Set a mystery in Scandinavia? Wonderful. Ireland? Terrific. Ditto Spain, Italy, Thailand, or South America. Set a mystery in Canada? Whoa, better think twice. Readers won’t buy books set in Canada. Believe it or not, this is still the advice that some agents and publishers give to Canadian writers. No one has ever been able to explain why. Is it because Canadians are too bland and boring? Or are they too weird to be believed?
Kidding aside, access is one of the major problems for books set north of the 49th parallel. Many Canadian writers publish with small Canadian presses, so distribution becomes a problem, effectively shutting Canadian books out of bookstores and off of library shelves.
Try this Canadian mystery scavenger hunt.
Print out this blog and take it with you the next time you go to the library. Pick a province and see how many of the authors who set their mysteries in that province are in your library. My guess is, unfortunately, not many. Go one step further. Ask for books by one of these authors on inter-library loan.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you started reading some great Canadian crime. The list is limited to novels. Canadian writers are prolific short-story writers, too, but the short stories would be even more difficult to find than the books.
L. R. Wright
C. B. Forrest
Sylvia Multash Warsh
Trevor Ferguson , a.k.a John Farrow
N.A.T. (Nancy) Grant
R. J. Harlick
Thomas Rendell Curran
Ottawa (so this isn’t a province, it’s the capital of Canada)
Mary Jane Maffini
Prince Edward Island
Hilary MacLeod (at least one)
Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Nunavut Territory, Manitoba, and New Brunswick didn’t turn up as mystery locations, though I’m certain there must be some stories set there. I would be delighted if someone reading this blog could send us in the right direction to find them. You can always fall back on Eric Wilson’s mystery series for young adults. He brags that he’s set a mystery in every Canadian province and territory.
Happy Canadian reading.