Books often transport us to exotic places and new worlds. They can let us try on new experiences, a different culture/lifestyle or another world-view. In the days before Instagram and 24- hour news channels, our first introduction to other places probably came through books.
I love reading murder mysteries and spy stories- Many (think John Le Carré) involve international jet-setting to world metropolises like New York, London, Hong Kong… Other books are situated in just one city. We once stumbled on an Ian Rankin book tour in Winnipeg. This resulted in years of enjoyment, spending time with Inspector Rebus and his partner Siobhan as they slogged through Edinburgh’s gritty, darker side.
Inspector Rebus or George Smiley have nothing in common with my everyday, quiet life in a small prairie, Canadian city. That is, no doubt, part of the appeal.
But I also have some favorite authors that are much closer to home- equally great stories that are situated in a milieu that I recognize and understand. Howard Shrier writes out of Montreal and Louise Penny’s world is an imaginary village in Québec. And then there is a prairie author that I love- Gail Bowen, designated Canada’s best Mystery Novelist by Reader’s Digest in 2008.
Her main character, Joanne Kilbourn lives with her husband in Regina. Through Gail’s books, I have followed Joanne’s life story and mystery-solving abilities from the time of her first marriage through to her recent retirement…fourteen books and fourteen deaths later. I love that I am intimately familiar with the food, the weather, the attitudes and habits that shape the protagonist’s experience. (It probably doesn’t hurt that Joanne and her husband Zach share my views on most things!) Gail came to our town and gave a book reading a few years ago; I’m looking forward to meeting her again the next time she goes on tour.
What about you? Do you have a favourite mystery author? A favourite Canadian author? Do you prefer books situated locally or in far-flung places? I’d love to hear your thoughts.