Created by Anna Dowdall
The author calls them “Gothic cozy mysteries” but there’s a welcome dash of simmering noir in her well-received books about young, half-Abenaki, Montreal detective ASHLEY SMEETON.
The books are full of the usual suspects: betrayed fiancées, beautiful young heiresses, long-lost relatives, isolated estates, creaky old houses and more than enough dark secrets to furnish them, but the sharply drawn scenes of Montreal and the surrounding Quebec countryside and detailed attention to the weather (the author is Canadian, after all) are a refreshing change for this genre, although the purportedly modern setting seem curiously timeless — the first book, After the Winter (2017), takes place in 1999, when Ashley is just a kid who may have read a few too many Nancy Drews.
By the second book The Au Pair (2017), though, Ashley is all grown up, twenty-something, ambitious but pragmatic, struggling to keep her small Montreal detective agency afloat. Struggling so hard, in fact, that she reluctantly accepts a part-time gig as an au pair at a resort in the scenic Laurentians. Naturally, the bodies soon start piling up, and we’re once again off to the races.
It’ll be interesting to see where Dowdall will take the rookie detective, now that she’s brought her into the present. Will she continue in a contemporary setting, or will she hop back in forth in time, giving us snapshots of the detective as a young girl? Will she amp up the edgy darkness, or retreat back to the narrower but safer confines of the genre?
In her third outing, April on Paris Street (2021), Ashley’s half-Abenaki heritage comes into play, as she tries to track down lost relatives, even as she’s off to Paris on a paying case that wobbles between being bodyguard duties and companionship for a spoiled and seemingly impetuous trophy wife.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author was born in Montreal, lived in Toronto and various other parts of Canada, but has returned to Montreal, along with numerous cats. The first novel in the series was a semi-finalist for both the Katherine Paterson prize and for Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award in the unpublished category. She cites Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier and Louise Penny as influences.
- “Dowdall’s impressive novel is an entertaining and suspenseful entry in the gothic mystery genre. The setting is a key component of the tale, and Quebec and Midwinter are vividly rendered. The author captures the unique rhythms of life in this picturesque community, from the locals who call Quebec home to the wealthy newcomers seeking a second residence. The strong setting is matched by her well-developed characters…”
— Kirkus Reviews on After the Winter
- After the Winter (2017) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Au Pair (2017) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- April on Paris Street (2021) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Murder in a Distinct Society
Other Montréal and Other Québec Eyes
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.