LONDON, ONT. -- They are the fiction writers judged to be the best in their genre, by rest of their genre.

Every May the Crime Writers of Canada name their Arthur Ellis Award Winners for excellence in Canadian crime writing.

Those awards were announced Thursday night in Toronto. Although COVID-19 concerns caused the cancellation of the normal awards gala, the winners were no less honoured.

The best crime novel award was won by Michael Christie for his novel Greenwood. His story is told in the future and the past, and reveals a tragedy that bonds two boys over the course of time. It is a family story that grows over time to include omissions, half-truths and outright lies. This is not the only honour secured by Greenwood; it was also long listed for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize last fall.

The best crime first novel award went to Philip Elliott for Nobody Move, a hard-boiled crime story set - where else - but Los Angeles. A debt collection turned double murder fuels the plot that draws in the debt collector, his mob boss employer, an ex-assassin, the femme fatale, and of course, police.

Author Robin Harlick served as one of the judges this year and praises the quality of the work submitted.

She says “For the most part the entries were well-written with good story telling and engaging characters.”

In fact, she says there are more Canadian crime writers out there than she realized, “many of which would stand up to the best in British or American crime writing, a standard often used by avid crime fiction readers.”

Harlick was also pleased to see that many of authors set their books here in Canada.

In a genre where location is often a character in its own right, she says there is persistent pressure from international publishers to “set crime fiction anywhere else other than Canada.”

Other winners included: best crime novella, won by Wayne Arthurson for The Red Chesterfield. Arthurson’s award was sponsored by Mystery Weekly, an online monthly journal of short crime fiction based in London, Ont.

  • The best crime short story was won by Peter Sellers for Closing Doors.
  • The best French crime book honour went to Andree A. Michaud for Tempetes.
  • The best juvenile or young adult crime book went to Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan.
  • The best nonfiction crime book was won by Charlotte Gray for Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise.
  • And the Unhanged Arthur award for an unpublished manuscript wen to The Dieppe Letters by Liz Rachel Walker.

The pandemic may have eliminated the annual Arthur Ellis gala, but some of the winners are doubtless conducting their own physically distanced celebrations.

And being writers, they may be considering this odd circumstance for future plot lines.