Monday, August 19, 2019

It Started With an Article in the Community Paper by Judy Penz Sheluk

It was March 2018, a cold and blustery day in my small town of Alliston, Ontario, Canada, the groundhog getting his forecast for an early spring wrong once again. I sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of cinnamon rooibos tea and the community paper, setting aside the grocery store flyers for later perusal. As I scanned obituaries (yes, I do that) and stories of local politics, restaurant openings, and high school sports accomplishments, one article grabbed my attention:


The article went on to report that in 2005, a 24-year-old man had dropped out of college, moved back home, and then, one day, when he was supposed to be out job hunting, left a note for his family on the kitchen counter: he was leaving to find himself. No one has seen or heard from him since.

The photo of the young man accompanying the piece was credited to Ontario Missing Adults. I’d never heard of it, and googled to find out more. What I discovered took my breath away: eighteen pages, 25 entries per page, of missing adults, some dating back as far as 1935. Another 200 entries of Unidentified Adults, remains found, identity unknown.

And this was just for Ontario. Further research showed that in 2017, 78,000+ adults were reported to the RCMP as missing in Canada. And while the majority of cases were solved within a few days, far too many remained unsolved.

I reached out to the founder of the Missing Adults Registry, Lusia Dion. “Dealing with missing adults is a difficult issue,” she told me. “There is no law that prevents an adult from voluntarily picking up and starting a new life somewhere else. The situation is further complicated in cases where there is no clear indication of foul play. It’s a delicate balance between respecting the adult’s privacy, while trying to determine exactly what has happened to them. At the same time, family and friends of the missing person are left to grapple with feelings and situations for which there is no guidebook. I created the Ontario Registry of Missing and Unidentified Adults as a first step in helping those families.”

While the young man featured in the article initially inspired the story behind A Fool’s Journey, the novel is a compilation of many cases fueled by countless hours of scouring the Registry, and the invaluable and compassionate input of Lusia Dion, who has a small role in the book as Lucy Daneluk, founder of the fictional Ontario Registry for Missing and Unidentified Adults.

And now, here’s a bit about the book:

 In March 2000, twenty-year old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—has seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings everything back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon, and, if still alive, where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.

Now available for pre-order, A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in Judy’s Marketville Mystery series, will be released on August 21 in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle.
Barnes & Noble:

Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series, and the editor of The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense. Her short stories can be found in several collections. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at


Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Thanks for hosting me today on WWK!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Sounds like an interesting premise. Congrats on your new release!

Debra H. Goldstein said...

Thanks for visiting WWK today. I wasn't aware of the numbers of missing adults or the complexity of the issue. For all of us, our heartstrings are tugged when we hear of a missing child, see faces on a milk carton, or are reminded in a composite article, but we don't give the same thought to missing adults. Your book does an excellent job of shedding light on the difficulties and complexities of this issue. It's a good read while still bringing home something most of us don't often think about.

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Thanks much, Margaret, and yes, Debra, I was gobsmacked at the stats...

Susan said...

I agree, Judy. How amazing that missing adults bring up a lot of issues. I've already pre-ordered this book since I read your earlier books and really liked them!

KM Rockwood said...

It seems incredible that adults can just disappear, what with social security numbers needed for jobs, access to money, credit and debit cards, etc. But they do! It must be terribly upsetting to families to never find out what happened to a loved one.

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Kathleen, I think it's easy to disappear if you want to.

Susan, THANK YOU!!!

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Judy for the interesting story about what inspired your latest book. It sounds interesting. If you watch any of the sci-fi TV shows, they would probably tell you that many of them were captured by aliens. In truth, many of them were escaping from home life they found untenable.

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

Hi Grace, there are as many reasons someone leaves as people leaving. In fact, the biggest cause of death is "death by misadventure" i.e. went skiing and left the trail, they are "missing" until found etc.