Murder at San Miguel
Radiant Press / 4 January 2023

Murder at San Miguelby Danee WilsonPublished by Radiant PressReview by Toby A. Welch$22.00 ISBN 9781989274767 Murder at San Miguel is a solid read with a riveting storyline. The main character – an archaeological illustrator named Beatrix Forster – tags along to Spain when her archaeology professor husband goes to excavate a medieval cemetery. (They undertake the adventure as it is believed that a famous medieval knight is potentially buried at the site.) What ensues is an exciting story involving a murder as well as twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I won’t say more as I don’t want to ruin it for you – although I will mention that an adorable fox terrier named Muffin tags along on the journey, adding a touch of canine love and humour to the book.  Don’t fear – you don’t need to have even a remote interest in archaeology to enjoy Murder at San Miguel. I knew nothing about secondary burial places or burying bodies facing specific directions yet I thoroughly devoured every page. As a side bonus, as someone who has never given a thought to archaeology beyond watching Indiana Jones movies, I found myself enjoying the subject matter. Of course…

Mechanic’s Wife, The
Millenium Marketing / 28 July 2021

The Mechanic’s Wifeby Marion MutalaPublished by Millennium MarketingReview by Toby A. Welch$14.95 ISBN 9781777371302 The cover of The Mechanic’s Wife is what initially drew me in. Illustrated by Olha Tkachenko, it is a vibrant illustration of two women with an older model blue GTO between them. Things get even better once you crack the book open. We immediately delve into the life of DD, a Ukrainian detective based in Saskatoon. Her backstory is fully fleshed out in a way that makes it impossible to do anything but continue reading. The meat of this book is the story of Dwayne and Marianne. Married almost two decades, one of them isn’t thrilled with the life they have built together. Let’s just say some things happen, bringing DD, the leading criminal investigator in Canada at the time of the story, and Raunchy, her associate, into their lives. The two tackle the case of what really took place between Dwayne and Marianne.  On a side note, it’s hard not to like DD’s quirky sidekick, Raunchy. He is endlessly entertaining and provides another level to the story. Fun characters like Raunchy make any book a better read.  Author Marion Mutala is a resident of Saskatoon….

Fire Lake
J.C. Paulson / 17 February 2021

Fire Lakeby J.C. PaulsonPublished by J.C. PaulsonReview by Marlin Legare$19.99   ISBN 9780995975644 Fire Lake by J.C. Paulson can be best described as a mystery novel that is unapologetically Canadian and is steeped in intrigue. This novel, published by Joanne Paulson, is the third of the Adam and Grace series that follows the experiences of reporter Grace Rampling and her husband Sgt. Adam Davis, an RCMP detective. In this entry, Grace and Adam decide to escape the stressors of their careers and Saskatoon city life by camping out for a couple’s getaway in Northern Saskatchewan. The destination that they find themselves at is the titular Fire Lake, a fictional setting based on real locations in Northern Saskatchewan that inspired Paulson. At first, the time at the cabin is pure bliss for the couple. Not only do they find themselves indulging in the serene, natural beauty of their surroundings but also in each other. Paulson is not shy about describing adult experiences but does so with a certain grace (no pun intended) and subtlety that the love scenes read as an homage to the couple’s passion rather than something common. However, the creature comforts that the couple enjoy are short-lived as…

If It Wasn’t For the Money
Wood Dragon Books / 6 January 2021

If It Wasn’t for the Money: A Sam Anderson Mysteryby J.A. MartinePublished by Wood Dragon BooksReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$19.99   ISBN 9-781989-078341 If It Wasn’t for the Money: A Sam Anderson Mystery, by Saskatchewan author J.A. Martine – aka business writer Jeanne Martinson – is a rather delectable novel, in more ways than one. The story concerns twin sisters who’d inherited “bloody millions,” their down-on-their-financial-luck husbands, the adventurous magazine writer Sam Anderson (who possesses an interesting, lottery-related back story), and an initially clownish retired Regina cop, all of whom we meet on an Alaska-bound cruise ship. Smooth sailing? Oh no … this is a mystery, after all.  The characters are well-drawn – especially Sam, who leads photography workshops on the ship and rappels down a rockface for a travel story – and plausible, and as the author employs multiple points of view, readers are able to enter into each of the major character’s concerned minds.  Martine explains that the lavish fictional ship, the “Sea Wanderer,” is an amalgamation of Alaskan cruise ships she’s obviously had experience with, as I could easily imagine “the grand lobby with its elegant multi-level staircase,” the “[buzzing] excitement of the first-time passengers,” and the…

Griffin’s Cure
J.C. Paulson / 22 September 2020

Griffin’s Cureby J.C. PaulsonPublished by Joanne PaulsonReview by Michelle Shaw$20 ISBN 9780995975668 A brilliant scientist lies dead in his laboratory at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan. There is no bullet wound, no stab wound, no sign of blunt force trauma. In fact, no obvious cause of death. Yet he was clearly murdered. This is the fourth book in J.C. Paulson’s Adam and Grace romantic suspense series and Paulson really does get better with each book. The plot in Griffin’s Cure revolves around a unique mushroom with unusual healing powers and a brilliant young University of Saskatchewan student Jay Griffin. There’s lots of action (romantic and otherwise) as Detective Sergeant Adam Davis of the Saskatoon Police and StarPhoenix reporter Grace Rampling desperately try to figure out who killed Dr Taras Petrenko before more people are murdered. Once again Paulson sets her story in Saskatoon, this time primarily at the University of Saskatchewan. The Departments of Agriculture and Dentistry feature prominently, a police officer goes undercover as a student and there’s lots of intrigue among academic staff and students. For a little international flair, there’s even a Prague connection. Timewise this book occurs shortly after the previous…

Broken Through
Joanne Paulson / 5 September 2019

Broken Throughby J. C. PaulsonPublished by Joanne PaulsonReview by Shelley A. Leedahl$20.00 ISBN 9-780995-975620 Broken Through is former Saskatoon journalist J.C. Paulson’s follow-up to her first genre-blending novel, Adam’s Witness, and the author’s only getting better. In the new book, heroine Grace Rampling – a Saskatoon StarPhoenix reporter – digs into another gritty story after a friend’s neighbour’s dog is shot on the same day there’s been a fatal hit-and-run in Saskatoon. Then: the neighbor, a young dental hygienist who recently kicked a drinking problem, is found brutally murdered in her home. And – spoiler alert – she was pregnant. The father? The philandering dentist she worked for. That’s hardly all: Rampling’s romantic partner, Detective Sergeant Adam Davis (from the earlier book), is investigating the murder, and the handsome and capable cop quickly connects this crime with others committed against petite, long-haired brunettes in Saskatoon and Winnipeg. Can you say serial killer? The novel definitely earns the moniker of a mystery, but one could also call it a romance. New lovers Rampling and Davis are extremely passionate about one another, but both are also being careful. Davis suffers from PTSD, which manifests in violent nightmares. “I feel like a piece…

Adam’s Witness
J.C. Paulson / 9 January 2019

Adam’s Witness by J. C. Paulson Published by Joanne Paulson Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $18ftenace and her feisty loving .99 ISBN 9-780995-975606 Adam’s Witness is longtime Saskatoon StarPhoenix journalist Joanne Paulson’s first foray into fiction, and the part mystery, part romance novel set in Saskatoon is sure to gain her many fans. The fast-paced story begins with diligent StarPhoenix reporter Grace Rampling receiving a phone call from Pride Chorus member Bruce, who’s upset that his choir’s next-day concert at St. Eligius Catholic Church was suddenly and inexplicably cancelled. Rampling crosses the alley to the nearby cathedral to learn why, and in the dark sanctuary she stumbles upon “a man in clerical clothing right at her feet” who is “bleeding copiously from the head”. The bishop’s been murdered, and all hell breaks loose. Could the perpetrator be a bitter choir member? A parishioner? Someone within the church? We learn that “the monstrance is missing,” and this large sacred vessel (it contains the Host) could, ironically, be the murder weapon. What makes this book work so well is Paulson’s smart handling of diverse, well-drawn characters, and a two-pronged plot: not only is mid-twenties Grace the key witness (she’ll also come under…

Zara’s Dead
Coteau Books / 12 July 2018

Zara’s Dead by Sharon Butala Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-781550-509472 She’s penned multiple novels, short fiction collections, plays, and non-fiction, including the highly popular The Perfection of the Morning (a Governor General’s Award finalist), and Sharon Butala’s showing no signs of slowing down. If anything, the longtime Saskatchewan author (who now lives in Calgary) is, in fact, stretching her literary chops: her latest title, Zara’s Dead, is a mystery. A new genre for this household-name writer, but the subject-the unsolved rape and murder of a beautiful young woman in the 1960s-is one the talented author’s previously explored. Butala’s readers will recall her non-fiction book The Girl in Saskatoon-about the murder of her high school friend, Alexandra Wiwcharuk- and there are several parallels between that real-life tragedy and the compelling plot of Zara’s Dead. Like Wiwcharuk, fictional Zara is a lovely and vivacious young woman enjoying life in a prairie city, and when she’s murdered the killer’s never found. The narrator in Butala’s mystery-Fiona Lychenko, a newspaper columnist who published a book about Zara’s decades-old death and the clouds of mystery still surrounding it-was friends with the victim. Now seventy, widowed, and living restlessly…

Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing

Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing By Angie Counios and David Gane Review by Michelle Shaw Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing $19.95 9781988783130 Regina’s death toll is once again on the rise as Angie Counios and David Gane launch their third Shepherd and Wolfe mystery, Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing. Tony and Charlie are now in Grade 12 and still recovering emotionally and physically after the dramatic events of the summer (see Shepherd’s Watch). But a serial killer is roaming the Queen City murdering and dismembering his victims; and even though Tony’s parents warn the boys not to get involved in any more mysteries, they can’t resist investigating. Detective Gekas, herself still recovering from the previous summer’s adventures, is put in charge of the serial killer murders. As the boys investigate, the killings come heartbreakingly close to home, and Tony is guilt-stricken to think that their actions may be responsible for the killer’s latest choice of victim. Although the story is satisfyingly wrapped up, the final chapter of the book ends on a cliffhanger. Which means that once again I will be waiting very impatiently for the next book in the series! This book is thicker and slightly darker in tone than…

Shepherd’s Watch

Shepherd’s Watch by Counios & Gane Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Michelle Shaw $19.95 ISBN 9781927756959 Shepherd’s Watch is the second book in the Shepherd and Wolfe mystery series by Regina authors Angie Counios and David Gane. I’m always a bit wary of being introduced to a new author or series but this book exceeded all my expectations. I loved it so much, in fact, that I went out and bought the first book in the series so that I wouldn’t miss out! The books revolve around the lives (and adventures) of two high school students, Tony Shepherd (well-adjusted, athletic and bright) and “wise-ass troublemaker”, Charlie Wolfe. In the first book, Along Comes a Wolfe, Tony’s girlfriend goes missing and it’s suspected that a serial killer is at work. The boys investigate and barely escape with their lives. Shepherd’s Watch is set a few months later at the lake where Tony and his family are spending the summer. Charlie arrives at the cabin unannounced and soon the boys are investigating the disappearance of a local man who has inexplicably gone missing. From the start of the book, I had an idea of where the plot was going….