55 books like Vancouver Noir

By Diane Purvey, John Belshaw,

Here are 55 books that Vancouver Noir fans have personally recommended if you like Vancouver Noir. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Who Killed Janet Smith?

Daniel Francis Author Of Becoming Vancouver: A History

From my list on Vancouver history.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid growing up in Vancouver my parents had a collection of books arranged on shelves around the living room. The only one I remember taking down and actually reading was an early history of the city. I recalled being impressed by the simple fact that someone had thought my hometown was interesting enough to write about, not something that was self-evident to a cocky teenager. Many years later, some two dozen books of my own under my belt, I decided maybe I’d earned the right to take a crack at the city myself.

Daniel's book list on Vancouver history

Daniel Francis Why did Daniel love this book?

Janet Smith was a young Scottish housemaid who was murdered in the home of her well-to-do employer in 1924. Never solved, the murder is one of the most celebrated crimes in Vancouver history, featuring political corruption, racial animosity, sex, drugs, and jazz. The book is a wonderful evocation of life in the city in the 1920s when it was emerging from world war and recession and finding its feet as a cosmopolitan community with pretensions to economic leadership. This is one of the first books I ever read about Vancouver history and it remains a favourite.

By Ed Starkins,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Who Killed Janet Smith? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Literary Nonfiction. New Edition as part City of Vancouver's Legacy Book Project, with foreword by historian Daniel Francis. WHO KILLED JANEY SMITH? examines one of the most infamous and still unsolved murder cases in Canadian history: the 1924 murder of twenty-two-year-old Scottish nursemaid Janet Smith. Originally published in 1984, and out of print for over a decade, this tale of intrigue, racism, privilege, and corruption in high places is a true-crime recreation that reads like a complex thriller.

Anvil Press is pleased to be reissuing this title as part of the City of Vancouver's Legacy Book Project. This new edition…


Book cover of Stanley Park's Secret

Daniel Francis Author Of Becoming Vancouver: A History

From my list on Vancouver history.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid growing up in Vancouver my parents had a collection of books arranged on shelves around the living room. The only one I remember taking down and actually reading was an early history of the city. I recalled being impressed by the simple fact that someone had thought my hometown was interesting enough to write about, not something that was self-evident to a cocky teenager. Many years later, some two dozen books of my own under my belt, I decided maybe I’d earned the right to take a crack at the city myself.

Daniel's book list on Vancouver history

Daniel Francis Why did Daniel love this book?

The secret of the title refers to the fact that Vancouver’s most famous landmark, Stanley Park, was home to many Indigenous people before they were dispossessed and removed from the park following the creation of the city. Jean Barman is one of British Columbia’s leading historians and she combines her skill as a researcher with many hours of conversation with descendants of the original families to write a path-breaking book. Reading it was a watershed moment in my own understanding of the city.

By Jean Barman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stanley Park's Secret as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for 2006 BC Book Prize - Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize

Shortlisted for George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in B.C. Writing and Publishing

Each year, over eight million people visit Stanley Park, a 400-hectare (1000-acre) haven of beauty that offers a backdrop of majestic cedars and firs and an environment teeming with wildlife just steps from the sidewalks and skyscrapers of Vancouver. But few visitors stop to contemplate the secret past of British Columbia's most popular tourist destination.

Officially opened in 1888, Stanley Park was born alongside the city of Vancouver, so it is easy to assume that the…


Book cover of Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History

Daniel Francis Author Of Becoming Vancouver: A History

From my list on Vancouver history.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid growing up in Vancouver my parents had a collection of books arranged on shelves around the living room. The only one I remember taking down and actually reading was an early history of the city. I recalled being impressed by the simple fact that someone had thought my hometown was interesting enough to write about, not something that was self-evident to a cocky teenager. Many years later, some two dozen books of my own under my belt, I decided maybe I’d earned the right to take a crack at the city myself.

Daniel's book list on Vancouver history

Daniel Francis Why did Daniel love this book?

Stanley Park occupies such a giant place in the city’s imagination. Most Vancouverites well remember the devastating windstorm that blew through the city in 2006 – it tore down several trees in my own neighbourhood and scared me witless – leveling great swathes of the park. Historian Sean Kheraj uses the storm as a jumping-off point to reflect on the park’s history and its complicated relationship with the citizens of the city.

By Sean Kheraj,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inventing Stanley Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In early December 2006, a powerful windstorm ripped through Vancouver's Stanley Park. The storm transformed the city's most treasured landmark into a tangle of splintered trees and shattered a decades-old vision of the park as timeless virgin wilderness. In Inventing Stanley Park, Sean Kheraj traces how the tension between popular expectations of idealized nature and the volatility of complex ecosystems helped transform the landscape of one of the world's most famous urban parks. This beautifully illustrated book not only depicts the natural and cultural forces that shaped the park's landscape, it also examines the roots of our complex relationship with…


Book cover of Along the No. 20 Line

Daniel Francis Author Of Becoming Vancouver: A History

From my list on Vancouver history.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid growing up in Vancouver my parents had a collection of books arranged on shelves around the living room. The only one I remember taking down and actually reading was an early history of the city. I recalled being impressed by the simple fact that someone had thought my hometown was interesting enough to write about, not something that was self-evident to a cocky teenager. Many years later, some two dozen books of my own under my belt, I decided maybe I’d earned the right to take a crack at the city myself.

Daniel's book list on Vancouver history

Daniel Francis Why did Daniel love this book?

This unusual book is a tour through the working-class city in the middle of the last century. This is a portrait of Vancouver when working people occupied the waterfront, instead of glittering condo towers. Knight imagines taking a trip on the old No.20 streetcar that once ran the length of the city’s eastside waterfront, painting an evocative portrait of the mills, docks, flophouses, and beer parlours that occupied the strip. Then he turns the book over to a series of personal reminiscences from men and women who called the neighbourhood home. Vancouver prides itself today on being a world-class destination for the global super-rich. This is where it came from.

By Rolf Knight,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Along the No. 20 Line as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Along the No. 20 Line, Rolf Knight takes the reader on a tour through working class East Vancouver of a century ago.

Knight's "through line" is literally a line: the old No. 20 Streetcar Line that ran between downtown Vancouver and the present day neighbourhood of the Pacific National Exhibition. From 1892 to 1949, when it was shut down and replaced by the No. 20 Granville / Victoria Drive bus, the No. 20 line took thousands of Vancouverites back and forth from their East Van homes to their jobs along the waterfront, on the docks, in mills, factories and…


Book cover of The List of Last Chances

Cookie Boyle Author Of Entitled: Life isn't easy when you're a book

From my list on a unique narrator perspective.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Canadian author who has been fascinated with how others see the world since I was a child. I was captivated by Charlotte’s Web. If pigs and spiders could be having unheard conversations, what else was I missing? I delight in stories that invite me into the distinct world of the narrator, so it’s no surprise that my novel, Entitled, is written from a unique perspective—that of a book. When done well, these stories let us see life through the eyes of someone else. If we all experienced our surroundings, just for a minute, as others did, perhaps there would be more humanity in this world. 

Cookie's book list on a unique narrator perspective

Cookie Boyle Why did Cookie love this book?

A road trip provides a reliable narrative structure. But what makes each journey distinct is what the travellers see, do and learn along the way. This charming, funny book follows Ruthie, a recently single, down-on-her-luck 38-year-old as she accompanies Kay (70s) across Canada from Prince Edward Island to Vancouver, where Kay’s son wishes her to relocate. Kay doesn’t want to move, but if she is going to Vancouver, she has a list of ‘last chances’ for her and Ruthie to experience along the way. And thus an improbable friendship begins. Told from Ruthie’s perspective, this book reminded me of how much there is to discover on a road trip—the places we see, the people we meet along the way, and the person the journey inspires us to become. 

By Christina Myers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The List of Last Chances as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At thirty-eight years old, Ruthie finds herself newly unemployed, freshly single, sleeping on a friend’s couch and downing a bottle of wine each night. Having overstayed her welcome and desperate for a job, Ruthie responds to David’s ad: he’s looking for someone to drive his aging mother, Kay, and her belongings from PEI to Vancouver. Ruthie thinks it’s the perfect chance for a brief escape and a much-needed boost for her empty bank account. But once they’re on the road, Kay reveals that she’s got a list of stops along the way that’s equal parts sightseeing tour, sexual bucket-list, and…


Book cover of Death by Unknown Event

Luke Jerod Kummer Author Of Takers Mad

From my list on crime stories you can only listen to as audiobooks.

Why am I passionate about this?

Crime is intrinsically interesting. From an early age, we’re taught behavioral norms. Hearing of transgressions, we ask, “How’d this happen?... Is it true?... What’s the deeper meaning?” Audiobooks also have a unique ability to engage us. With my reporting background plus a historical novel under my belt, I began researching the real-life case behind Takers Mad, aiming to bring it to life with the intimacy, suspense, and power of an audio drama. Then I was gobsmacked to find fresh evidence in this Gilded Age murder. Now, with Khristine Hvam’s ultra-talented narration, I hope our work entertains and also leads listeners to ponder vital questions—just like the best crime audiobooks.

Luke's book list on crime stories you can only listen to as audiobooks

Luke Jerod Kummer Why did Luke love this book?

Unspooled as an episodic series, Danielle Elliot traces the true story of one woman’s long-running nightmare in Vancouver. Police received hundreds of complaints about a stalker and then repeatedly arrived at shocking scenes. But authorities began to doubt the victim’s claims—until she was found dead. I’ve long admired the hard-boiled writing of Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar, and I don’t think it is only the Canadian setting that makes Death by Unknown Event remind me of their work, but rather the psychological intrigue. Except the twisting plot of these 12 episodes is no work of fiction—sometimes life just can be that strange.

By Danielle Elliot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death by Unknown Event as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For seven years, Vancouver nurse Cindy James reported more than 100 separate incidents of harassment, ranging from threatening phone calls to home invasions to ritualistic assaults, including strangulations and stabbings. Canada’s Royal Mounted Police spent over a million dollars investigating her claims and found zero evidence of foul play, leading them to suspect she was making it all up. Then, in 1989, Cindy was found dead, bound and naked, half a mile from where her car was parked in a shopping mall. What happened to Cindy James remains one of the most bizarre and perplexing true crime stories in recent…


Book cover of On the Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver's Missing Women

Eve Lazarus Author Of Murder by Milkshake: An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer

From my list on true crime books that read like thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a reporter, author of nine books, and the host and producer of the Cold Case Canada podcast. I fell in love with my city’s murky underbelly on a trip to the Vancouver Police Museum in the 1990s. Axe murders, murder by milkshake, Vancouver’s first triple murder—it was all there. I’ve tried to give those true crime exhibits new life by talking to law enforcement, relatives, and friends, digging up never-seen-before photos and documents, and wherever possible, giving the victims back their voice. I run the Facebook group Cold Case Canada where people share their thoughts, and in a best-case scenario, find leads that could help solve a murder. 

Eve's book list on true crime books that read like thrillers

Eve Lazarus Why did Eve love this book?

While Janet Smith was Vancouver’s shame in the 1920s, Willy Pickton was our boogeyman in the ‘90s. How did this pig farmer get away with murdering up to 50 women?—he was convicted of only six—because the women were sex workers and drug addicts that he picked up in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside and the police really didn’t give a shit. An investigative journalist, Cameron does a great job of outlining the botched police investigation and the department’s reluctance to believe it was a serial killer. Pickton is pure evil, and what I loved about Cameron’s work is how she not only gets into his head, but tells the stories of the victims, and in doing so, helps give them back a voice.

By Stevie Cameron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On the Farm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Verteran investigative journalist Stevie Cameron first began following the story of missing women in 1998, when the odd newspaper piece appeared chronicling the disappearances of drug-addicted sex trade workers from Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside. It was not until February 2002 that pig farmer Robert William Pickton would be arrested, and 2008 before he was found guilty, on six counts of second-degree murder. These counts were appealed and in 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its conclusion. The guilty verdict was upheld, and finally this unprecedented tale of true crime could be told.

Covering the case of one of North…


Book cover of The Home Stretch: A Father, a Son, and All the Things They Never Talk about

Jo Owens Author Of A Funny Kind of Paradise

From my list on for commiserating over the "aging parents" challenge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a care aide (aka personal support worker) who has happily worked at an extended care facility for more than twenty years, and as such, I have been a compassionate listener to many a family member suffering from the tsunami of feelings involved when coping with aging parents or spouses, so I thought I would be well-positioned and emotionally prepared to cope when it was my turn to face my own mother's deterioration. How wrong I was! Thank goodness for the generous souls who write memoirs. Each of the books that I have chosen was an education and an affirmation to me as I tried to maintain my equilibrium while supporting my mother and my mother-in-law through their final years.

Jo's book list on for commiserating over the "aging parents" challenge

Jo Owens Why did Jo love this book?

When I read memoirs about aging parents, loss is usually an important theme; Ilsley's memoir stands out because his regret is for a closeness that never was. "Only now, as my father enters his nineties . . . and my aspirations of eldercare become more interventionist, has our relationship had a chance to deepen.

"And by deepen, I mean really begin to annoy each other."

Ilsley's relationship with his father is challenging. There are good reasons why Ilsley chooses to live in Vancouver rather than "home" in Nova Scotia. But his father is still is his father, and Ilsley commits. His writing is clear, candid, thoughtful, and so warm and funny. I loved this book.

By George K. Ilsley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Home Stretch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

George K. Ilsley explores his complex relationship with his aging father in this candid memoir full of sharp emotion and disarming humor. George’s father is ninety-one years old, a widower, and fiercely independent; an avid gardener, he’s sweet and more than a little eccentric. But he’s also a hoarder who makes embarrassing comments and invitations to women, and he has made no plans whatsoever for what is inevitably coming over the horizon.

Decades after George has moved four time zones away, he begins to make regular trips home to help care for his cranky and uncooperative father, and to sift…


Book cover of All We Left Behind

Terrie Todd Author Of Rose Among Thornes

From my list on relationships between characters on opposing sides of WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Canadian author and I set my novels here. When I first attempted to write a book, I chose historical fiction because I thought it would be easier to get my characters into trouble—without cell phones and other modern conveniences to bail them out. I wasn’t wrong. However, the research involved with writing good historical fiction soon gave me a whole new appreciation for the genre and I was hooked. I find the WWII era far enough in the past to provide historical insight into humanity’s many weaknesses and strengths, yet near enough to make it relatable. I’ve been thrilled with the feedback on my faith-based stories.

Terrie's book list on relationships between characters on opposing sides of WWII

Terrie Todd Why did Terrie love this book?

Of all my choices, this book is the most like mine in that it involves a Japanese-Canadian family removed from their home in British Columbia and forced into an internment camp during WWII. Hayden and Chidori are in love. But after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Chidori and her family are seen as the enemy. Longing more than anything to help them, Hayden joins the Royal Canadian Air Force believing it’s the swiftest way to bring the war to an end. Thoughts of Chidori are all that keep him alive. You’ll learn so much history as you absorb this story and cheer for its valiant characters.

By Danielle R. Graham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All We Left Behind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz

'Heart-wrenching. Emotional. A powerful story of wartime love and devotion' Glynis Peters, author of The Secret Orphan

A powerful and incredibly moving historical novel inspired by an untold story of the Second World War.

Vancouver 1941

As the war rages around the world, Hitler's fury is yet to be felt on the peaceful shores of Mayne Island. Sweethearts Hayden and Chidori are in love.

But everything changes after Pearl Harbor.

Now seen as the enemy, Chidori and her family are forced into an internment camp. Powerless to help them, Hayden joins the air…


Book cover of The Beggar's Garden: Stories, The

Chris Benjamin Author Of Boy with a Problem

From my list on contemporary North American short story collections.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a short story reader, reviewer, and writer. Short stories are a powerful form, combining the distilled intensity of poetry with the depth of character development. They allow enough space to get to know a character, feel the pain of their disappointments, to root for their ultimate success. Such moments reflect broader realities of a culture, a society, a people. A single-author collection gives great insight into a writer’s abilities and style. My own debut collection was a finalist for the Alistair MacLeod short fiction prize and is critically acclaimed, so hopefully, that means my careful reading of these collections has taught me a thing or two

Chris' book list on contemporary North American short story collections

Chris Benjamin Why did Chris love this book?

Christie’s stories are set in downtown eastside Vancouver, a neighbourhood notorious for junkies and homelessness. Of course, the realities are much more diverse. 

These stories focus not only on the down-and-out but also on shop owners and others trying to make a go there, the traumatic things they witness and experience, and the guilt of surviving there. In prose that is sharp and witty, yet evocative and illuminating, he shows every character to be struggling, regardless of their situation. 

It is a very real look at completely believable characters. And he sees them very clearly, shows their humanity, and finds compassion for all of them.

By Michael Christie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beggar's Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Critically lauded, The Beggar’s Garden is a brilliantly surefooted, strikingly original collection of nine linked short stories that will delight as well as disturb. The stories follow a diverse group of curiously interrelated characters, from bank manager to crackhead to retired Samaritan to web designer to car thief, as they drift through each other’s lives in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. These engrossing stories, free of moral judgment, are about people who are searching in the jagged margins of life―for homes, drugs, love, forgiveness―and collectively they offer a generous and vivid portrait of humanity, not…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Vancouver Canada, police corruption, and British Columbia?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Vancouver Canada, police corruption, and British Columbia.

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