Lou Allin originally hails from Toronto; but grew up in Ohio and earned a Ph.D. in English Renaissance Literature before moving back to Sudbury, Ontario to teach at Cambrian College. Blackflies are Murder is her second Belle Palmer mystery
Belle Palmer is a real estate agent living in the north, where it is easy to trip over bears; bait; hunters; and unmerciful Ontario winters. Belle's primary occupations besides her business is looking after her aging father and taking long walks to commune with nature. Belle's love of nature is shared by her friend Anni, a reclusive retiree who suddenly turns up dead in her home. Newcomer Charles Sullivan, buys a property close to Belle's and who turns out to be delightful company and a good neighbor. But things are not what they seem on the surface, and Belle finds herself the disconcerted discoverer of dead bodies, including Charles. Is it murder, or is there another explanation? When Belle is almost run off the road and her new neighbor is almost poisoned, she is convinced that these events are not just accidents:
"Sorry, Charles. No time for niceties. Your line was busy. You haven't tasted that gift yet, have you? He pointed to the sizzling pan, the air rich with butter. 'Why? What's wrong? I was calling the weather line, or as they call it, da wedderline. That dialect tickles my ear.' She flopped into a chair, her breathing returning to normal, noting the chopped mushrooms still on the counter. 'Oh, nothing. Just gastric upset possible leading to convulsions. Probably survivable, health man like you. Jack O'Lanterns aren't as deadly as the infamous amanitas or the corts."
Lou Allin raises the bar on mystery writing. Her almost contemplative style is heavy on character development and local color. Her style is almost scholarly, so that the reader has to pause to fully appreciate the flavor of her metaphors. But it fits with the Canadian "slow down and take a look at what's around you" attitude. No rushing around in screeching cop cars for Ms. Allin, but she gets the point across just the same. Blackflies are Murder is a book to be savored, rather than rushed through. Ms. Allin is a nature connoisseur, with much to teach us.