Nightshade takes root at Morrin Centre

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Atropa belladonna - known around the world as nightshade - is among the most toxic plant species in existence.

For historic Quebec City, the backdrop for Tom Henighan's new novel Nightshade, the lethal leaves are at the root of a high-profile murder.

Hennigan will give a seminar on his latest work Aug. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Morrin Centre, 44 Chaussee des Ecossais.

Henighan is an Ottawa writer and editor. His fiction includes The Well of Time, shortlisted for the Seal Books First Novel Award; Mercury Man, shortlisted for the Red Maple Award, and Doom Lake Holiday, a teen mystery set in Ontario's Rideau Lakes.

Amid the bustle of an important scientific conference concerning the genetic manipulation of trees, a delegate is struck down. Police, RCMP, and a mysterious FBI agent from Washington converge on the scene, but the sharpest eye in the crowd belongs to Sam Montcalm, a despised "bedroom snooper" from Ottawa.

Middle-aged, tough, and sophisticated, Sam is a lone wolf who feels displaced nearly everywhere, and his relations with his colleagues, the police - and with women - are always complicated. When a personal connection to the conference murder is discovered, Sam sets out to find the truth, and hopefully clear a First Nations activist from the crime.

As Montcalm follows the trail of murder back to Canada's capital and into the Gatineau Hills, his deep sense of cynicism about human nature is confirmed as he closes in on the killer and struggles to come to terms with himself.