3 Great Reads for the Holidays

A teenage immigrant trying to fit in, a divorced private detective in a multi-faceted mystery and a suicidal superhero — these books — reviewed by local writers and supplied by Audreys Books — might just appeal to the book lover on your Christmas gift list.

Photography by Daniel Wood

Mister Miracle

Written by Tom King; art by Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles

World’s Greatest Escape artist Mister Miracle (real name Scott Free), has it all: A home, family and friends, fame and fortune. But something is still missing that may lead him to his greatest feat yet. Can the universe’s greatest escape artist escape death itself? This collection challenges the repetitive qualities of the traditional superhero narrative to show us a side of superheroes we don’t often consider.

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters — of which Mister Miracle was one — were created in the ’70s. But, Mister Miracle’s latest creative team uses those characters to explore and examine emotional plights in the modern era, particularily depression. The toll superheroics takes on people rarely occurs to the genre’s readers and while heavy for the holiday season, this is certainly an exceptional and challenging read. –J.B.

Jay Bardyla is the former owner of the award winning Happy Harbor Comics and currently sits his semi-retired keister on the boards for the non-profits Drawn To Books and Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund.

In The Key of Nira Ghani

By Natasha Deen

Those shopping for a compelling young adult book this holiday season needn’t look beyond the work of local author, Natasha Deen. Deen’s latest book, In The Key of Nira Ghani, is a new favourite that I highly recommend. It features a teenager named Nira whose family immigrated to Canada from Guyana when she was five years old. An only child, Nira carries the burden of her family’s dream; that she become a doctor. Nira, however, wants to experience life on her own terms, and her need to find belonging and self-expression leads to frequent clashes with her family. Her parents, for example, don’t understand Nira’s passion for playing jazz trumpet, or her desire to fit in among her peer group. Teens will easily relate to Nira’s struggles in this tender, beautifully crafted story, which is rife with both humour and heartbreak. It contains a cast of well-drawn characters, not least of which is the endearing protagonist herself, who comes to realize that even her “lucky” cousin and classmates bear their own heavy secrets and challenges. –K.S.F.

Karen Spafford-Fitz is an arts educator, a former junior high teacher, and the author of six books for children and teens. Taking the Lead (Lorimer: September 2019) is her newest book.

Big Sky

A Jackson Brodie Novel by Kate Atkinson

If you were to do a forensic examination of any novel, you could probably find the news story that initially spurred the imagination of the writer. Set in Yorkshire, and dealing tangentially with a former pedophile ring, it is not hard to wend one’s way back to the lurid exposure of late English television host Jimmy Savile’s sex crimes. There is more at stake, however, in this complicated puzzle delivered with humour, pathos and grace. Characters abound: Young women hoping for new lives, old gangsters mining new veins and even a new generation of crime fighters. But at the centre is Jackson Brodie, private detective.

Brodie (played by Jason Isaacs on television) is also dealing with legacies — of his former police life, his former marriages, his shared custody of his now teenaged son and his relationship with his about-to-be-married daughter. He finds himself enmeshed in the mystery from a variety of threads, the way one does when working in a tight community.

Atkinson delivers characters who quiver with humanity, whether they are criminals, victims or bystanders. Although celebrated for her non-genre work, her detective novels are so beautifully written that they bear rereading — a rare step taken in the whodunit genre. –J.M.

Janice MacDonald is best known for the Randy Craig Mysteries, the first detective series set in Edmonton.

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