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    Recommended New Mystery Series

    There's something very fresh about The Au Pair. It's an entertaining and suspenseful mystery story, that manages at the same time to go convincingly deep into motive. It seems to be book two of a series, called The Ashley Smeeton Files. I've read book one, After the Winter. This is a bit different of a story. As in After the Winter, there's quality in the writing. The setting, Montreal and the Laurentians during a long hot summer, is also atmospherically described. But it's different too -- it feels more modern and I enjoyed the humor. The story is filtered through the eyes of a twenty-something private detective, Ashley Smeeton. I bonded with her quickly! She's a bit of an enigma, a mix of things, toughness and vulnerability, intellect and working class grit--and part Aboriginal. Her perspective on the world is unique. The plot blends daily life among the rich Sampsons with slowly building tension and menace, and there's a satisfying classic reveal at the end that makes you think. I read about this author first through a Postmedia review by Booker finalist Joan Barfoot, but I honestly think she should be getting more attention in Canada.
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    The Au Pair PI

    I don't normally read neo-Gothics, but this one was a pleasure because of the strong female characters. We're not talking any random helpless, naive woman in peril. Ashley Smeeton is a PI waiting for her license, at the whims of the Quebec bureaucrats, which is just one of many deft touches in The Au Pair. Ashley needs money while her license is pending, and au pair work will pay the bills, but she hadn't bargained for this wealthy, odd, and increasingly crazy and corrupt family and their servants.
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