Kitchissippi Reads: What does a mystery writer like to read on a summer evening?

By Judith van Berkom – 

Local mystery writer, Brenda Chapman, retired last year from the government as a senior communications advisor to commit more time to her writing. Before that, she worked as a Special Ed teacher.

Currently, as a writer, she is working on two different contracts – an adult literacy series with Grassroots Press out of Edmonton and the Stonechild and Rouleau mystery novel series published by Dundurn Press. The first book in the series, Cold Mourning, was nominated for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel, 2015.

Grassroots Press gave Brenda 35 different topics to write on for adult comprehension but written at a Grade 3 or 4 level. She finds the work fun, interesting and rewarding and is hopeful that she can continue working with them.

She is the mother of two active daughters who started out many years ago to curl at the Granite Curling Club on Scott Street in Westboro and whose curling team won the World Championship in China last year. Brenda has travelled across Canada over the years, often with the curling club to places like Moosejaw and Winnipeg, giving talks to adult literacy teachers. Many new Canadians are using her books. They are also used in prisons in California, the New York school system and aboriginal communities.

Brenda Chapman at her home garden in Westboro.. Photo by Judith van Berkom
Brenda Chapman at her home garden in Westboro.. Photo by Judith van Berkom

Traditionally, her day starts with exercise or biking. She starts writing around 10 a.m., and usually works in the evenings and weekends. Her husband, Ted, is still working, yet he finds the time to putter around the house and garden, which features stones collected from Georgian Bay and their various trips across Canada.

Brenda has published 17 books, some of them novellas in the adult literacy series. Her latest Stonechild & Rouleau (an aboriginal cop paired with a French Canadian cop) book, Shallow End, published in 2017 and set in Kingston, is the fourth in a series of seven novels. Missing Her, the latest novella in the adult literacy series, is set in Hintonburg with murders taking place throughout the city of Ottawa and investigators coming to Westboro to hang out.

An avid reader, she chose three British crime novelists for her summer reading. Ann Cleeves’ Cold Earth is the latest in her Shetland series (also on Netflix). Ann lived in the Shetlands and met her husband there. Many of her books are set there as well. “They are quite atmospheric; she does the settings so well,” explains Brenda, who is currently working her way through Ann’s series in anticipation of an upcoming interview she will be conducting at the Writers Fest in October. Ann won a lot of awards for the first book in the Shetland series, Raven Black.

Claire Douglas’ Local Girl Missing is about a missing girl whose girlfriend comes back many years later – the body never having been found – and is told from both perspectives.

Fiona Barton’s Widow is about a husband accused of killing a child. Brenda finds it interesting because the characters are flawed, the protagonist doesn’t have it all together and the narrator is unreliable.

This post is part of our annual summer reads issue. Read all of our 2017 profiles right here.

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