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Top 10: Criminally-Good Reads
June is Crime Reading Month, so we’re hopping-to with 10 great crime picks. From award-winning true crime to historical crime fiction, police procedurals to amateur investigators, there’s something for everyone on this list.
Here are our top 10 (in no particular order) crime book picks for this month:
10. A Dashiell Hammett Award-nominated historical heist.
To save her family’s ailing molasses business in 1936, Ava Flagg teams up with ex-con Bobby Barlow to start running moonshine. With cops on the one side and rival moonshiners on the other, veteran crime writer Brad Smith’s Dashiell Hammett Award-nominated, Depression-era novel Copperhead Road (At Bay Press) is pitch-perfect historical crime writing, perfect for fans of shows like Boardwalk Empire and Western classics like Lonesome Dove.
9. A literary crime novel that’s as much about crime as it is about grief.
The recent winner of the Crime Writers of Canada’s Best First Crime Novel Award, Sam Shelstad’s Citizens of Light (TouchWood Editions) are for folks who like their crime “adjacent” – that is, adjacent to another kind of story. Young widow Colleen Weagle wins readers’ hearts with her quiet, interior life caring for her mother, one that’s disrupted when she finds a clue about her husband’s mysterious death, two hours away from her suburban hometown.
8. A series that you can play catch-up with, just in time for the next book.
With Sing a Song of Summer due to release in just a month, Raye Anderson’s Down Came the Rain (Signature Editions) revisits RCMP Officer Roxanne Calloway, who’s been dispatched to the Fiskar Bay branch of the force. The seasonality of spring is in full force as heavy rains bring not just flooding, but murder.
7. A tender, queer crime book to blend Crime and Pride month.
Named Best Crime Novel at the Crime Writers of Canada Awards, Anthony Bidulka’s Going to Beautiful (Stonehouse Publishing) follows Jake, a man devastated by the sudden loss of his husband of 30 years, Eddie. He heads to Eddie’s hometown of Beautiful, Saskatchewan with his friend and neighbour, Baz, a septuagenarian trans woman, where the two uncover murder secrets just as they do a loving community and kinship with each other.
6. A crime novel for the dark academia-obsessed.
Kieran Egan takes on the equally-thorny worlds of the illegal drug trade and of higher academia in Tenure (NeWest Press), a humorous send-up of both. Drug lord Mark Morata is indebted to quiet University Professor Geoff Pybus after Geoff saves his life, and seeks to repay that debt by getting Geoff’s wife tenure, too. At all (nefarious) costs.
5. A Canadian noir novel set in Toronto’s gritty 60s.
Seasoned crime writer Dietrich Kalteis returns with The Get (ECW Press), where down-on-his-luck Lenny Ovitz has a further hiccup in his life when his wife, Paulina, files for divorce. Alimony on top of his money-borrowing woes seems like the final nail in his coffin, so Lenny schemes to kill Paulina, instead, in this darkly comic gangster novel.
4. A true-crime book that reads better than any podcast.
The Castleton Massacre: Suvivors’ Stories of the Killins Femicide (Dundurn Press) looks at the gruesome 1963 murder of all of the women in the Killins family, save one, at the hands of Robert Killins, who abused and stalked them for 20 years leading up to the crime. Sharon Anne Cook, a historian, and retired college instructor Margaret Carson, a child survivor of the massacre, unite to tell this gripping, horrifying saga.
3. An activist returns to the “huntin’ Nazi business” across borders and in spite of family.
The first of his books to be published in English, Marc Ménard’s Firebrands (Linda Leith Publishing), translated by Peter McCambridge, sees retired activist Philippe living an uneventful life with his wife and children in the Montreal suburbs. When his old, activist friend Robert Moranowitz surfaces to lure him back to his old life of hunting down neo-Nazis, it’s too tempting to Philippe to resist. But what will his return to his roots cost him?
2. A cinematic thriller about the rising instance of real estate crime.
Mother-daughter writing duo H&A Christensen bring their screenwriting talents to the printed page in Stealing John Hancock (Turnstone Press). Protagonist John “JP” Hancock finds himself in a world of trouble when his name is used in an identity theft to leverage the fake sale of a home – to the tune of millions of dollars. He teams up with a hacker and tries to stay one step ahead of both the police and the master con artist responsible.
1. A page-turning debut novel about the troublesome bonds of family.
Thirty years after the fact, the murder of Zoe Emmerson’s six-year-old neighbour is reopened in light of new evidence, and Zoe is terrified about the fleeting memory she has of that time, one that could potentially incriminate her brother. Carolyn Huizinga Mills’s The Good Son (Cormorant Books) is a debut but no less masterful, blending the emotional complexity of family dynamics with page-turning suspense.
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