Saturday, January 25, 2014

Enjoyable Canadian Traditional Mysteries: Vicki Delany Keeps Writing More!

In April, Vicki Delany's new "Rapid Reads" novella Juba Good will take one of her RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- a.k.a. Mounties) investigators to the Sudan. And that will make an enormous change from her usual northern Canada series! But she'll also be releasing Under Cold Stone in April, as the next book featuring Constable Molly Smith in British Columbia. Her recent title More Than Sorrow was an outlier, a Gothic novel (still involving crime, though) set in Ontario. And she scooped up an 2013 Arthur Ellis Award nomination for her "Rapid Reads" novella A Winter Kill.

So amidst the swirl of change (and broadening) for this author, her December 2013 title, GOLD WEB, delighted me with its classic "amateur sleuth" plot and reliably interesting protagonist -- the indominatable Fiona MacGillivray, half owner of the best dance hall and tavern in the gold-rush frontier town of Dawson City, Yukon, in 1898.

This is the third in the Fiona MacGillivray series -- the others are Gold Mountan and Gold Digger -- and "Fee" is well established as a tough, independent businesswoman who's more interested in turning a steady profit and keeping her growing son Angus on the right track, than she is in trying to get her budding romance defined with Corporal Richard Sterling of the Mounties. When a dying man collapses at her feet in an alley behind the dance hall, Fee is startled to hear the man's last words: her name, MacGillivray, followed by the name of the most famous Scottish battle, gasping, "Culloden."

It doesn't make any sense. And with no evident threat toward herself or her business from the murder, Fee leaves the investigation in the hands of Corporal Sterling (and incidentally her son Angus, who's determined to get into law enforcement himself -- heaven forbid). She has a dancer in rebellion, another dancer putting her business in jeopardy, some gambling clients getting out of line, and each time the investigation takes a fresh turn, Fee's own secrets come a little closer to being revealed.

Delany's history-turned-fiction is well checked against fact. Better yet, she's a storyteller who deftly pulls together the plusses and minuses of women's independence, Yukon tradition, and of course the Mounties. Fiona MacGillivray is already a classic character, and her gutsy participation in Gold Rush life makes a great winter read. (My only gripe on this one is the cover design, which doesn't begin to hint at the rough-and-tumble mystery inside.)

Thanks, Vicki Delany -- and I'm looking forward to the April reads, too.

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