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Joanne Kilbourn Books In Order

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Publication Order of Joanne Kilbourn Mystery Books

Deadly Appearances (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
Murder at the Mendel / Love and Murder (1991)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Wandering Soul Murders (1992)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Colder Kind of Death (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Killing Spring (1996)Description / Buy at Amazon
Verdict in Blood (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
Burying Ariel (2000)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Glass Coffin (2002)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Last Good Day (2004)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Endless Knot (2006)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Brutal Heart (2008)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Nesting Dolls (2010)Description / Buy at Amazon
Kaleidoscope (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Gifted (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
12 Rose Street (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon
What's Left Behind (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Winners' Circle (2017)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Darkness of the Heart (2018)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Unlocking Season (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon
An Image in the Lake (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon
What’s Past Is Prologue (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Legacy (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Joanne Kilbourn is the main protagonist in the 14-book mystery series of the same name by Gail Bowen. She’s a Canadian detective, who’s also elected to serve as a political strategist and advisor to a well-known politician who, in a horrible turn of events, gets murdered only a few hours after he’s voted in as the leader of opposition.

It’s Kilbourn’s duty and responsibility crack the murder and expose whoever is behind it. At some point, the murderer makes an effort to kill her too. She has to use her skills to stay alive.

In subsequent novels in the series, Kilbourn is forced to change careers. She appears as a political scientist in one of the novels and a political commentator working with a reputed radio station in another. Then in later novels, she appears solving various crimes in academic institutions and other places in the province of Saskatchewan.

Deadly Appearance

‘Deadly appearances’ is the first book in the series. Written in 1990, the book opens up with the tragic death of a close friend to Joanne Kilbourn, who’s also happens to be an esteemed politician in Regina, Andy Boychuck.

No one could have seen that coming. Everything seemed organized and going according to plan. Then in a moment, Andy takes a sip from a glass of water and, in a snap, drops down dead. Joanne, his speech writer by then, has to watch in horror as his boss and close friend die in front of him.

This comes only a few months after she lost her husband in what appears to be an unmotivated violent crime.

To crack the mystery surrounding the murder, Joanne, decides to investigate the case and write Andy’s biography.

She takes a plunge into Andy’s life, leaving no stone unturned, in a bid to lay bare all the secrets and puzzles that might have contributed to the death of her mutual friends, acquaintances and associates.

During the course of her investigation, she gets to meet one of Andy’s friends, whom she develops a strong liking towards. Her children also feel the same towards him. She starts feeling like her life might finally be taking a positive turn and that she finally has a chance to be happy.

But ill luck strikes at her door again when she starts suffering from a mysterious illness. Doctors can’t suss out any possible reason for her sickness, leaving her wondering whether she’s going mad.

‘Deadly appearances’ is one of the best novels in the series. It has in fact been acknowledged as one of the best crime novels ever written.

The book was adapted for television by CTV, with the role of Kilbourn being played by Wendy Crewson. Also adapted into film was the ‘Love and Murder’ episode of the series.

In summary, ‘Deadly Appearances’ centres around three-dimensional, true-to-life characters that readers inevitably find themselves caring about.

Joanne is made to appear as an ordinary mother, you know, the mother-next-door. But then again, there’s something a little different about her.

Unlike many protagonists, the author makes her appear more real and believable. She has her bad moments and self-doubt. And even when the doctor informs her that her physical wellbeing has nothing to do with her illness, she lets herself assume her mind is playing games on her, and that it’s all in her head. But still, that won’t stop her from doing what she thinks is right and necessary.

She has kids and a family that adores her to bits. Her social and professional life are kept separate. And from time to time, the author lets us in into her thought process.

The book ends with a bang—totally unpredictable.

Murder at the Mendel

‘Murder at the Mendel’ is the second book in Joanne Kilbourn mystery novels. In the book, Joanne’s life appears to have changed for the better. She and her family are moving to Saskatoon to be near her daughter who’s all grown and in a local art college in Saskatoon—the same college Joanne will be teaching.

Otherwise dubbed ‘The Mendel,’ the college is slated for closure, after which it will be moved to a new location under a new name.

Joanne gets to meet her childhood friend, Sally Love, who’s now an established, controversial artist with an exhibition at the Mendel. Turns out Sally and Joanne used to be very close while growing up, only to be separated at the age of 13 when Sally was forced to move out following her father’s death.

Kilbourn and Sally manage to rekindle their relationship. But things aren’t exactly great for Sally. A number of protestors are angered by her exhibitions and are out on the street complaining about it.

She has to pull down almost all her arts, as most of them feature explicit sexual themes, including the 200 square foot mural with more than 100 penises and dozens of vaginas. Turns out these are the genitalia of all the lovers she’s has had in her lifetime.

Sally is pushed to the wall. As such she’s forced to sell an all-women art gallery she owns, and which she had given to an emotionally ultra-needy friend she had to manage on her behalf several years back. This move somehow sparkles bad blood between her and her friend.

The novel takes a different turn all of a sudden; there are multiple murders and arsons in Saskatoon, a few days before Christmas and the New Year checks in.

Kilbourn and Sally are portrayed as two contrasting characters. Sally is the arrogant, self-centred character who doesn’t care about anyone other than her self-fish self, whereas Kilbourn is the forgiving, empathetic friend who accepts Sally without judging her.

Sally has the habit of making derisive and cruel comments about the people she meets. Worse is that she’s planning to get her daughter separated from her husband and is NOT even embarrassed to talk about masturbation in front of Joanne’s school-aged son.

Kilbourn’s internal compass serves as a barometer for judging other characters in the book, with Sally being the exact opposite.

The book is fun from every angle. From the smart sleuth to the details of Joanne’s family life, the author did a commendable job with the narration.

All characters are powerful and strong—not just idling in the sidelines or acting as fillers. The mystery twists and turns are what makes you want to keep going. And there’s the end of it all, where Joanne has to come to terms with the truth and as always fall back to her family for the consolation and support she badly needs.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Joanne Kilbourn

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