John Ballem

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MURDER AS A FINE ART


"This is a clever little puzzle-plot in the Agatha Christie mould."
- Globe & Mail


Artists, writers, musicians, dancers, and actors come to the Banff Centre for the Arts to work in the peaceful mountain setting. But when Alan Montrose is found dead, that peacefulness is shattered. Some even go as far as to suspect foul play was involved in the playwright's death, though most accept the fatality as merely an accident.

Then, a second death occurs. Erika Dekter burns to death inside the boat studio. And this time, it is clear that it was no accident. Are the two deaths connected? If so, who wanted these two artists killed? These are the questions that aspiring author Laura Janeway grapples with as she launches her own investigation of the crimes.

One thing is certain: to find out who is responsible for the deaths, Janeway must be suspicious of everyone in the closely knit artists' colony. And with grudges, professional jealousies, and affairs hanging in the air, there are more than enough suspects.

Dundurn CAN/ 2002

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MANCHINEEL
A Novel


"...Solid entertainment...The author has a keen eye
for island beauties, native and imported...It's fun.
Manchineel will fill a summer lawn chair for hours at a stretch"
- Southam News


John Ballem's new thriller deals with the illegal trade in human organs. This grisly enterprise, victimizing children and impoverished, vulnerable souls is being conducted secretly in that little bit of paradise - a private island in the Caribbean famous as a playground for British royalty and aging rock stars.

The hero is Skye MacLeod, a sexy, rich, and recently bereaved widower. Highly accomplished as a pilot, horseman, and naturalist, Skye maintains a home in an exclusive enclave on the small tropical island of Manchineel. When the novel opens, he is returning for the first time after the death of his beloved wife Jocelyn. Manchineel is very much like Mustique, favored by Princess Margaret.

Amid the dazzling social scene, Skye notices disturbing, even ominous events. An impoverished island mother sells her kidney. Island boys are kidnapped. A nearby island is mysteriously banned to local fishermen and visitors. A yacht equipped with the pleasures of a palace provides a floating refuge for a corrupt tycoon. It doubles as an operating theater for the harvest and transplant of human organs.

Skye, with the help of the British police who are on Manchineel as security for Princess Helen (who bears a striking resemblance to Princess Margaret), takes part in a daring and bloody raid against the yacht. He also follows the trail of the illegal body parts trade back to the chief perpetrator of the crime - one of his close friends on Manchineel.

Along the way, there is a love affair between Skye and the ex-daughter-in-law of a powerful American presidential family. We also learn a lot about Caribbean lore, voodoo practices, risky insurance ventures, and transplant procedures.

John Bishop Ballem is a distinguished lawyer in Calgary. His is also the author of several widely published thrillers.

Dundurn CAN/2000
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