Authors Starting Anew by Michael - The Missing Clue - August 2017 -

2017, for many notable writers, seems to be the year to try something fresh. For some, it is a new character in a familiar setting. Most of you will already be aware of Arnauldur Indridason’s new novel The Shadow District (in stock in trade paperback), if mostly because the mystery set in wartime Rekjavik is known originally by the more local friendly title Man from Manitoba. Regardless of its title, Indridason is setting up these characters to be part of what is described as a “major new series”.

Kathy Reichs Two Nights (in stock in hardcover) is an even greater departure from her comfort zone as it marks her first novel solo effort that does not involve Temperance Brennan and the “Bones” franchise. Whether this marks the end of that series, or whether new heroine Sunday Night will be a recurring character remains to be seen.

Renee Ballard is the heroine of a police procedural set in Michael Connelly’s Hollywood in The Late Show (in stock in hardcover). Like the Indridason, this too is set up to be a regular character, although it remains to be seen whether she will be interacting with his more established characters.

Up and coming British author Gilly Macmillan will be switching from standalones to a police procedural with a new character entitled Odd Child Out (in stock in trade paperback).

One of the more notable changes takes place with Canadian author Linwood Barclay as he makes his children’s series with Chase (in stock in hardcover), a book, quite traditionally, about a boy and his dog. Fellow Canadian, Jenny Nimmo, best known for her Charlie Bone series is starting anew with Henry and the Guardians of the Lost, also for the younger reader.

Finally, further down the road in 2018, we will be seeing one of the more notable shifts, with Anne Perry not only starting a new series, but doing so with a twentieth century (albeit the early portion). She will be introducing Daniel Pitt, son of Thomas and Charlotte in Twenty One Days (April 2018 in hardcover) .

The Missing Clue - August 2016 - Mysteries in Alternative Histories by Michael

My intention for this issue of the newsletter was to write about a number of new alternative history novels. The one that had originally caught my attention had been The Book of Esther by Emily Barton. Set in a history in which the Khazar Empire of Central Asia maintained its hold on territory, and on its Jewish faith, into the twentieth century. Faced with the growing power of Hitler's Germany, and its eastern expansion, Esther bin Josephus, one of the few to recognize the real danger, journeys to have a mystical conversion to become the man her culture requires her to be to join military service.

Barton's novel, while well crafted, takes so long to get onto the track of its longer narrative. As a result, it was quickly interrupted by the arrival of the other book I wished to compare it to, Underground Airlines by Ben H Winters. Winters, notable for his ‘Last Policeman’ Trilogy, has created a world in which the American Civil War is stopped by an early assassination of Lincoln, and a compromise written into the constitution of to permit slavery to continue. Jumping into the present, escaped slaves, as well as those who are attempting to aid them, are the responsibility of the Marshall Service. His nameless ex-slave protagonist finds himself an agent of laws many, including himself, do not agree with, but are largely helpless to change.

Winters', who allows his alternative to history to feed into dribs and drabs, creates a narrative that makes it much harder to put his book down. To the point, in fact, where it sucked me in so deeply that I didn't manage to finish Barton's work by the time of printing. While The Book of Esther evoked a world in which I was interested in reading more, it failed to pull me in the same way that Underground Airlines has. That said, once I am finished, I would be happy to let anyone is interested know how the two compare.

The Missing Clue - April 2016 - REVIEW: The Courier by Gerald Brandt – reviewed by Michael

We are always interested in the publications of new Winnipeg authors.  Of especial interest, of course are those that would fit into the mystery/thriller genre. Gerald Brandt’s debut novel, The Courier, was released in March, and covers a lot more genres than just thriller, being a cyberpunk/espionage/quasi young-adult novel about a teenage woman caught up in a larger conspiracy.

Brandt has created a dynamic world, where corporations rule a dying planet from satellites, while cities are built in classist layers down below. Power plays, corporate espionage and reliance on non-planetary resources make for a complex web of overlapping dead-drops, false flags, and other elements of the spy game. 

Brandt has spread the umbrella of his creation wide by making a number of interesting choices. The perspective switches regularly between the protagonist, Kris, and the agents seeking to protect or capture her, for example. What is notable about this shift is that it does so from first person, in the case of Kris, to third person, in the case of everyone else. This gives a mix of limited perspective and omniscient narration that creates some dramatic irony and foreshadowing, while at the same time generating suspense through the narrow lens of the protagonist. It does however, make for a chink narrative.

And while I concede that I am not necessarily the target audience for the damaged female teen fighting the larger universe novel, I have to say that I am curious as to what Brandt will do next. The world he has built is worth visiting, even if the protagonist may not be.  This novel has proven that Brandt is capable of writing in a wide-range of styles, and I look forward to him refining his voice and hopefully, creating stories in this world that are not limited by such a wide umbrella.