World of Words: Locals review great Canadian crime fiction

May is National Crime Writing Month, and in celebration, Yukoners have reviewed work by finalists in three categories.

A Nominee for Best Crime Novel:

Arctic Blue Death, by R. J. Harlick (RendezVous Crime)

This is a murder story that has a bit of a twist.

Meg Harris has an intriguing past, some of which is revealed through the book, some of which we are left guessing. She has a dysfunctional family and a father whose plane disappeared 35 years ago in the High Arctic.

The story’s main characters are from Ottawa, but the majority of the action takes place in Nunavut.

Throughout the book, we are treated to glimpses of the Inuit culture and the environment of Iqaluit and Tasilik (Baffin Island). We find out interesting things about Inuit artists and the whole Inuit printmaking business initially established by James Houston who is credited as being the first to introduce the art of printmaking to the North.

The story revolves around the fascinating world of art forgeries related to Inuit Printmaking as we follow Meg Harris in her search for the truth about her missing father.

~ Ruth McCullough, crime writer and retired territorial arts curator

From the Best First Novel Shortlist:

A Magpie’s Smile, by Eugene Meese (Newest Press)

It’s Alberta’s first big oil boom, and Calgary’s population has quadrupled overnight. Among them is a murderer with a hunting knife, scalping victims. Calgary Police wrongly arrest the first blade-welding Aboriginal they find, and while his fellow officers back-peddle, Jake Fry tracks the real killer.

Meese was an editorial writer and columnist with The Albertan in 1970s Calgary. To recapture the essence of the oil rush, he turned to the pages of his old notebooks. Meese’s real talent, though, lies in writing with an Alberta accent. The dialogue captures the slick speed of oilpatch English which lends a unique tone to the book.

~ Jessica Simon, Yukon CWC member and author

A Candidate for Best Juvenile Crime:

The Hunchback Assignments, by Arthur Slade (HarperCollins)

he Hunchback Assignments, a tale woven by the skilled author Arthur Slade, begins with the mysterious, chillingly mad scientist Dr. Hyde as he works to develop a new invention, a tincture of great power.

As a test, he gives it to his loyal guard dog Magus … and then bizarre effects start to take place.

The story centers on Modo, an orphan from Notre Dame, who has a tragic deformity and a skill that comes along with it. He is trained by the gentleman Mr. Socrates, and when he turns 14, is finally allowed to enter the outside world. This is when the real adventure begins.

The book captures readers with its shadow and intrigue and sends them spiraling off into Victorian London, a fascinating world of steam-powered engineering and dark secrets. The dialogue is spot-on and makes me want to do this entire review in a Cockney accent … guv’nuh.

The plot, however, is a bit too complicated for younger readers, and the point-of-view switches often, but overall this book shines as one of the best.

With entertaining characters, plenty of action and an ending that comes as a great, yet fitting surprise, this book is great. Brilliant, I say! Positively brilliant!

–Santana Berryman, young adult reader and Whitehorse Public Library patron

Other categories include best French crime novel, best crime non-fiction, best short story and the coveted Unhanged Arthur for the best unpublished manuscript. The Arthur Ellis has been awarded since 1984 and is named for Canada’s official hangman from 1913 to the abolition of capital punishment in 1976.

Visit for the complete list of excellent crime writing.

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