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Open Secret


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About The Book

A riveting new Bern Fortin mystery from the author of Confined Space.

Deryn Collier’s debut mystery, Confined Space, was called an “intelligently conceived, suspenseful, and elegantly written story” by The Toronto Star. Now Coroner Bern Fortin is back in a riveting new mystery.

After the abrupt end to his military career Bern has settled into an uneasy peace in his new life in Kootenay Landing—a peace he knows can’t last. Out for a fall hike, he discovers Dr. Juniper Sinclair, the town’s lone doctor, attempting to revive small-time drug dealer Seymour Melnychuk, who has been shot in the forehead. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Gary Dowd abandons his van while crossing the US border. Gary is a local father of two, an accountant, and a steady, predictable guy. He’s also been best friends with Seymour Melnychuk since elementary school.

Bern knows the two disturbing events must be related and works with police constable Maddie Schilling to uncover the hidden ties that connect the two cases. Why was Dr Sinclair already on the scene? Why is there no exit wound on Seymour’s body? Why did Gary Dowd disappear while trying to cross the border? Who truly controls the hills and forests around Kootenay Landing? Amidst the chaos of the case, Bern’s military background comes back to haunt him, forcing him to confront the secrets of his own past that he has long sought to keep buried.

As Bern and Schilling close in on the killer, each is drawn into the case personally and the stakes are higher than anyone can imagine. Everyone has something to hide, and no one in Kootenay Landing seems willing to talk. But Bern Fortin is well aware that no secret can remain buried forever—not even his own.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Open Secret, by Deryn Collier, includes an introduction and discussion questions for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


After the abrupt end to his military career, Bern Fortin has settled into an uneasy peace in Kootenay Landing—a peace he knows can’t last.

Small-time drug dealer Seymour Melnychuk is found dead after being shot in the forehead. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Gary Dowd abandons his van while crossing the US border. Could the incidents be connected? As Bern and police constable Maddie Schilling close in on the killer, they soon find that secrets can’t remain buried forever – not even their own. 

Questions for discussion

1. The Kootenay Landing community is, to some degree, supported by the financial and health benefits of the marijuana industry. Discuss the importance and the detriments of individuals breaking the law for something they believe is their right. 

2. Early in the novel, we are introduced to Cindy Forsberg as a young girl in an abusive and poverty-stricken home. Why do you think the author chose to include this narrative of familial abuse within Indigenous communities? 

3. In what ways are women marginalized in the book? In what ways are they empowered?

4. What are Gary Dowd’s motivations for marrying Cindy’s adopted sister, Michelle? Do you feel compassion for Gary?

5. Bern Fortin takes on various roles throughout the book. He is a lover in Montreal and New York, a soldier in Rwanda, and a coroner in Kootenay Landing. How does he adapt to these roles? In what ways does he remain the same?

6. Nature acts as both a benevolent and malevolent force throughout the book. How does the book explore the concept of nature?

7. Both the growing and the sharing of food play significant roles in the book. What do you think food symbolizes in Open Secret?

8.“A soldier’s instinct is a terrible thing, as is a police officer’s. At a certain point, training takes over. It’s not a choice. Society depends on this fact (page 421).” How does the book explore the idea of instinct?

9. What is the significance of Aimee’s abduction?

10. Was Gia justified in her actions?

About The Author

Photograph © Laura Wilby

Deryn Collier grew up in Ottawa and Montreal and is a graduate of McGill University. She now lives in Nelson, British Columbia, with her family and welcomes visitors to her blog at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (April 8, 2014)
  • Length: 448 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476716800

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