SANCTUS (Book One) by Simon TOYNE

(Previously published at

The fictional city of Ruin in modern day Turkey. Over it towers the Citadel, where the very first Bible is believed to have been written. Built into the Taurus mountains where the Carmina, a society of monks, has been living for a couple of millennia, the building is entirely cut off from the rest of the world. There they hide and protect the Sacrament, an ancient relic of inestimable worth.

Not every monk in the Citadel has access to the Sacrament – only the chosen ones do and they’ve been through a rigorous and violent ritual lasting years. Once they’ve reached this point the chosen each become a Sanctus, members of the Sancti. They’re never allowed to leave the Citadel – not dead, and certainly not alive. No one else can know the true nature of the Sacrament.

So of course one Sanctus, Samuel Newton, gets out. He climbs to the top of the mountain, standing there for many hours with his arms outstretched forming a cross, the sign of the Tau, older by far than the Christian cross. While the whole world below watches he lets himself fall to his death. But why? His sister, Liv Adamsen, undertakes a dangerous journey to find out the truth behind his demise. She’s helped by the Mala, a group who believe in a different version of the Bible, whose history is as old as the Carmina’s. The Mala wants the Sacrament to be revealed to the world.


Two short reviews by our new collaborator, L'Etranger.

I finished reading Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds and it is a fantastic book. It is set in what we know to be Hamilton area, although never identified, near a strip of once pristine beach that many of the steel magnates used for their summer getaways 100 years ago. But the gentry have moved on and the beach strip has a bit of faded glory about it. 

In a nice house on the strip live Josie and Gabe Marshall. Gabe is a detective on the local force and Josie works part-time as a bookkeeper at a local long-term care facility. Her mom is there after a stroke has left her unable to speak. At the beginning of the book Josie gets a call from her husband Gabe who wants her to come home so they can make love on the beach. Josie loves Gabe but right now she has a secret that is weighing her down. So even though it is a short walk from work to their home she delays and arrives much later than Gabe wanted her to. When she gets there the beach is cordoned off, cops are everywhere, and Gabe’s partner Mel pulls her aside to tell her Gabe has committed suicide on the beach. Josie is devastated but she can’t believe Gabe would do this. But the evidence seems overwhelming and the police soon close the case. Then another burnt-out cop takes his own life. Josie refuses to give up and she bugs Mel to continue to investigate while she begins to do her own digging.

I won’t say any more about the plot but I will say I sped through this. It is not a cozy mystery but very noir. Josie and Gabe are not perfect people; they have baggage. It is this baggage that helps muddle Josie. Plus, the good guys and bad guys are very grey (no white hats or black hats here) and the ending is a shocker.

For fans of Reynolds, a past Arthur Ellis Award winner, this will be a treat. At 274 pages, it is not a very long book but Reynolds takes maximum advantage of the space he uses and his prose is perfect. It is a literary read that should get rave reviews. For those unfamiliar with Reynolds’s work, good comparisons are to Gilles Blunt and Linwood Barclay.

Highly recommended.

by L'Étranger


This is the second book in the Gideon Crew series (following Gideon's Sword) and I liked it as much as the first one.

Gideon’s Corpse picks up almost where the previous book left off. Eli Glinn convinces Gideon to help the FBI when a former colleague of his from Los Alamos, Reed Chalker, has gone insane and is holding a family hostage for a ransom. Gideon tries to talk him down but is unsuccessful in ending the situation without someone getting killed. In the aftermath of the investigation, as the CSI crew are processing the crime scene, it is discovered that Chalker had been irradiated with a high dose of uranium. It looks like he was attempting to put together a nuclear bomb. Suddenly it is alphabet soup as member of the FBI, CIA, NEST, ATF, DOE, NYPD and others try to stop an attack against the United States. Gideon is right in the middle of things, helping his FBI partner Stone Fordyce, until he suddenly becomes a prime suspect in the plot he was investigating! Now he really has to find the mastermind behind this scheme.

This new novel has everything the first in the series did, and more. Fast paced, with lots of action, shoot outs, love affairs and bombs! It kept me reading late into the night as I navigated all the twists and turns in the story.

On the down side, if you are expecting a Pendergast type hero or story, this will be disappointing. The Gideon Crew series is more like Clive Cussler and Ted Bell than Preston & Child’s series with Pendergast. That said this is an excellent series so far and it’s another entertaining instalment!

review by L'Étranger 



1- Le léopard  de Jo NESBO (Norvège)
2- L'armée furieuse  de Fred VARGAS (France)
3- Il ne faut pas parler dans l'ascenseur  de Martin MICHAUD (Québec)
4- Aurora, Minnesota  de W. Kent KRUGER (États-Unis)
5- Toyer  de Gardner MCKAY  (États-Unis)
Et un titre 'true crime' :
-- Un long silence  de Mikal GILMORE (États-Unis)


1- L'homme chauve-souris  de Jo NESBO (Norvège)
2- L'armée furieuse  de Fred VARGAS  (France)
3- Il ne faut pas parler dans l'ascenseur  de Martin MICHAUD (Québec, Canada)
4- Dans le quartier des agités  de Jacques CÔTÉ (Québec, Canada)
5- Vanités  de Johanne Seymour  (Québec, Canada)

TOP 5 POLARS VOX POPULI des lecteurs du House of Crime & Mystery

1- Le léopard  de Jo NESBO (Norvège)
2- L'armée furieuse  de Fred VARGAS (France)
3- 220 Volts  de Joseph INCARDONA (Suisse)
4- Savages  de Don WINSLOW (États-Unis)
5- La chorale du diable  de Martin MICHAUD (Québec, Canada)

MERCI à tous ceux qui ont pris le temps de nous faire parvenir leurs choix de livres. Bonnes lectures en 2012 et revenez nous visiter le plus souvent possible; faites-nous part de vos commentaires, nous répondons à tous les messages.
Janvier 2012

RED MEANS RUN by Brad SMITH (review plus Q&A)

Brad Smith has already proven his talent in previous books, especially in ALL HAT and BUSTED FLUSH, two of my favourites of his. With his new novel, RED MEANS RUN (published today, January 10th) Smith elevates his game another notch and will hopefully get all the attention he deserves.

Virgil Cain is a former baseball player turned gentleman farmer who now lives in upstate New York, not far from the Canadian border his native country. Life hasn’t always been good for Cain who’s had previous dealings with the law and who is recently widowed. Now, while taking care of a few horses, raising cattle and cutting hay, Virgil lives one day at a time.

The quiet is suddenly broken when Virgil becomes the prime suspect of the murder of a big shot lawyer named Mickey Dupree; the same Dupree who has successfully defended a man accused of killing Virgil’s wife. The police don’t seem interested in following other leads after learning that Cain has been heard saying “somebody ought to blow Mickey Dupree’s head off” in a bar. Virgil is arrested, thrown in jail and officially accused of the murder.

Sensing that he doesn’t stand much chance of convincing anyone of his innocence, Virgil decides he’ll have to find the killer on his own. With a little luck and some wits, Virgil escapes from the old jail but soon after two more murders are committed. Still the only suspect, Virgil enters a cat and mouse game with the lead detective, Claire Marchand. It could be reminiscent of ‘The Fugitive’ if not for some chemistry and sexual tension between Cain and Marchand. Virgil realises that Claire is the only one who might be able to help him, but he needs to convince her first. On the other hand, while she senses that it’s possible he might not be guilty, she still wants to do her job. And that’s to find him and to bring him in.

In “Red Means Run”, Brad Smith brings to the genre a great cast of complex characters who are caught at defining moments of their lives, as if depicted on a Norman Rockwell or Grant Wood canvas, if these painters had decided to show the darker side of American rural life. Smith’s characters are all confronted with decisions to take, and for most of them, their choices will bring drastic consequences. These characters are alive on the page thanks to great dialogues, as in this example:

 “(…) I noticed an assault weapon in the dining room and a semi-automatic on the kitchen counter. I assume they are all property of the deceased but you know what assuming can do.”
“Lots of guns,” Julie said. “What the hell was he expecting?”
“This, I’m guessing,” Claire said. “But probably with a different outcome.”
 And in this one:
“You watch reality TV?”
“I watch baseball,” Virgil said. “And the news. The weather occasionally but it tends to piss me off.”
“I hate reality TV,” Buddy said. “Sometimes I think it’s the worst fucking thing ever to happen to this country. Nothing worth watching anymore. So I’m bored most of the time and I hate being bored. But you, you’re entertaining as hell. I don’t know what the fuck you’re up to or what you’re going to do next, but I’m going to keep watching.”

The story moves at a steady pace as you get the omniscient point of view into the different plot lines. You'll end up caring more about the characters than about the actual mystery of who kills. But that's a good thing because the interactions between Claire and Virgil, Suzanne and Jane, and their motivations is what really drives this story. If you like ‘country noir’, as Brad Smith’s books have been categorized in the past, “Red Means Run” will satisfy you like a horse ride in the quiet of a warm morning mist, or like a cold beer after a long day working in the alfalfa field. The New Year has just started and Brad Smith already raises the bar for others.

To learn a little bit more about Brad Smith and “Red Means Run”, here’s a short Q&A I did with him.
HoCaM-- “Red Means Run” is your 6th novel; what makes Virgil Cain the right character for you to start a series?   

Brad Smith--He just seems like a character with staying power. I like the idea of an ex-athlete trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. And – as a minor league ballplayer – Virgil Cain never made enough money to retire, so he needs to find a vocation that will support him. He stumbles into farming, and is quite surprised to find that he likes it. The other thing about him is that he’s very private, and that makes it all the more interesting when he gets dragged into situations he could quite happily live without.  And he’s also happily ignorant of the information age – he doesn’t own a cell phone, or a computer – which makes him a throwback.

HoCaM-- When did you realize, in the writing process, that you were entering series territory?

Brad Smith--I have been sitting on the idea of the second book – Crow’s Landing – for a while and when I sat down to write it, it came quite naturally to me that Virgil Cain would be a good fit. It’s about a guy who, while out fishing, snags a steel cylinder full of pure cocaine. Virgil lives near the Hudson River, and – as someone who seems to be very good at finding trouble, through no fault of his own  - it occurred to me that Virgil was the guy. 

HoCaM-- The title of the book comes from the song “Powderfinger” by Neil Young (that he originally wrote for Lynyrd Skynyrd). “Red means run, son, …” The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory in the story they tell, and the beginning of your novel shares similarities with the song (and with its main theme). How much did the song inspire the book; was it the spark for the idea of the story or did it come into the mix later on?

Brad Smith-- Hey – I never knew Neil wrote that for Skynyrd! I do know, of course, that they gave him a shot in Sweet Home Alabama (“I hope Neil Young will remember, southern man don’t need him around anyhow”)

I wouldn’t say that the song actually inspired the book, but it was definitely in the mix all along. The book is infused with a number of musical elements – both good and bad – and Powderfinger always, to me, represented the good. It helps bring out the character of Virgil’s late wife, whom we never actually get to meet, so it was important to me that she be connected to something pure and honest. And Powderfinger fits the bill.

HoCaM-- In “Red Means Run”, most of the marriages are money-oriented more than built on love and intimacy. These characters are either divorced or unhappily married or they just don’t care anymore. On the other hand, even with the odds heavily against them, Virgil and Claire connect on many levels. They are the driving force at the center of the book; to me, they became more interesting than the murder mystery itself (even though I wanted to know how it would all be solved). Can you talk about how you see these two characters and how they evolved in your head and on the page ?

Brad Smith-- Thank you. I think that the characters are always more interesting than the mystery and that’s something I strive for. First of all, Virgil and Claire are the smartest people in the book (although Buddy Townes is no slouch) and I think that makes them worthy adversaries. Secondly, the circumstances of their meeting puts them in opposition, which makes the fact that they are very attracted to each other even more interesting. Claire, in particular, has to restrain herself, as she knows her job is to lock Virgil up, possibly for the rest of his life. Virgil is more openly attracted to Claire, at first on a purely physical level (“she’s got great legs”) but then on an intellectual level, once he gets to know her. And even though he senses that she’s the one who might run him to ground, that doesn’t diminish his attraction. He also suspects that she might be smarter than him…and that makes him nervous. As it should.

HoCaM-- One aspect of your books that I enjoy is character-development; in “Red Means Run”, you’ve created many strong female characters (Claire, Suzanne, Mary, Jane, etc.) who change through the course of the story; they are determined and they know what they want in life –and how to get it. They also make interactions between characters much more lively and interesting because they are usually not passive. If they are passive, it’s for a good reason but they take action when it counts. How different (and challenging) is it to create believable female characters, especially when you have more than one or two and you want them to have different personalities?    

Brad Smith-- Interesting that you should ask that. I knew all along exactly who Claire was – smart, sexy, slightly damaged, but extremely good at her job. And Mary Nelson was easy too – I like the notion of a senior citizen (she’s 70-something) who is a senior in name only. She’s feisty, sharp, idealistic and does not suffer fools gladly. However, when I wrote the first draft of the book, I purposefully made Jane and Suzanne quite similar. They both ran, both were fitness enthusiasts. I showed the draft to my good friend Jen Barclay, who suggested that it wasn’t working. So I went back and re-worked Suzanne – made her a drinker, a pot smoker, a hedonist who would rather eat thorns than go for a run. And it seemed to work. 

HoCaM-- You’ve mentioned that the next book, “Crow’s Landing”, is another Virgil Cain story. What can you reveal about it?

Brad Smith-- Yes, it’s another Virgil Cain book. This time Virgil’s out fishing for striped bass on the Hudson River and with his anchor he hooks a steel cylinder containing a couple million dollars’ worth of pure cocaine (the lost cylinder is based on a true story). A dirty cop seizes the cylinder, along with Virgil’s boat, and soon he is pursuing - and being pursued by - drug dealers, crooked cops, and a crazy Russian dealer with a deadly cowboy fixation. 

Here's a Facebook link to a video and book excerpt:


Here’s what other writers have had to say about Brad’s books:

“Brad Smith has got the goods –he’s funny, poignant, evocative, and he tells a blistering tale. A writer to watch, a comet on the horizon.”  --Dennis Lehane
“…Dashiel Hammett meets Hank Williams meets James Lee Burke…” –Ray Robertson
“…a writer with lots of skills, lots of heart, lots of brain…” –Richard Russo

Thank you to Loretta Eldridge, of Simon & Schuster Canada, for including The House of Crime & Mystery in this blog tour.


Critiques de W. Kent Kruger et Henning Mankell (in French)

Aurora, Minnesota
W. Kent Krueger
Titre original : Iron Lake
Traduction de Philippe Aronson
(Éditions Cherche-Midi)

Un jeune camelot disparaît par une froide journée de blizzard après avoir fini sa livraison de journaux. Le dernier client de sa tournée, le juge d’Aurora, est retrouvé mort et tout porte à croire qu’il s’est suicidé. A moins qu’il ne s’agisse d’un meurtre maquillé dont Paul, le camelot, aurait été témoin malgré lui, ce qui expliquerait sa disparition subite. C’est du moins ce que croit Cork O’Connor, ancien shérif d’Aurora, qui tente de retrouver le garçon.

A la suite d’une manifestation sur les droits de chasse des autochtones, Cork a été démis de ses fonctions de shérif.  Un de ses amis et un manifestant ont trouvé la mort cette journée-là à la suite d’une bavure et O'Connor s’en remet très difficilement. Il vit séparé de sa femme et de ses enfants et s’occupe à de petits boulots.  C’est par amitié pour la mère du jeune camelot qu’il accepte de fouiner aux alentours.

Un vieil indien le met en garde contre le Windigo qui aurait proféré son nom ainsi que ceux de quelques personnages louches de la région. On ne rigole pas avec le Windigo, ce géant au cœur de glace, qui sort de la forêt pour dévorer ses proies non sans les avoir identifiées au préalable.

Étant irlandais par son père et indien anishnabe par sa mère, Cork a du respect pour les croyances du peuple.  Mais ses années d’expérience dans la police de Chicago et à Aurora lui ont surtout démontré que les manigances des hommes sont plus souvent à l’origine des tragédies humaines que le fait des fantômes de la forêt.

Une visite inattendue et plutôt musclée, au chalet qu’il habite depuis sa séparation, lui confirme que son enquête dérange. Mais la liste des victimes du Windigo s’allonge sans que O'Connor n’arrive à établir de liens entre elles et il sent le souffle glacé du Wendigo dans son cou.

Je ne saurais expliquer pourquoi le roman nordique me plait autant : le décor, le froid, la neige, l’isolement dû aux tempêtes, le tempérament casanier des habitants. Krueger sait bien rendre ce climat d’austérité qui ne pardonne pas et qui façonne des personnalités fortes et rudes. Il nous amène à changer d’opinion sur les différents protagonistes tout au long du récit et nous ballade d’un suspect à l’autre à son gré. Très bon rythme et une finale qui laisse des blessures profondes, pas forcément raccommodables.

Une première traduction des enquêtes de Cork O’Connor qui sera, je l’espère, suivie de plusieurs autres. Il y en a déjà 11 en version originale. 

Récipiendaire d’un Anthony Award et d’un Barry Award aux États-Unis (où il est connu sous son nom complet de William Kent Kruger) pour le meilleur premier roman policier de 1999, Kruger a aussi remporté deux autres Anthony Awards en 2005 et 2006 pour Blood Hollow et Mercy Falls, des titres de la série Cork O’Connor.

Le chinois
Henning Mankell
traduction : Rémi Cassaigne
Titre original suédois : Kinesen
(Éditions Seuil Policiers)

Un début époustouflant. Un village entier du nord de la Suède est décimé à l’arme blanche, à l’exception de trois personnes. On se dit que Mankell n’a pas perdu la main et que malgré la mise au rencart de son inspecteur Wallender, il connait la recette pour ce qui est d’appâter ses lecteurs.

Deux femmes mènent l’enquête : Vivi Sundberg, une policière de la petite ville voisine du lieu du massacre, et une juge d’instruction, Birgitta Roslin, qui reconnait le nom de certaines victimes. Il s’agit des parents de sa famille d’adoption. Comme elle se trouve en convalescence pour cause de surmenage, elle décide de se rendre sur place. Le village est fermé au public pour fins d’enquête, mais elle réussit à glaner quelques informations sur un mystérieux chinois qui aurait résidé à l’hôtel voisin, la veille du crime. Un ruban rouge a été retrouvé près d’un cadavre, semblable à ceux qui décorent les lanternes du seul restaurant chinois de l’endroit. Pour la policière, il s’agit de l’oeuvre d’un désaxé. La juge pense plutôt à un règlement de compte. Munie d’une image floue captée par la caméra de surveillance de l’hôtel, Birgitta décide d’accompagner une amie à un congrès à Pékin.

A ce stade du roman, l’enquête est mise en veilleuse. On se transporte en Chine autour de 1860. Pour fuir la misère de la campagne, San et ses frères tentent de rejoindre la ville. Ils sont kidnappés et emprisonnés sur un navire en partance pour l’Amérique où ils serviront de main d’oeuvre bon marché pour la construction d’un chemin de fer, sous la férule d’un contremaitre suédois tyrannique. Seul San réussira à revenir en Chine, mais avec la rage au coeur et une volonté inébranlable de venger sa famille.

J’ai beaucoup aimé ces deux premiers pans de l’histoire. Mais il devenait facile de deviner qu’un descendant de San avait réussi la mission de vengeance transmise de génération en génération. S’ensuit l’enquête un peu maladroite de la juge, à Pékin, cette mégapole où il est difficile de croire qu’une personne seule, sans contact, réussit à créer la panique auprès des autorités après avoir montré une photo floue à un quidam sur la rue. L’auteur nous promène ensuite en Afrique, au Danemark, en Angleterre, toujours en rapport avec ce mystérieux homme d’affaires chinois qui sert les visées expansionnistes de la Chine, et qui semble prêt à tout pour en prélever au passage des dividendes. Cette portion du roman alourdit considérablement l’intrigue. Mankell a voulu nous faire part de ses craintes face au réveil de la Chine et à son entrée agressive sur le marché mondial, tout comme il dénoncait à une époque les dérapages du système socialiste suédois. On aime son engagement social, mais l’amalgame avec l’intrigue policière n’est pas au point cette fois-ci, et on perd de l’intérêt à mesure que l’histoire avance.

Je retrouverais avec plaisir ses deux nouveaux personnages féminins, un peu plus étoffés tout de même, surtout la policière. Un Mankell moyen mais un Mankell quand même avec sa grande qualité d’écriture.

Né en 1948, Henning Mankell partage sa vie entre la Suède et le Mozambique. Lauréat de nombreux prix littéraires. Outre sa célèbre série Wallander, il est l'auteur de romans sur l'Afrique ou de questions de société, de pièces de théâtre et d’ouvrages pour la jeunesse.

texte de Grenouille Noire


(Books that were available in Canada between fall 2010 and fall 2011, either in hardcover, softcover, paperback, eBook, PDF, etc. Just remember that I haven’t read everything that’s out there, especially books by many UK and other international writers; I certainly need to get up-to-date with the latest from writers that I’ve read and enjoyed in the past, people like Deon Meyer, Roger Smith, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, R. J. Ellory and a few others! That would be one of my 2012 resolutions: to try and read a little bit more books from out of North America, without reading less Canadians and Americans, of course.
Books are in alphabetical order of authors’s last names.

Top 3 True Crime

IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS by Erik LARSON (Crown/Random House)
SEX ON THE MOON by Ben MEZRICH (Doubleday/Random House)

Top 5 Indie Crime Fiction

DEAD WOOD by Dani AMORE (self-pub, eFormat)
LAKE CHARLES by Ed LYNSKEY (Wildside Press)
THE ADJUSTMENT by Scott PHILLIPS (Counterpoint)
ALREADY GONE by John RECTOR (AmazonEncore)
BEAUTIFUL, NAKED & DEAD by Josh STALLINGS (Heist Publishing)

Top 5 Thriller Fiction

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood BARCLAY (Doubleday/Random House)
THE FIFTH WITNESS by Michael CONNELLY (Little, Brown)
HEADHUNTERS by Jo NESBØ (Vintage/Random House)
NEVER KNOWING by Chevy STEVENS (St. Martin’s Press)
SANCTUS by Simon TOYNE  (William Morrow/Harper Collins)

Top 5 Supernatural Crime Fiction (or what I call “Creepy Crime Fiction”)

THE BURNING SOUL by John CONNOLLY (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster)
FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen KING (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael KORYTA (Little, Brown)
LOW TOWN by Daniel POLANSKY (Doubleday/Random House)
THE GUARDIANS by Andrew PYPER (Doubleday/Random House)

Top 5 Canadian Crime Fiction

THE ACCIDENT by Linwood BARCLAY (Random House)
THE GUARDIANS by Andrew PYPER (Doubleday/Random House)
NEVER KNOWING by Chevy STEVENS (St. Martin’s Press)

Top 10 Crime Fiction

THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan ABBOTT (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown)
THE ACCIDENT by Linwood BARCLAY (Random House)
BLOODLINE by Mark BILLINGHAM (Mulholland Books)
A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF by Lawrence BLOCK (Mulholland Books)
THE FIFTH WITNESS by Michael CONNELLY (Little, Brown)
THE BURNING SOUL by John CONNOLLY (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster)
THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael KORYTA (Little, Brown)
ONE TRUE SENTENCE by Craig MCDONALD (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne)
THE CUT by George PELECANOS (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown)

Top 5 Book Covers

Book design by Karin Batten 
(Delacorte Press/Random House)

Art & book design by Dan STILES
(House of Anansi)
Cover design by David Baldeosingh ROSTEIN, illustration by Echo CHERNIK (Minotaur Books/Thomas Dunne)
Cover design by Michael FUSCO

Cover design by CYANOTYPE
(ECW Press) 

January 3rd, 2012