Body In The Bush…Wait…Where?

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Here in the North, I am surrounded by the bush, so it made sense to have my Detective Anais Quinn live here too. But non-Northern readers may not be familiar with “the bush”.

So let me explain.

Wikipedia explains it best, “In northern Canada, “the bush” refers to the massive expanse of primarily coniferous trees that sprawl undeveloped. The term is not generally used in the southern parts of the country.

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Bush flying refers to aircraft operations carried out in the bush. Bush flying involves operations in rough terrain where there are often no prepared landing strips or runways, frequently necessitating that bush planes be equipped with abnormally large tires, floats or skis. (This is what Anne’s (Anais’ aunt) boyfriend, Jackson Orr does for a living.) It is, even in this day and age, a hard reality that many Northern communities rely heavily on this form of transportation for everything from mail, groceries, building supplies, medical care, and much more.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into a small part of what makes us Canadian. If you did, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. It comes out approximately once a month and contains news about my writing, tidbits of my world like this one, behind-the-scenes looks at the process of writing a novel, and from time to time, newsletter subscriber-exclusive goodies! You can find a link to sign up at the top of this page. Or failing that, drop me an email and I can sign you up.

Until next time!

What The Heck Is A Timbit?

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 A ‘timbit’ is that part of the doughnut punched out to make a hole, and marketed separately. They were introduced at Tim Hortons coffee shops in 1976. As widely flavoured as their bigger cousins and are a favourite of kids and dogs alike. Frodo (Anais’ aunt’s dog) likes the ‘plain’ ones. To him, they’re edible toys, topped only by tennis balls.

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Do you have a pet? Are you a dog, cat or gerbil ( or snake, rat or fish) person? Does your pet have a favourite treat or toy? Let me know in the comments below!

Tim Hortons ~ An Iconic Part of Canada

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Early in Body In The Bush, Anais finds that Tim Hortons has finally come to Sitka Cove…

Wait, do you know Tim Hortons? No? Well, read on to learn about an important part of Canada’s history.

Tim Hortons (aka Timmies) – A fast service chain of cafes that specialized in coffee and doughnuts. The doughnut shops were started by a Canadian hockey player, Tim Horton and Jim Charade with the first store in Hamilton, Ontario back in 1964. Today, there are nearly 5000 shops in at least 14 different countries and it is common knowledge, in Ontario at least, that in many cities you’ll find one Tim Hortons coffee shop at every intersection. The northernmost place in the world that you can purchase Tim Hortons coffee is Iqaluit, Nunavut.

On a personal note, my mother had a history with Tim (the hockey player).

The logo at the top of this post is the original and has since been changed multiple times. If you want to know more about the chain, including the good work it does in communities across Ontario, a web search will provide all sorts of details.

Paging Detective Quinn…

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Anais Quinn stood out in Ottawa.

She never really felt comfortable there, and she had a good reason. She’s from Sitka Cove, you see. Where is Sitka Cove, you ask? It’s in Northern Ontario, population 41,000,  on the shore of Lake Sitka. The community was formed as a fishing village back in the late 1800s, incorporated as a town in 1960. The economy is mainly fishing, but there’s growth in logging and a nickel mine half an hour away. It’s a place full of promise and history. A place where nearly everyone does something out in the ‘bush’ (what others call ‘the forest’). But more on Sitka Cove later, you’re here to find out about Anais.

She has dark brown hair, so dark that it sometimes looks black, with natural red highlights, just a bit longer than shoulder length, frequently worn in a pony-tail to keep it out of the way. She always seems to be battling it and talks about cutting it, but never does. Her aunt Anne, whom you’ll meet later, gets up early almost every morning to make sure Anais eats something, offers to braid her hair for her, to keep it out of the way. Anais is 5’ 6” tall, no shortie there.

She drives a 2019 Jeep Renegade, that her Police partner lusts after. You’ll meet Lorne in a few days. You can see why Lorne likes the Jeep so much…

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Anais is an Aries, born March 25th, and allergic to shellfish. She prefers jeans, button-down shirts and her leather jacket over anything else. She’s not really into jewelry, even though her ears are pierced. She wears a gold box-link chain her Aunt gave her for Christmas one year. She dabbled in photography in Ottawa, but now that she’s back home, she is taking pictures of the bush and animals when she’s not wearing her shield. It’s a trope that all cops love doughnuts. Anais’ favourite sweet treat is butter tarts. If you’ve read yesterday’s post, or you’re Canadian, you’ll already be familiar with this pastry. It’s a Canadian invention comprised of a pastry shell filled with a sweet concoction of sugar, butter and egg. You may find this treat elsewhere in the world, but we invented it, and we’re darn proud of it!

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Since Anais and I think more people ought to know how to make these gooey, yummy snacks, here’s how you do it!

Ingredients

FOR THE PASTRY

  • 2 ¼ cups flour, pastry flour is best to use but all-purpose will do
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening, Very cold and cut in cubes
  • 1/2 cup butter, Very cold and cut in cubes
  • 6 tbsp ice water, approximately, enough to bring the dough together

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • ½ cup raisins, substituting, pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips also make good variations

Instructions

TO PREPARE THE PASTRY

  1. Pulse the cold butter and shortening into the flour sugar and salt using a food processor until the shortening or butter is reduced to pea-sized pieces.
  2. Sprinkle the water over the surface and toss with a fork until the water is just incorporated into the dough. Do not overwork the dough; handle it only enough so that the dough stays together.
  3. Form the dough into two rounds about an inch thick.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for about a half-hour.
  5. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds with 4 inch cutter. Fit into muffin cups. Chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the filling. Cold pastry heading into a hot oven will always be flakier.

TO MAKE THE FILLING

  1. Combine all filling ingredients except raisins.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Sprinkle raisins in a single layer in the bottom of the pastry-lined muffin cups.
  4. Fill 2/3 full with syrup mixture.
  5. Bake on bottom shelf of oven at 425 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.
  6. Cool completely on a wire rack and remove tarts from pans.

Notes

There is considerable debate about whether the filling in a butter tart should be runny or firm. Preferences vary, especially geographically but if you want a firmer, less runny filling simply add an additional egg, increase the brown sugar to 3/4 cup and decrease the corn syrup to 1/4 cup.

(Anais is of the ‘firm’ camp, and no raisins, please!)

 

A Culture’s Language And Murder

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During a discussion about a stellar British mystery (Breathe by Cari Hunter), my better half suggested that I might want to include a translation page of sorts for my readers of Body In The Bush who aren’t familiar with Canadian terms or aspects of our culture that make us unique. I thought it was a great idea, and I’m kicking off that series today. As an aside, the series may occasionally be interrupted by reviews or bits of murder mystery knowledge, but I’ll continue the ‘Canadiana’ as long as I can think of things. So, let’s discuss…

Butter tarts – A Canadian invention comprised of a pastry shell filled with a sweet concoction of sugar, butter and egg. You may find this treat elsewhere in the world, but we invented it. How does it relate to Body In The Bush? Butter tarts are Anne’s and Anais’ favourite treats.

So tell me, what’s your favourite pastry-related treat?

Canadiana-And Murder?

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I’ve been reading a lot of books and articles on forensics lately as research for the next book, ‘Body In The Bush‘, which I’ve already told you a little about. One of my research sources is D.P Lyle, best-selling and prize-winning author with a great deal of medical knowledge and experience in his background. It’s always interesting to read his blog, which you can find here, and yesterday was no exception. A peek into what makes any writer craft their words as they do is a special treat, and even more so if we can see how place affects those words. D.P’s post yesterday was about how the South has influenced his writing, and it got me thinking about Anais, and how growing up in Northern Ontario might have shaped her. How did fishing and playing in bear-country mould her into a person so different that she never fit in with her peers in Ottawa? Did it change how she sees the rest of the world? Which then led me to ponder how Anais is different from Kinsey Millhone or Sept Savoie. Granted neither of them have to worry about bears eating their evidence, but does the land…the starkness of the bush…shape an investigator? Can the differences between Canada and the rest of the world shape how a detective sees a crime scene?

After asking myself those questions, I came to the conclusion that we are all shaped by our environment and experiences. What makes a Canadian murder mystery stand out as uniquely…ours? It goes far beyond having our lead detective stop for Tim Hortons or eating a Coffee Crisp chocolate bar. I read quite a few mysteries set in other countries, and there’s usually a fair amount of learning new terms involved. Along the way, I learn a bit more about the culture of the environment where the book is set.

I want my readers to come away from my books feeling as though they’ve chased through the woods with Anais. When she reels in a trout, I want my readers to feel that rod in their hand too. I want them to come away with an understanding of the Canadian bush that they didn’t have before they met Anais. But for that to happen, readers will need some perspective. So to that end, I’ll spend the next handful of posts explaining some of the terms and objects that are uniquely Canadian. What shapes our world, what defines us. How will those things tie into ‘Body In The Bush‘? Hang around and find out!

So, no matter where you’re from, tell me about something that you enjoy there that we don’t have here? What makes your country stand out in the world? Is there a special food item, or unique terminology? Shout out in the comments section and shine a light on your part of the world.

Tim Hortons, Poutine and A Fake Romance

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I’m not normally enthused by ‘fake-romance’ stories, but honestly, what got me to give this one a chance was the cover. It reached out and grabbed me right away. Not only does it depict a city I am very familiar with and have fond memories of, but it is a gorgeous cover!

Through skilled storytelling, you get to know all the characters fairly well, with only a couple of exceptions. These are very minor characters, so it’s easy to understand. There are so many bits of Toronto in here that any reader familiar with the city will recognize them, but not so many that it will put off readers not familiar with the city. (I was especially thrilled to see Tim Hortons and poutine make an appearance!)
The author has given us not only well-drawn characters but two very determined main characters. One is a little more sure of what she wants than the other, but their dynamic is so real, that their determination carries the plot through the slower parts. It’s not all roses and unicorns though. There is pettiness, jealousy, courage, understanding, ambition and greed here. There is an undercurrent of society-induced hesitation about a business leader being a lesbian, but trust me, it works out better than you expect in the end.

I was almost as fascinated by the author’s notes at the end of the book. They added another dimension of enjoyment that was quite unexpected and refreshing.

This is absolutely, definitely, without question going on my ‘READ THIS AGAIN’ pile!

Thanks to Bella and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thanks also to Sheryl Wright for an absorbing and entertaining novel.