Very Short Reviews: My Eight Recommended Reads of 2021

In the order they appear in the picture, and with a genuine tear for the books I loved and had to leave out…

Bonavere Howl:  If you rely on James Lee Burke for your Louisiana-flavoured crime fiction, you’re overdue for the shaded and haunting mystery that is Caitlin Galway’s book.  A novel about a missing girl, told through the eyes of another girl, in which history and the supernatural play their part.

The Transaction:  Critics have called Guglielmo D’Izzia’s award-winning book about a Northern Italian’s feral experiences in small town Sicily “Kafkaesque,” which I suppose it is.  But try “an engaging alternative whodunit” as a better descriptor: mesmerizing, perfectly-paced and really really funny!

Fuse:  What can I say about Hollay Ghadery’s close-to-the-bone memoir about fractured bi-racial experience that others haven’t said before me? Fuse sets out to drag you deep into a stormy and brilliant mind that wants to lay it all on the line—and, believe me, I was more than willing to go there.

Le Livre de Judith:  Mylène Gilbert-Dumas’s smart, sprawling saga-meets-crime books have a large and devoted following in Quebec.  This one is utterly page-turning, and goes down as smooth as silk.  Her books don’t really set their caps at awards in our prize-obsessed culture, and I think are undervalued.

Winter Willow:  Deborah-Anne Tunney, an Ottawa author, has written a Gothic Canadian classic that clings to the mind long after you finish it.  And this beautifully-written book is set in Ottawa—a defamiliarized, wintry city that squeezes the heart and leaves the reader with intimations of mortality.

Windy City Sinners:  My one American pick!  This “magic realism crime” story by Melanie Villines is a wonderfully refreshing read, unusual and propulsive. Hard to describe, it has crime plots, religious miracles, funny and endearing characters, and somehow captures the heartbeat of Chicago.

Une nuit d’amour à Iqaluit:  This is a French translation from the English, and in either language I recommend Felicia Mihali’s thought-provoking and touching novel.  In a sea of books riding the coattails of the serious, this one digs deep and changes your mind about the issues she writes about.

Match Made for Murder:  If you haven’t heard of Iona Whishaw’s elegant and engaging mysteries set in western Canada and other locations, you must have been in hiding somewhere.  So come on out and hurry to your local bookstore or library.  This one is part of an established series, so there is lots to love.  

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