was a revelation.

To be sure, all three authors focus on Hamilton’s gritty side amongst the steel mills and downtown. But all three also meander over the Skyway and along the escarpment, make a stop in Dundas, wander over towards Lake Erie and then down through Cayuga, making the books even more exciting for local readers who can connect not just with the story, but also with the sense of place they have created.

I have long pondered the idea of joining a book club, to further discuss my favourite characters and stories with other like-minded bibliophiles. Alas, currently, I have dozens of tomes shoved into the limited space on my bookshelves, just waiting to be cracked open. But I’d love to hear from any fellow readers out there, with suggestions for new literary adventures. Send them to me at

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