Which female Canadian author has written the best mystery novel? Who’s the Queen of Canadian Mystery? Many will say Maureen Jennings, author of the Detective Murdoch series. Others will say Louise Penny, author of the Inspector Gamache series. I say Margaret Atwood. “What the &^$#!” you say.“You’re an idiot.” I know. An opinionated idiot. Let the mud fly. 😉
Before I reveal the mystery novel, I’ll relate a few arguments I’ve heard from friends. “Atwood isn’t a mystery writer.” Correct, in as much as she’s not labeled a mystery writer. “Atwood doesn’t need kudos from anyone. She’s already famous.” Also correct. “Pick someone more current.” I will, when the new Queen comes along.
Now, to the question at hand. The best mystery novel written by a female Canadian author is …. Robber Bride.
“Get &^$%,” you say, “Robber Bride isn’t a genre novel. It’s literary fiction.” Yep. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a mystery, and a damn fine one. I admit, it’s not noir. I’m also stretching the definition of “mystery novel.” Robber Bride doesn’t feature a detective or a parade of murderees. The reader knows the villain (Zenia) from the start. But you don’t know what she did, or how she did it. That’s the mystery – the howdunit, you might say.
Atwood delivers enough plot twists and obfuscation to please the most demanding of mystery fans. She deploys wry humour and strong prose. She makes you think. However, Robber Bride has its limitations. It isn’t for the hard-boiled. Too much literary description, too much talk of “feelings.” Oh, those dreaded feelings. Me, I like a good dose of feelings now and then. I don’t want noir all the time.
Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. McClelland and Stewart. 1993.
If you have any trouble finding the audio clip, go to the ‘Ontario Morning’ homepage and then navigate to the Episodes tab. You’ll see an entry titled Ontario Morning – Tuesday April 30, 2019 – Part 3 (27:00). The North Noir/Bay of Blood interview starts at 13:40 of Part 3.
‘OrilliaMatters’ Press Release: Novel based on bizarre death of Canadian icon set in Georgian Bay.
Bay of Blood, a new novel set in Georgian Bay, is based on the mysterious death of renowned Canadian painter Tom Thomson.
The book’s idea came to author Andy Potter when he was watching a documentary about Thomson’s life and mysterious death called West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson. This would make a great novel, Potter thought. Then he thought, No, it wouldn’t. You can’t fly too close to the Tom Thomson myth. It’s sacred. He’s a Canadian icon.
So, Potter wrote a mystery novel based on Thomson’s death. Thomson died on July 8, 1917. The famous painter murdered in Bay of Blood died on July 8, 2017. There are other similarities, but the painter in the novel is not Thomson, and he’s not the main character. The novel’s main character is OPP Detective Sergeant Eva Naslund.
As one of the book’s reviewers says, “Potter takes his readers on a fascinating 21st-century chase, with bells and whistles never dreamt of 100 years ago: cellphones, female detectives, Russian operatives, and shady Toronto art dealers.”