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Motive features more than 50 internationally known bestselling authorsistock/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

Motive, the Toronto International Festival of Authors’ celebration of crime and mystery writing, is like manna from the gods for those who love thrills (in all their many literary forms).

The festival, on at Harbourfront Centre from June 2 to 4, features more than 50 internationally known bestselling authors, who will talk about their work, meet fans, sign books and give hints to aspiring writers about the best way to improve their game. Last year’s festival, which was the first time TIFA held the event, focused on Nordic Noir and was a mix of online and in-person events. This year’s is in-person and over the three days, there were will be readings, workshops and discussions; to help make sense of it all, I’ve gone through and outlined some of the must-do events.

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There are several notable writers attending including Japanese-American author Joe Ide, whose books feature a cerebral investigator (not unlike a certain Arthur Conan Doyle protagonist) solving crimes in South Central Los Angeles (where Ide grew up). Ide is a former screenwriter and so his detective, Isaiah Quintabe, has that particular facility with conversation that is emblematic of great television shows.

Another big name is Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir, who in the tradition of Nordic Noir has a recognizably depressed detective as her main character. Her Thora Gudmundsdottir novels have been translated into 30 languages but the author has broken into Canada fairly recently.

The biggest name at the festival this year is Anthony Horowitz, the multidimensional author and screenwriter who created Foyle’s War for the BBC, made teenaged espionage a favourite with the Rider series and has his own witty puzzles in A Twist of a Knife. He’s also in charge of keeping James Bond alive – some of the best are Trigger Mortis (2015), Forever and a Day (2018) and With a Mind to Kill (2022). Horowitz will be discussing all this and more in his four events. And if you haven’t already got copies, there’s a bookstore on site stocked with the latest works from all writers attending.


A feature of the festival is the conversations where authors discuss aspects of their work. There are several of these and all are good but I’m particularly interested in a discussion called Around the World, between Sheena Kamal (Fight Like a Girl), Ausma Zehanat Khan (Blackwater Falls) and Vaseem Khan (Baby Ganesh Agency series), whose works reflect the international trends in crime and mystery.

In the same vein, Linwood Barclay will be in conversation with former FBI director James B. Comey (yes, that Comey), whose avocation is writing thrillers. Comey’s latest book, Central Park West, features lawyers attempting to solve a murder amid the chaos of American politics. Barclay, one of Canada’s best-known and bestselling authors, should be the perfect match for Comey’s thrills.

Other conversations include true crime with Kent Roach; justice and mental health; and for lovers of Canadian noir, a reflection on crime in two cities with Vancouver’s Sam Wiebe (Sunset and Jericho) and Toronto native Dietrich Kalteis (The Get) on their hometown. I’m also looking forward to Adam Bunch (The Toronto Book of the Dead) for a very different examination of the history of Toronto. A warning: Most of these events are open to all but the Barclay/Comey and Around The World are limited to ticket holders.

Aspiring authors have a golden opportunity to learn from the masters when well-known (and bestselling) writers host master classes on technique. Learn the intricacies of character-building with Johana Gustawsson, whose Roy and Castells books are currently being developed for television. If you want wit and laughs, you already know they’re a lot harder to achieve than it appears. Burlington, Ont.-based Melodie Campbell, whose latest comic caper The Merry Widow Murders is just out, will be sharing some of her ideas. True-crime writers are invited to join Catherine Fogarty, producer/host of the Story Hunter podcast, for tips on how to dramatize death. Fogarty’s latest true-crime book, Someone You Know, explores the reality that we are more likely to be murdered by a person close to us than a stranger.


While I wish I could go to everything, I can’t. That means I’ll miss a lot but, there are always the books. Here are a few that you should check out before, during and after the festival.

Fit to Die, Daniel Kalla (Simon & Schuster) The author, an emergency-room doctor, seems able to predict the latest medical scare time after time. He was more than a decade ahead of COVID with his novel Pandemic and, in two recent outings, hit on the possibilities of flaws in vaccine production and the dangers inherent in street drugs. Now, in Fit to Die, he takes on the latest influencer trend, the pharmaceutical miracle drug that allows the user to shed pounds safely.

Kalla has a great heroine in Vancouver toxicologist Julie Rees, who finds a dead pop-star influencer and teams up with an L.A. cop to find out why seemingly healthy young people are dying mysteriously. They want to believe that there is secret drug addiction but that’s not the case. This is one of Kalla’s best. He’ll be reading from it and also in a discussion with Paul E. Hardisty, whose novel The Forcing projects a world blighted by greed and global warming.

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Fixit, Joe Ide (Little, Brown and Company) The sixth book in Ide’s Isaiah Quintabe series features Grace (Isaiah ’s lover) who is kidnapped by a man who believes IQ ruined his life. Isaiah has to save Grace but the clues are scant and time is running out. The suspense here is so dramatic and heart-stopping that you won’t want to pause even to eat; I survived on chips. This is a first-rate series but this book may be its best and it gives you a rich, layered look at the streets of Los Angeles. Ide will be in conversation with Michael Koryta about thrillers in the U.S.

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An Honest Man, Michael Koryta (Little, Brown and Company) Speaking of Koryta, his newest book, which comes out in July, is set on a Maine island. The story begins with a mass murder on a yacht. Seven men are dead, two of them U.S. senators, and the perfect suspect is at hand. Israel Pike is infamous as a man who killed his own father. Elsewhere on the island, a young boy runs away from an abusive father and stumbles upon a derelict house. A woman greets him with a hatchet in her hand and the promise that if he makes a sound, she’ll kill him. How the stories of the boy and Israel Pike converge is what makes Koryta great. His use of atmosphere and his compelling characters keep the action moving to the very end. Again, don’t start this one if you have to stop to feed the cat or sleep.

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A Line in the Sand, Kevin Powers (Little, Brown and Company) Powers is a new name for me and I missed his well-received debut, The Yellow Birds. His new book is so powerful and thought-provoking that I’ll be talking about it for weeks. It begins with a man finding a dead body on a beach outside Norfolk, Va. Suicide? Accident? Foul play? But the man who finds the body is Arman Bajalan, an Iraqi who served as an interpreter for American forces during the Iraq war. For that service, Arman was nearly killed and his wife and child murdered. Friends rescued Arman and got him to Virginia where he’s a maintenance worker at a local motel. Arman believes that the dead body is a message to him that he is not safe.

Police detective Catherine Wheel and her new partner are the investigating team. With nothing to go on but a bus ticket in the dead man’s pocket, they are lead to a journalist as damaged by the Iraq war as Arman. The journalist is investigating a corporation trying to land a billion-dollar defence deal. What can any of this mean to Arman? The bodies keep mounting and Wheel sees the result, if not the reason. Powers has a real gift for character and he knows how to pace his action to keep the suspense moving.

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Last Seen in Lapaz, Kwei Quartey (Soho Press) The author, a retired physician, has two series – one featuring Darko Dawson and the other PI Emma Djan. Last Seen in Lapaz is the fourth Djan book and I intend to get the other three as soon as I can. The series takes place in Accra, Ghana, where Djan is tasked with finding the missing daughter of a Nigerian friend. The girl disappeared with her new boyfriend, a Ghanaian named Femi. When Femi turns up murdered in a luxury hotel, Emma knows that the young girl is in danger. Clues lead to Femi being involved with sex trafficking, putting anyone who was involved in danger. There’s plenty of the locale here which adds spice to an excellent and topical plotline but at its heart, this novel is a well-crafted tale of clues followed and information gained.

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Murder Under a Red Moon, Harini Nagendra (Little, Brown Book Group) From Accra, we go to Bangalore, India, in the 1920s. Nagendra’s debut, The Bangalore Detectives Club, was a treat – a historical mystery taking place in a fascinating country with a female protagonist, Kaveri Murthy. Nagendra’s second book sees Kaveri and her local gang of misfits taking on a murder that happened under a blood-moon eclipse. Add in growing anti-British sentiment and the rise of the women’s suffrage, and you’ve got one great way to spend the weekend.

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Join Globe Arts and Books editor Judith Pereira, as well as contributors Aparita Bhandari, Margaret Cannon and Emily Donaldson, at various events at Motive. Visit for details.

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