Always Love a Villain on San Juan Island
by Sandy Frances Duncan & George Szanto

TouchWood Editions, 2013. ISBN 978-1-771-51024-0.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 01/28/2014

Fiction: Mystery

I'm a fan of detective fiction, having enjoyed Agatha Christie and P.D. James years ago. These days it's Peter Robinson, Elizabeth George, and Louise Penny. Now I've discovered a team of sleuths closer to home: co-authors Sandy Duncan and George Szanto of Gabriola Island, British Columbia, who have created Noel Franklin and Kyra Rachel of Island Investigations International. Noel is based in Nanaimo, B.C. and Kyra is based in Bellingham, Washington where she sometimes investigates "boring" insurance cases. As a pastime and for distraction, she juggles balls, a delightful touch and an apt metaphor for her life and work.

The two investigators have been friends for a long time. Kyra is thirty-eight and wants a baby. She thinks her friend Neil would be perfect as her child's father; she plans "no sex, just sperm." Neil, a former investigative journalist who is gay, is still mourning the death of his life partner.

Most detective fiction begins with a dead body. Not in this case. Neil Franklin is hired to check out suspected plagiarism at Morsely University (fictitious) on San Juan. Neil finds himself attracted to Peter Langley, the man who hires him. The scenes with Peter and Neil are sensitively depicted with both fear and anticipation in the early days of their growing relationship.

Then there's a kidnapping: Susana Rossini, the daughter of a professor engaged in highly sensitive research. The ransom is a piece of intellectual property.

Most people are connected to one another on an island, even if it's as acquaintances at the pub. Duncan and Szanto have included all those sorts of connections in their book as well as the intricacies of ferry travel and university politics.

On occasion, Noel and Kyra get together for a nightcap and a "what-do-we know" conversation. This is a helpful device for readers, offering a summation of what's happened so far and speculations about perpetrators and their motivations.

These are characters I came to care about. I began reading the Island Investigations International Mysteries with Never Sleep with a Suspect on Gabriola Island, then skipped ahead to this latest one set on the U.S. Island, San Juan. One day I hope to meet the writing duo and ask them about the fun and challenges of collaboration. I enjoy imagining the writing room walls of these authors. Perhaps they're covered with maps and timelines and characters' names. There are many threads to follow that kept me intrigued. For example, how are a kidnapping and plagiarism connected? That's something readers will have to find out for themselves.

Besides the victims and the perpetrators, there are the stories of Noel and Kyra. When you become a reader of a series, you always want to know how things are going with Noel's love life or if Kyra pregnant yet. What case will bring the friends together again and what island in the Pacific Northwest will it be? I look forward to finding out.

Sandy Frances Duncan is the author of ten award-winning books for children and adults. George Szanto is the author of Bog Tender: Coming Home to Nature and Memory and half a dozen novels. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and winner of the Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction. Visit his website.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.

StoryCircleBookReviews provides a review venue for women self-published authors and for women's books published by independent and university presses.

Email me with news about your book reviews

Sarton Women's Book Award

Your ad could be here.
Advertise with us!


Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.

Buy books online through by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book