Sunday, November 30, 2008

Linda Wiken of Prime Crime Mystery Bookstore.

Today’s guest blogger needs no introduction to Canadian mystery readers. Linda Wiken is the owner of Prime Crime Mystery bookstore in Ottawa, our nation’s capital. (

About all most of my American friends know about Ottawa is that it is the world’s second-coldest capital city (beaten by Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia).

Ottawa’s reputation as being cold and sterile is massively unwarranted. Ottawa is a fabulous city for a short vacation. It’s truly beautiful, particularly in spring and summer, packed with museums and art galleries, open air markets, good restaurants and wine bars, bike trails and walking paths and the world’s largest outdoor skating rink. Prime Crime is the perfect mystery bookstore, small and cozy, but packed with anything and everything mystery-related you’d want to read. It is located in the charming Glebe neighbourhood on a street of small, independently-owned shops.

As an added bonus: come to Ottawa this week and you might see Stephen Harper running for his life.

Here is Linda’s suggestions for that reader on your list. Someone once said that the essence of all mystery must be tragedy, and Linda’s essay is a reminder of that.

It struck me this morning as I listened to The Current on CBC Radio One, that I'm reading far too many mysteries these days that are set in war zones. The documentary in question was about a US medic made famous by having his photo taken carrying an Iraqi child whose leg had been blown off. It symbolized at that point, the 'help' that was being given the innocent victims. The follow-up story was about how this medic, now back in the US for awhile, had recently been sniffing inhalants and hallucinating about being back in Iraq and under attack. He died at home, certain the Iraqi soldiers were breaking into his house. An example of the tragedy that continues long after these young men come safely home.

The story brought to mind the novel, "The Painter of Battles" by Arturo Perez-Reverte. He's a terrific writer and this is one of his most compelling works. In the book, the 'painter's' photograph also makes the international media, a picture of a Croatian soldier in retreat. The aftermath of that photo and how it plays out on the lives of the soldier's family, leads to retribution and an ending both fitting and bleak.

The second novel, also recently read, was by Matt Beynon Rees, "The Prisoner of Gaza", the second in his series which features a Palestinian teacher as the main character. This series had already focused my thoughts on the horror of daily life for the innocent citizens in that tragic part of the world. The news today contained a grim reminder of that story.

These are two novels that have stayed with me....disturbing stories interwoven with suspense and mystery. Excellent reads, both. Could it be life imitating fiction?
The next book on my pile of TBRs is "That Summer in Sicily" by Marlena de Blasi....not a mystery, but certain fiction I'd love to be imitating on these cold, near-winter days


Anonymous said...

My dad was treated for post-traumatic stress (they called it battle fatigue or shell shock back then). I can only imagine what kinds of things he still carries around in his head.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

I love Arturo Perez-Reverte's work and will pick up the one you recommended. Thanks for the reminder.

Kerrie said...

Hello Linda and Vicki

I just wondered if either or both of you would like to participate in an activity I have running on my blog at present:
All the best for 2009