What do a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) operative, a widow struggling to write her first novel, and a retired naval captain have in common?

These three—along with a retired nurse, a former train conductor and his wife, and two young reporters—are the members of the St. Ives book club. Their specialty: solving old crimes.

Their creator is Nadine Doolittle, originally from Comox, BC, and now living in Gatineau, QC. 

Doolittle published her St. Ive’s series independently, selling and distributing it mostly through Amazon. Her novels are reminiscent of Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series, wherein a group of seniors in assisted living solve crimes. 

However, Doolittle’s series began before Osman’s, and she strikes a better balance between mystery and comedy and youth and age. There is more wit and less slapstick, and her characters are more substantive. With each novel more is revealed and witnessing their evolution is part of the drama and part of the fun. This is not surprising since Doolittle trained as an actor: the deftness with which her characters parry and swap exasperation and affection—along with crime-solving information, of course—reflects the theatrical and collective nature of her work. 

In many ways, these novels reflect the realities of village life in Ontario. This is where Doolittle captures our Canadian good manners, our tendency to default to diffidence, and our more prosaic struggle with heating and cooling our homes. It is also where problems of domineering parents, floundering aspirations and CSIS-inspired intrigues meet. 

Nadine Doolittle will be speaking at Arbor Gallery at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 13. To read a sample of her work beforehand, a St. Ive’s novella, Long Shadows Fall, is available for free on her website at www.nadinedoolittlebooks.ca. Just click on “Cozy Mysteries” and follow the directions.

Admission is free – reservations can be made by email at [email protected] or by phone at 613-518-2787. Arbor Gallery is located at 36 Home Ave., Vankleek Hill.