Maureen Jennings

Maureen Jennings, writer (born at Birmingham, England, 23 Apr 1939). Maureen Jennings grew up knowing little of her father, who was killed in action during the SECOND WORLD WAR. She developed a profound enthusiasm for English literature dring her youth. When she turned seventeen Jennings and her mother emigrated to Canada, settling first in Windsor, Ontario. In 1960 she moved to TORONTO, which has been her home ever since.

Jennings attended the UNIVERSITY OF WINDSOR where she acquired a BA in PSYCHOLOGY and PHILOSOPHY. After a short time as a high school teacher she returned to university and earned her MA at the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO in English literature. Upon graduation she joined the English department at RYERSON UNIVERSITY, Toronto, where one of her colleagues was the future crime novelist Eric WRIGHT. After teaching for eight years Jennings became a psychotherapist, complementing her work by conducting creative expression groups.

Jennings soon realized that her own writing was an unfulfilled dream, and gradually discontinued her therapy practise so that she could write full time. Since 1997 Jennings has published three series of novels along with non-fiction, short stories, and stage plays, earning much acclaim for her work along the way.

When she first arrived in Toronto in 1960 her passion for history (SeeSOCIAL HISTORY) prompted a kinship with the city's Victorian roots, and Jennings decided to illustrate Toronto's past through the medium of crime fiction (SeePOPULAR LITERATURE IN ENGLISH). She made her writing debut with Except the Dying (1997), an historical detective novel featuring the likeable, if somewhat romantically challenged, Toronto POLICE Detective William Murdoch. As he tackles the mystery of a young housemaid whose body is discovered in a snowy lane, Murdoch also wrestles with the recent death of his fiancée. The book was shortlisted for both Arthur Ellis and Anthony Awards for Best Novel, and also received a Heritage Toronto Certificate of Commendation. Later novels in this series that have also gone on to be shortlisted for, or win, various awards include Let Loose the Dogs (2003), Night's Child (2005), and A Journeyman to Grief (2007). The books have achieved global popularity, and are available in French, German, Polish, Czech, Italian, and South Korean. The Murdoch tales have also been made into a long-running TELEVISION series titled The Murdoch Mysteries and several feature-length, made-for-television dramas.

Briefly trying her hand at non-fiction, in 2001 Jennings published The Map of Your Mind: Journeys into Creative Expression. She returned to crime fiction with 2004's Does Your Mother Know?, the first in a contemporary-based series featuring Christine Morris, a forensic profiler with the ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE. Of special interest is her second novel in this series, The K Hand Shape, which explores the murder of a deaf woman who is also the daughter of one of Morris's colleagues; a penetrating exploration of DEAF CULTURE, it was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel in 2009.

Having experienced at first hand the deeply shaping impact of the Second World War on English life, Jennings had long resolved to write about that turbulent period. At the beginning of the hostilities an internment camp for enemy aliens had been set up near Ludlow, England, where her family had spent their holidays; Jennings chose that location for her work. Her efforts crystallized in Season of Darkness (2011), which chronicles the exploits of Tom Tyler, a village police inspector charged with solving the murder of a young woman near an internment camp for Germans. The novel is the first in a projected trilogy about the war.

Jennings has moved more directly into television work, co-developing the television series Bomb Girls, based on the experiences of young women working in British munitions plants during the Second World War. The series first aired early in 2012 and very quickly rose to become the highest-rated new drama on Canadian television.

A talented writer with a keen eye for setting, character and dialogue, Jennings scrupulously researches her stories and skillfully weaves insightful social commentary into her narratives, and it is no exaggeration to say that she has put historical crime fiction on the Canadian literary map.