“The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories” by P.D. James

mistletoemurderP.D. James was the Queen of Crime before her death in 2014 at the age of ninety-four. She had written some 20 novels, many involving her detective hero, Adam Dalgliesh, as well as a few non-fiction, and won prizes across the world.

During this time, she was often commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special story for Christmas. Four of the best of these are collected here in a small book called The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. In a foreword to this book, Val McDermid tells of James’ fascination with the Golden Age that followed the end of the First World War and involved the famous British women crime writers: Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh.

In this new book there are traces in James’ work of these early Queens of Crime. The settings are always carefully constructed, and James understands the importance of respectability, as well as wickedness. The collection makes for a very neat small book, suitable for Christmas.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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“Precious and Grace” by Alexander McCall Smith

preciousandgraceAlexander McCall Smith was born in Africa in a British Protectorate now known as Zimbabwe. For many years he taught law at the university there. Since then he has lived in Scotland where he is Professor Emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh and has served on many international organizations concerned with bioethics.

He has never forgotten his life in Africa, however, and we are the lucky recipients of not one but four series of books that he has written about those days, as well as his later life in Scotland. In The No. l Ladies Detective Agency he writes intimately about Precious Ramotswe and her assistant-director, Grace Makutsi, and how they help a young Canadian woman looking for someone from her past.

Precious is a pioneer in the field of detective work. She is kind and naturally compassionate, but also shrewd. The neighbourhood trusts her and she manages to let most cases solve themselves simply by putting people together and letting them talk things out. The book is filled with the sunshine and warmth of Africa as well as the charm of its inhabitants. It is also a very reassuring read in a world where the subject of ethics is very seldom mentioned.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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Elie Nasrallah Signing “Hostage to History”

hostagehistoryLocal author, Elie Nasrallah will be here on Saturday, December 3 from 12:00pm to 3:00pm to sign copies of his book Hostage to History.

Check out the following links to find out more about Elie Nasrallah and his work!

Elie’s essay from one of this week’s editions of the Ottawa Citizen:

Nasrallah: Let's stop the myth-making around multiculturalism

This is a great article from Ottawa Life Magazine in which Elie Nasrallah is named one of the top 25 people in the Capital:

http://www.ottawalife.com/2016/09/meet-the-16th-annual-top-25-people-in-the-capital-2/

“The Promise of Canada” by Charlotte Gray

promisecanadaCharlotte Gray is well known for her histories and biographies of Canada – many of them winning prizes.

In The Promise of Canada she cleverly chooses nine Canadians from very different walks of life who have left their mark on how we view our country. Beginning with George-Etienne Cartier, one of the Fathers of Confederation, she shows how this shrewd Montreal lawyer insisted on two levels of government for the new Canada: one at the federal level to handle the whole federation, and a more local government in each province that joined up, thus ensuring that French Canada would run everything essential to the survival of their culture.

She goes on to describe a very tough Mountie, Samuel Benfield Steele and then seven more Canadians, some more famous than others but all of whom have left their mark on the way we live. These include Tommy Douglas (who master-minded health care), Margaret Atwood with her original-minded writing, Elijah Harper speaking up for First Nations.

This is Canada’s 150th Birthday coming up. There will doubtless be much written on how we look and how we got here. This will be one of the most interesting and provocative by a writer, herself an immigrant to Canada who has come to know and love it as her own.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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A Weekend Full of Signings

elfconspiracyWe have a great lineup of book signings on tap for you this weekend!

First up, Kass Williams will be here on Saturday, November 19 from 11:00am to 1:00pm to sign copies of her new novel The Elf Conspiracy.

About the book:

“What’s a jolly fat man to do? He’s burned out after 1,000 years on the job. His elves are plotting to take over the world, the CIA thinks he’s a white-bearded Islamist terrorist, four incrementalisthackers have broken his greatest secret, and his wife consorts with demons. Christmas may never be the same.”

Later on November 19, Ian McKercher will be on hand from 1:00pm to 3:00pm signing his new novel (and the sequel to The Underling) The Incrementalist.

A truly Canadian story, this novel follows Frances McFadden as she tries to come to grips with her new position among the upper echelons of the Bank of Canada as the country goes to war.

biotsodysseyLocal sci-fi author, Alex Binkley will be in the store from 1:30pm to 3:30pm on Sunday, November 20 to launch his new book A Biot’s Odyssey, the sequel to Humanity’s Saving Grace.

Binkley continues the story of a biological robot named Genghis, who became a hero to both humans and Beings thanks to his role in the Nameless War. Now, charged with a new task and with the help of Wood, a maverick robot, Genghis sets off on a new adventure through the stars.

We look forward to seeing you all this weekend!

“Mad Enchantment” by Ross King

madenchantmentThis is another intriguing book by Ross King, who brings an artist to life by a skillful blending of biography and art history.

Claude Monet may be France’s most famous painter. Here we see how he was successful very early in his career, particularly at the Paris Salon in 1865. He went on to get higher and higher prices for his works and was now showing with a group of artistic rebels: Pierre-August Renoir, Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne whom critics called “Impressionists.” Monet had a famously keen eye for light and painted landscapes and interiors in and around Paris. He preferred the country, however, and in 1883 moved to a small picturesque town north of Paris called Giverny. Here, in a large comfortable house, he had servants, a studio and a number of cars. Friends came down from Paris including the Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau.

Monet’s first wife had died young but he remarried, taking on quite a large family. He concentrated on the gardens which came with his Giverny house and enlarged them by building ponds, and put in a Japanese bridge. By 1914 his second wife died, also his own son. Monet almost stopped painting entirely, until he conceived the idea of bringing in exotic water lilies, in different colours and did a whole series of paintings on extra large canvases. They gave him a new lease on life and brought in big prices. This book has excellent photos of Monet’s work and how it developed to peak with the water lilies which made him world-famous.

Reviewed by Anne McDougall

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Nathan Greenfield Book Launch

reckoningLocal historian, Nathan Greenfield will be here on Sunday, November 6 at 2:30pm to launch his brand new book The Reckoning: Canadian Prisoners of War in the Great War.

About the book:

“Conditions in German POW camps were generally vile, with soldiers having little to eat but thin soup and putrid meat. Canadian men were used as slave labourers in salt mines and coal mines, and those who refused the work were beaten. Any soldiers thought to have engaged in sabotage were beaten and tortured, and some were murdered.

In The Reckoning bestselling author and Governor General’s Award–nominee Nathan M. Greenfield explores life and death in the camps, as well as the attempts to run for freedom. These are the forgotten stories of our soldiers at war and in the camps, and of how they never gave up hope of making it out alive.”