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Thrilled to Death: 10 Killer Books From the Motive Crime & Mystery Festival

If you can’t make it to Toronto for the second annual celebration of literary murder and mayhem, read these books by authors featured at the festival / BY Kim Honey / June 2nd, 2023

Toronto will be an accessory to murder this weekend when the second annual Motive Crime & Mystery Festival kicks off June 2 for a weekend full of madness and mayhem. It features more than 40 in-person events and three virtual ones, with a slew of homegrown and international authors talking about, and reading from, their latest cosy mysteries, psychological thrillers, police procedurals and true-crime books.

It’s the brainchild of Toronto International Festival of Authors director Roland Gulliver, who was struck by how much Canadians love the genre after he took the top job in 2020. “Crime and mystery writing continues to captivate readers,” Gulliver said in a statement. “The genre’s popularity attests to the power of masterful storytelling that also allows us to reflect on our contemporary, social issues.”

The free online events include Indian author Deepti Kapoor talking about her blockbuster bestselling novel Age of Vice, British crime novelist Martin Edwards presenting his new history of crime fiction, The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators, and Scottish author Neil Forsyth on the riveting story of a 1983 heist detailed in The Gold, which he mined for the script of a six-part BBC drama of the same name that will air on Paramount+ this summer.

If you love a good crime story and can’t make the trek to Toronto, assuage your FOMO by reading these books by some of the festival’s most glittery literati.


1Central Park West by James Comey

Before former U.S. President Barack Obama appointed James Comey the seventh director of the FBI and Donald Trump fired him, Comey was a U.S. attorney in New York, where he prosecuted members of the mob. In Central Park West, the first in a planned series of legal thrillers, federal prosecutor Nora Carleton is counting on sending a notorious mafioso to jail, but the case is derailed by new information about mob ties to the murder of the state’s former governor. Expect lots of courtroom drama, political intrigue and clashes between the FBI and the New York police.

2The Lie Maker by Linwood Barclay

The day before Linwood Barclay interviews James Comey about Central Park West, Canada’s master of suspense will drop some details about The Lie Maker, which follows struggling author Jack Givins, who was just a boy when his felonious father disappeared into a witness protection program.  When Jack is hired to craft fake biographies for witnesses like his dad, he uses his newfound access to search for his father. The trail goes cold as the plot ramps up, and Jack is embroiled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with his father’s enemies. The Lie Maker follows the October 2022 publication of Look Both Ways, a novel Barclay described as a “techno thriller,” where an experiment with driverless cars takes a deadly turn when the vehicles run amok on a remote island.


3A Death at the Party by Amy Stuart

Amy Stuart will read from her new standalone murder mystery, A Death at the Party, which is set over one day as her middle-aged protagonist, Nadine Walsh, prepares to throw a birthday bash for her mother. After the hostess finds a dead body in her basement, the story backtracks to the morning of the shindig and digs into some family secrets. As the Toronto-based author of three Still thrillers (Still Mine, Still Water and Still Here) told Zoomer in a recent Q&A, “it’s a whydunit, not a whodunit.”

4The Housekeeper by Joy Fielding

The Canadian author, known for twisty plots driven by sinister characters, will discuss her 30th novel, The Housekeeper, about a live-in caregiver hired by Toronto real estate agent Jodi Bishop to look after her parents, including her mom, Audrey, who has Parkinson’s. Elyse Woodley, a sixty-ish widow, seems perfect for the job, until she takes over the house and leaves Jodi out of the loop. When Elyse starts wearing Audrey’s jewelry and Audrey goes into a precipitous decline, Jodi’s relief turns to dread as she starts to suspect Elyse is too good to be true.

5Fit to Die by Daniel Kalla

Vancouver ER physician Daniel Kalla’s latest medical thriller captures the zeitgeist of the Ozempic era with a story about a toxic diet pill that is cutting down a swath of weight-conscious people – including body builders, a teenage track star and a famous singer.  In Fit to Die, Vancouver toxicologist Dr. Julie Rees is on the case, along with her detective boyfriend, as they try to trace the source of the pill that causes convulsions and a fatal fever.

6In a Land Without Dogs, Cats Learn to Bark by Jonathan Garfinkel

The Canadian-born, Berlin-based author, playwright and poet’s debut novel explores the legacy of the Soviet Union and the ongoing threat of Russian dominance. Jonathan Garfinkel has called the book, described as “a complexly plotted mystery that leads from Moscow to Toronto to Tbilisi,” as a “love song” to Georgia, and explores themes of shifting identities, democracy and intergenerational trauma.

7The Bingo Hall Detectivesby Jonathan Whitelaw

The Scottish journalist leans on his media background in this light-hearted mystery set in the English town of Penrith, where a recently laid-off reporter gets entangled in his mother-in-law’s amateur sleuthing. Amita is convinced the death of her bingo mate, Madeline Frobisher, wasn’t accidental, and she leans on Jason’s investigative skills as well as fellow members of the Penrith Bingo Club to try to confirm her suspicions in this delightful whodunit.


8 A Twist of the Knife by Anthony Horowitz

The prolific British author of more than 50 books will talk about the fourth mystery in a series that stars eccentric detective Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, an author also called Anthony Horowitz, in which Horowitz is jailed for the murder of a theatre critic who panned his play. Hawthorne is the only one he trusts to find the killer, but Horowitz has unceremoniously dumped him. At the festival, the real Anthony Horowitz will discuss how he gets into the mind and psyche of James Bond for the continuation novels he has been commissioned to write by Ian Fleming’s estate, including the latest, With a Mind to Kill, which picks up where Fleming’s last novel, The Man With a Golden Gun, left off.

9Closer By Sea by Perry Chafe

The debut novel by St. John’s-based TV writer and producer Perry Chafe (Republic of Doyle, Son of a Critch), is a poignant coming-of-age tale mixed with a mystery that has been characterized as Newfoundland noir. Pierce Jacobs, 12, lives on a small island off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, where he is grappling with the loss of his father, a fisherman who disappeared at sea three years ago. When teenaged Anna Tessier goes missing from the small community, Pierce and his buddies suspect a taciturn new resident called Soloman Vickers, who lives alone and keeps to himself. In a recent Q&A with Zoomer, Chafe talked about scary fairies, sea monsters and how Anna represents Pierce’s healing journey.

10The Fallout by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

We move across the north Atlantic to Reykjavik, where bestselling author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir co-founded the literary festival, Iceland Noir, in 2013 to celebrate crime fiction. In Toronto, Sigurðardóttir will read from The Fallout, the sixth and final book in her Children’s House series featuring detective Huldar and child psychologist Freyja. In the police procedural, Huldar and Freyja investigate the chilling case of a decapitated woman found in a car, which leads to past crimes and the intertwined stories of three families.



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