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Write On Ottawa: From the mysterious fog of Newfoundland a new detective series is born

By Alejandro Bustos on September 6, 2013

Local author Mike Martin has a great  “recipe” for a detective novel.  Begin with mysterious fog, sprinkle a few scheming criminals, add old fashioned police work, and then garnish with the wonderful tastes and sounds of Newfoundland.

What do you get?  A fun crime thriller starring RCMP Sergeant Winston Windflower, the literary creation of the St. John’s born Martin.

“The characters came out of the mist,” he says poetically, when asked how he created his detective series.  “It was a mysterious experience.”

Last year, Martin released his debut novel  The Walker on the Cape, which begins with the death of a man in the small town of Grand Bank, Newfoundland.  Feeling that there is more than meets the eye, Sgt. Windflower (a Cree originally from northern Alberta) begins to investigate and soon uncovers some unpleasant truths.

The Body on the T FCThe Body on the T, the second book in the series, was released this past spring.  The story continues the adventures of Sgt. Windflower, who must now investigate another death after a body washes up on a nearby beach.

“I knew it was a series when I started,” says Martin, who previously published a non-fiction book, in addition to a number of short stories.

The third Windflower book,  he tells me, should come out in the spring of 2014.  While he originally committed to writing a trilogy, he is open to writing more books.

“We will see what happens,” he says, when asked what he will do after he releases the third novel.  As for the series to date, he acknowledges that the second book is better than the first.

“With the first book, I had been in a bit of a rush to publish,” says Martin, who has lived in Ottawa since the 1980s.  “With the second book, I took more time, I was more reflective.”

After reading both novels, I would concur that the second one is better than the first.  While the first novel is good, it is only in the sequel that Martin’s narrative style feels like it is truly coming to life.

Both books were printed by Ottawa-based Baico Publishing.  While each writer is responsible for editing their own manuscript, Baico provides assistance in printing, layout, marketing and distribution.

Overall the two books were fun to read.  Nevertheless, there are mistakes in the text.  Typos, the occasional missing word, and inconsistent use of quotation marks hurt the narrative flow.  If you are a stickler for clean editing, then be warned, as you may become too distracted by the editorial flaws to enjoy the narrative.

If you can get past the occasional editing faux pas, however, and are a fan of a good mystery novel, then these two books are worth reading.  By the time I was well into the second book I was immersed in the world of small-town Newfoundland, with its various regional accents, local dishes, colourful personalities, rural gossip and criminal intrigue.

Cover WalkerWhat I particularly enjoyed were the references to Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and how these small French islands off the south coast of Newfoundland have been used by criminals to smuggle drugs, alcohol and tobacco.  It was also a pleasure to be introduced to such small towns as Marystown and Burin.

“They do feel real to me, like part of my family,” says Martin, when asked to describe his characters.  “My partner says to me that when I start working on them, I am mumbling to myself.”

Martin’s books can be purchased at Books on Beechwood at 35 Beechwood Avenue, Brittons in the Glebe at 846 Bank, Perfect Books at 258A Elgin, and Chapters at South Keys and Rideau Street.

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