Parry Sound Books

Proud to be your community book shop since 1988
Knowledgable Staff - Service - Selection
Good Literature for Children & Adults

New Novels from Donna Leon & Charles Todd

Two of our favourite writers of mystery novels have new books published this month – The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon and The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd.

This is just about the perfect time of year to visit Venice, I was thinking as I read Donna Leon’s most recent novel. Visiting Venice in the late winter months, or early spring months, may mean a few cool days but it also means being able to visit museums and churches without standing in line; you can walk into St. Mark’s to marvel at the mosaic floors at any time of day, climb the tower on Torcello for a view over the lagoon, and get a table in the inner dining room at Gato Nero on Burano. The next best thing to being there is to read Donna Leon’s books set in “the most serene republic of Venice”.


The investigation at the heart of The Temptation of Forgiveness begins with a mother’s concern about her son, and his possible drug use. Though Commissario Guido Brunetti is sympathetic, as the father of teenagers himself, he is uncertain that he can be of much help. He does however make some inquires about who may be selling drugs to students near the school Signora Crosera’s son attends.

In the meantime, late at night, a man is found injured near one of the many bridges in the city. It turns out that he is the husband of Signora Crosera and the father of her son. Taken to hospital, it is discovered that he is suffering a serious brain injury.

What was he doing out so late at night – without a coat, without a wallet? As Brunetti and his team investigate, they discover a scheme to defraud both innocent Venetians and the government. Corruption is so commonplace in Venice that it is hardly a surprise. The only challenge for Brunetti’s team is how to deal with their discovery when they find who it is behind the scheme.

The new Charles Todd, The Gate Keeper, takes place almost a century earlier, just after the end of the First World War. Inspector Ian Rutledge comes across a car stopped on a country road, late at night; and a dead man lying on the ground, shot only moments before.

Gate Keeper.jpg

This is only the first of more murders and it is a good long time before there is any clue to a connection, though Rutledge knows there must be one. The first man to be murdered is Stephen Wentworth, a local bookseller. And as Rutledge ruminates, “To put it simply, a bookseller sold books. He ordered them from the publishers and displayed them in a shop in order to attract buyers. Hardly a hotbed of criminal activity.” Indeed.

The second man to be murdered is a progressive farmer. As had so many, both of these men had been in the war. Otherwise, there appears to be no connection, except that one was a customer of the other. Rutledge is finding this a difficult case. Looking into the background of the bookseller, Rutledge discovers he experienced a disturbingly sad childhood, but hardly one that might lead to murder. Of course, by the end it all does come together and the case is solved in the last few pages with great drama. Another Charles Todd book that does not disappoint!


The Friendly Ones by Philip Hensher

The friendly ones – are they the curious but pleasant shopkeepers and neighbours? Or are they the so-called friends who betray?

The Friendly Ones.jpg

The Friendly Ones opens with Nazia and Sharif Sharifullah preparing for a party. Their daughter, Aisha, is here from Cambridge for the occasion, at home with her much younger twin brothers, Omith and Raja. The Sharifullah’s have recently moved into a lovely detached home with a garden in an upscale neighbourhood, and today will welcome friends and family. The day of the party the Sharifullah’s meet for the first time their neighbor, a retired doctor. Hilary and Celia Spinster have lived in their house for 30 years, and raised their four children there.

The relationship between the Sharifullah and Spinster families is a complicated one. The lives of all will be intertwined in one way or another throughout the novel. There are the secrets kept from parents by children, and by parents from children.

Author Philip Hensher was born in 1965, making him of the same generation as his character Aisha and her contemporaries in The Friendly Ones.

The novel begins sometime during Margaret Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minster of England, and from there we travel back and forth in time a few decades before and after. There is mention of the memorable unusually hot English summer of 1976, and of the Montreal Olympics. There is also a mention of the wedding of Charles & Diana that so many of us watched in our pyjamas at some ungodly hour of the morning in the summer of 1981. All of these touchstones, and more, place us firmly in time throughout the novel.

Half way through the book we are taken back to East Pakistan, where Nazia and Sharif were born and raised. After post-graduate education in England, where Aisha is born, Nazia and Sharif return to East Pakistan planning to contribute to the country of their birth only to find the country plunged into a bloody civil war. As with all civil wars the Bangladeshi War of Independence has divided loyalties – there are those who are seen as freedom fighters and patriots  - or as traitors and terrorists. There are both in the Sharifullah family. During this time there takes place a great betrayal that is alluded to throughout the novel, and eventually revealed to the reader.

As the country becomes more and more repressive and writers, poets and academics are murdered, it becomes too dangerous for Nazia and Sharif to stay. Fleeing to England, Nazia and Sharif return to Sheffield, where Sharif takes up a post at the University, twin boys are born and they all settle into British life, becoming more and more prosperous over time.

This is a great big book, and a great big story. I can’t possibly do justice to it here. In addition to Nazia and Sharif, the novel is the story of Aisha Sharifullah and Leo Spinster, and of all of the siblings, as time moves forward and the world changes. This is a story of diversity and assimilation, and also of those who only seem to assimilate and become the next generation of terrorists. There is history; there is love, and betrayal. There is prejudice and hate. There are those who behave with dignity and responsibility, and those who do not - fictional characters who are all too human.

Thanks, Philip Hensher, for a great read.

char reading nevis.jpg

Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard

If you are looking for a quick March Break read for a day on a plane, or on the beach – or maybe even on the couch – The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard is just the book.

A work of fiction, based on real events, complete with archival photographs, The Atomic City Girls tells the story of the people who worked at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a top secret town and work place built and operated by the American Government during the Second World War.

Atomic City Girls.jpg

The local girls and women who were hired to work, and live, there had no idea of exactly what work they were performing – or for what purpose. They spent days at machines carefully making adjustments, in top-secret surroundings. The work provided much needed employment, an opportunity to leave home and, of course, the chance to meet a potential husband, and a way out of rural Tennessee. We know, before they do, that they were, in fact, making enriched uranium.

We meet June Walker and her family, in the fall of 1942, as their land is being expropriated by the government for some top-secret purpose, and again later in the fall of 1944 when June arrives to work at Oak City.

Moving into a girls dormitory June becomes friends with Cicci Roberts. Cicci is very actively looking for a husband – a wealthy one. June is an innocent compared to Cicci, but with a little prompting and primping she is soon more comfortable, and enjoying time at the canteen and the dances. June is bored by the work she does but happy to be away from home.

In tandem with the story of the white workers in Oak City, is the story of the black workers. These are men doing manual labour and living in crowded conditions. They are lonely, having left their families for the work in Oak City, but they are happy for the pay cheque. It is only when some of the black men begin to demand better living conditions that there is a chance that things will change.

The other players in the story are the Military Officers who live with their families in purpose built new homes, and the scientists who come to work on what will become the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. One of the physicists working at Oak Ridge is Sam Cantor, a rather unhappy man several years older than June. But, there is an attraction and they soon become involved in an intense relationship that surprises both of them. The affair also leads to a much better job for June, one that brings an awareness of what the work in Oak Ridge really means.

Janet Beard grew up in the shadow of Oak Ridge, and while researching this book, discovered that her own grandmother worked for the Manhattan project in Knoxville, and a Great Aunt worked at Oak Ridge.

The Atomic City Girls is a bit of a fluffy love story, but it is also a fascinating picture of a unique time and place and a very good read!


Celebrate the Poetry, the Art, and the Music of Newfoundland

The March Hare, a celebration of words and music from Newfoundland, takes place at the Charles W. Stockey Centre this week. On Friday 2 March, beginning at 8:00 pm, you will find a crowd of some of he best musicians and poets from Newfoundland on the stage.


When I encouraged Rex Brown to bring The Hare to Parry Sound 4 years ago, little did I know that I would be living part-time in Newfoundland and flying in and out of the St. John’s International Airport several times each year. Everyone flying into that airport is greeted by a huge painting by Gerry Squires. Near the baggage collection, and sometimes hidden by carts, is Caribou on the Witless Bay Barrens.


Stan Dragland’s most recent project, involving years of research, is a great big beautiful book about Gerald Squires, splendidly illustrated with his paintings. Squires’ work is iconic in Newfoundland but less known in the rest of the country. Working with an extensive archive Stan Dragland has written a richly interpretive essay informed by Squires’ own uncollected poetry, fiction, letters, and essays.

Quoted as saying he fell “for Newfoundland like a lover”, Stan has made his home in St. John’s for many years. Part of the Canadian literary landscape for a good long time, Stan Dragland was a founding editor of Brick Books, a former poetry editor for McClelland and Stewart, a poet, a novelist, and editor, and writer of essays and criticism.

Kathleen Winter.jpg

Kathleen Winter, born in England, grew up in Newfoundland, and now makes Montreal home. Well known internationally for her novel Annabel, her most recent novel Lost in September was nominated for the Governor Generals Literary Award for Fiction last fall, when she appeared with the International Festival of Authors in Parry Sound. While reading the letters of General James Wolfe in the archives of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Kathleen’s imagination took flight and her book became a work of fiction, rather than fact, allowing her to tell the story of General James Wolfe in tandem with that of a modern day soldier.


Pamela Morgan returns this year to perform new work. Over the past seven years or so she has been concentrating mostly on refining and developing an original folk opera, The Nobleman’s Wedding. This beautiful folk musical was performed at The Rising Tide theatre in Trinity, Newfoundland last fall. Based upon the gorgeous melodies and classic stories in ballads from Newfoundland’s rich oral tradition, it is a story where love, lust, faith, hope, and betrayal come together.

Pamela Morgan .jpg

Dr. Pamela Morgan has been learning and arranging Newfoundland ballads for forty years, concentrating on the more rare and obscure treasures with their timeless truths and intricate modal melodies. She is also working on a new musical based upon Tom Dawe’s poem The Frog Prince. The frog, finding himself in the stuffy dry palace after the metamorphic kiss, yearns for his wetland home and the friends he left behind there.

Pamela will be playing excerpts from both projects, as well as something from her book of piano arrangements of Newfoundland Ballads, and a new commissioned composition dealing with abuse of children by the clergy; timely in these days of truth and reconciliation.

With poets and writers Randall Maggs, Stephanie McKenzie, Stan Dragland and Kathleen Winter, and musicians Anita Best, Sandy Morris, Pamela Morgan and Douglas Cameron The March Hare will the biggest and best yet!


The March Hare - Friday 2 March 2018 8 pm at the Charles W. Stockey Centre

The Poetry of Hockey, The Music of Newfoundland - The March Hare Part 1

Music and Hockey are two words that perhaps do not seem to go together – except in Parry Sound! On Friday 2 March, at the Charles W. Stockey Centre, beginning at 8 pm The March Hare returns to Parry Sound, presenting an evening of words and music from Newfoundland.

Poet Randall Maggs will read from his poetry collection Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems, re-issued this year by Brick Books in a 10th anniversary edition.

Randall Maggs.jpg

Terry Sawchuk was a goaltender who played for a number of NHL teams in the 1950s and 1960s. His life was one of great achievement and great difficulty, a rough life by any standard. Dying at the age of only 40 years old in 1970, Sawchuk is remembered as one of the great goalies of all time.

Casey Laforet.jpg

Randall Maggs exquisite book of poems and photographs provides an intimate look at the man and the hockey player, as well as others of his era.

Joining his father-in-law on stage will be musician Casey Laforet, a founding member and songwriter of the Hamilton based band Elliott Brood. Formed in 2002, their brand of fuzzed-up roots music makes for a captivating and frenetic live performance. Their style has been called everything from ‘blackgrass’ to ‘death country,’ but those descriptions don’t capture the transcendent heights of their unique approach to roots music.

Anita Best and Sandy Morris are two of the most well known and respected musicians in Newfoundland. They have been playing together for 51 years, their first gig at a friend’s wedding. But, until now have not recorded together except as members of the band Bristol’s Hope on a recording made in 1997 for the Cabot 500 Celebrations.

Anita Best & Sandy Morris.jpg

Anita Best is one of Newfoundland’s most talented traditional singers, and has been collecting songs and stories, celebrating Newfoundland’s tradition all of her long career. Sandy Morris is a guitarist who has worked with hundreds of musicians, including one of the original incarnations of Figgy Duff, and one of few who has been able to make a living exclusively as a musician.

Anita and Sandy will perform pieces from their new CD, a collection of their own arrangements of traditional music as well as work by Ron Hynes and other Newfoundland songwriters.

Douglas Cameron.jpeg

Joining the crowd from Newfoundland is Douglas Cameron, part-time Parry Sounder, and a musician who has recorded several albums of original songs including his most recent, Riverdale.  A two time Juno nominee, Douglas has been composing and performing in Canada for over four decades.


In collaboration with David Macfarlane, Cameron co-created The Door You Came In, a two-man performance of music and text performed throughout Newfoundland and across Canada.

Stephanie Mckenzie, is not only a poet, but also an editor and publisher, and English Department Chair at Memorial University in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Toronto.

Stephanie McKenzie .jpeg

In addition to her academic and literary work, Stephanie McKenzie is also the Artistic Director of The March Hare.

The March Hare in Parry Sound will also feature Stan Dragland, Kathleen Winter, and Pamela Morgan.

This celebration of poetry and music began in Newfoundland over 30 years ago, the tradition continuing on the Stockey Centre stage here in Parry Sound, and in New York, Toronto and, of course, across Newfoundland.


Copyright © 1988 - 2013  Parry Sound Books, an independent bookstore in Parry Sound (Georgian Bay)