“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:


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


“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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