Summer reading

Spine-chilling summer thrillers

By Sylvie Chartrand

Are you interested in reading a thriller this summer? Check out the Ottawa Public Library for the following books and others in the same genre. You may also find them in different formats such as books-on-CD or e-books.

Thrillers are often mysteries that keep you on the edge of your seat. There are all kinds: the legal thriller, spy thriller, action-adventure, medical, police, romantic, historical and so on. But what they all have in common are the emotions they evoke – apprehension, excitement, anticipation of the action, and enjoyment of a twisting storyline that happens very quickly and where the villain usually gets caught.

original_The_Girl_on_the_TrainThe Girl on the Train
(Doubleday Canada, 2014) by Paula Hawkins (British author)

I really enjoyed this book. The author has you guessing right up until the end. Rachel Watson takes a commuter train every day, pretending to go to work so her roommate doesn’t find out she lost her job after being caught drinking on the job. She sees and does things that have you wondering if they are real or not. Very entertaining.

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for 15 years before her change of career. The Girl On The Train is her first novel. The film by the same name will be released on October 7, 2016. The film stars Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett.

Harlan CobenThe Stranger
(Dutton, 2015) by Harlan Coben (American author)

A stranger comes out of nowhere and approaches you, maybe as you’re leaving a restaurant or at a bar, and tells you a secret about a loved one that turns your world upside down, and then just disappears. This is the case for Adam Price who finds out that his wife Corinne had been keeping a secret from him for years. But Adam believes in his marriage and fights to save it. He soon realizes that there’s something far uglier going on and won’t quit until he gets to the bottom of it, even though it puts him in danger.

Harlan Coben’s last nine novels all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and on lists around the world. His books are published in 43 languages and have been number-one bestsellers in over a dozen countries.

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects
(Shaye Areheart Books, 2006) by Gillian Flynn (American author)

Gillian Flynn is also a great American author, famous for Gone Girl (Crown Publishers, 2012), which was made into a movie in 2014. Her first book, Sharp Objects, is about Camille Preaker, a reporter with a troubled past. After a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital, the newspaper she works for sends her back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Flynn’s other novel, Dark Places (Shaye Areheart Books, 2009), was also made into a movie in 2015.


The Drowning
(HarperCollins, 2012) by Camilla Läckberg (Swedish author)

Librarian Christian Thydell wrote his first novel, and at the book launch he received an anonymous threat. His friend Magnus Kjellner had vanished three months earlier and the police were unable to solve his disappearance. Erica Falck, who helped Christian write his book, became intrigued and started her own investigation. She soon found out that two of Magnus’ childhood friends were also receiving threatening letters. The killer’s torturous childhood makes this book a great psychological thriller.

Camilla Läckberg is a Swedish crime writer whose work has been translated into at least 25 languages. Some of her other books are The Lost Boy (HarperCollins, 2013), Buried Angels (HarperCollins, 2014) and The Stone Cutter (HarperCollins, 2010).

Enjoy your summer reads!

Sylvie Chartrand is a public service assistant in the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library.

A must read for Ottawa history buffs

Reviewed by Ian McKercher

David Gordon’s recently published Town and Crown: An Illustrated History of Canada’s Capital is a must read for aficionados of local history.

Gordon delivers an exceptionally fine assessment of Ottawa’s development, portraying the national government and the municipal citizenry as often-warring custodial parents. He weighs two hundred years of history with a dispassionate even-handedness.

His depiction of conflicting forces, dissensions and fractious personalities leaves the reader amazed that Ottawa has somehow managed to grow into such a pleasant place to live in spite of everything.

While scholarly in his approach, Gordon makes no assumptions about a layman’s familiarity with historical events or personalities. His record of the physical transformation of Ottawa is enhanced with travellers’ sketches, historic maps, plans and archival photographs.

Blame it on Colonel By
The foundation of town–crown acrimony is traced to Colonel By’s canal building endeavours that brought the first population influx to the area. By had surveyors lay out streets, but lacked funding to support civic infrastructure such as road maintenance, water supply or law enforcement. Gordon observes, “The growing settlement…suffered the worst aspects of both construction camp impermanence and military site control. The combination was dysfunctional for a frontier town, and completely inappropriate for planning a capital city.”

The lesser evil award
From this inauspicious beginning, Gordon draws us forward to the hotly contested choice of Ottawa for the capital of Canada in 1857 and its less-than-ringing endorsement by Governor General Sir Edmund Head to Queen Victoria. “The whole matter is a choice of evils, and the least evil will be found in placing the seat of government at Ottawa.”

Ottawa’s civic leaders turned out to impress the delegates of the Confederation conferences who arrived by steamer from Montreal in late October 1864, with a torchlight parade to the Russell Hotel and generous liquid refreshments. The Toronto Globe’s correspondent noted that, “a hard frost during the night had abolished the mud, and in a few hours did more good than all City Council could have accomplished in twelve months…” It’s not often that the Ottawa weather is viewed in such an advantageous light, as firm footing drew attention away from the lack of urban amenities such as gaslights, paved streets, piped water and sewers.

Although Ottawa prevailed in the national capital lottery, Gordon records that, “almost everything that the delegates admired that glorious autumn was destroyed in the years ahead, through greed, indifference or a simple lack of planning. The forests were clear-cut, the Chaudière islands covered with factories, and the Ottawa River’s water rendered poisonous by human and industrial waste.”

Town–crown disputes were further exacerbated because the federal government was not the economic engine in the city that the lumber trade was. Parliament sat for only a third of the year. Politicians and civil servants squatted temporarily in small hotels and boarding houses and bolted from Ottawa the second the House rose. Even Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald did not deem a permanent address in Ottawa necessary until 1883 when he purchased Earnscliffe.

Town and Crown An Illustrated History of Canada’s Capital
Town and Crown: An Illustrated History of Canada’s Capital

Federal initiative in planning Canada’s capital finally germinated when Sir Wilfrid Laurier created the Ottawa Improvement Commission (forerunner of the National Capital Commission) in 1899. Still, town–crown conflicts increased when Ottawa created its own Town Planning Commission in 1921. The tax-exempt status of federal government buildings and the squabble over grants-in-lieu provided ongoing friction.

Fortunately, in 1936, French urban planner Jacques Gréber opened Mackenzie King’s eyes to the potential of a capital city. This prompted King to declare in 1944 that Canada’s commemoration of the Second World War would be the redevelopment of the national capital as a memorial to the sacrifice of all servicemen and women.

External influences

The text of Town and Crown is enriched with the inclusion of urban planning concepts initiated elsewhere – the City Beautiful movement, the Parks movement, and the City Scientific movement – that eventually influenced Ottawa. Gordon offers Washington, Melbourne, New Delhi and Brazilia as comparisons to show that capital city selection and development in other federal nations were also the subjects of controversy, competitiveness and compromise.

Town and Crown is not a wail of despair. Gordon reminds us that building a capital city that is worthy of Canada is a long-term endeavour requiring a sustained effort for perhaps a century – a work in progress with magnificent prospects, an excellent lesson from an excellent book.

Ian McKercher is a frequent contributor to the Glebe Report. His second novel, The Incrementalist, will be out in October.

Tales from Ottawa’s haunted buildings

Reviewed by Gillian Campbell

Creepy Capital
Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National 
Capital Region by Mark Leslie. Toronto: Dundurn, 2016.

As anyone who has participated in one of Ottawa’s fun and spooky Haunted Walk tours knows, many of the gracious old buildings in our city have a ghost or two in their past. In his latest collection of ghost stories, Creepy Capital: Ghost Stories of Ottawa and the National Capital Region, author Mark Leslie shines his flashlight on the many creepy tales hidden away in some of the oldest and most elegant buildings in Ottawa.

For my daughter’s 12th birthday, on the night of Friday, November 13, my husband and I decided to take her birthday party on the Haunted Walk’s Ghosts and the Gallows tour. Our excellent tour guide took us on a walking tour of downtown Ottawa, stopping outside the Chateau Laurier, the Bytown Museum, and finally the old Carleton County jail. At each stop, our guide told us many tales of hauntings and other creepy stories that are said to have happened inside the building. The old Carleton County jail, which may be one of the most haunted buildings in Canada, was the most creepy by far. This particular tour takes you inside the old jail at night; our guide walked us through the jail and told us about the many stories of hauntings, both recent and from years past. We saw the staircase where off-the-record hangings were said to have taken place, and heard about the tourist who nearly fell down this same stairway, claiming that she could feel unseen hands pushing her over the railing.

The tour left me wanting to know more about the history of these old buildings, in particular their unofficial stories. When the chance to review Leslie’s book for the Glebe Report came my way, I was excited to read it. All the more so when I realized that he too is a big fan of Ottawa’s Haunted Walk tours. In fact, his inspiration for writing about haunted buildings came from going on one of their walks.

Mark Leslie went to university in Ottawa and knows the city well. He has also written quite a few ghost story books about other cities, e.g. Haunted Hamilton and Spooky Sudbury, and clearly loves stories of the supernatural.

It is evident that he has researched his stories well. In particular, I found reading the chapters about the old Carleton County jail (now a youth hostel) really interesting – the ghost stories were scary, but even scarier in my mind is that this jail was still in use in the not-so-distant-past and some of the stories are, sadly, not ghost stories, but of people imprisoned there. One of the more recent tales of creepy happenings at the jail happened in 2003 and involved two boys who were jumping on the site where Patrick Whelan (hanged, rightly or wrongly, for the murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee) may be buried, and they each got nosebleeds then and there.

While some of the stories Leslie tells are classic Ottawa ghost stories, he also tells other more obscure stories from the Ottawa region. One chapter is dedicated to the Carp UFO case; there was an alleged UFO crash near the Diefenbunker in 1989. Leslie does a good job of relating the story without coming across as overly credulous.

I liked how Leslie has put together a varied and interesting collection of ghost stories from Ottawa and its regions. He includes a mixture of stories of recent hauntings and those that happened years ago. Many of his stories are told using clips from old Ottawa Citizen articles. I especially liked the story of the Van Cortlandt house, a stately stone home that used to be on the south side of Wellington Street near Bay Street. The house was vacant for many years and many people were sure it was haunted. Stories were told about mysterious lights flickering in the attic at night. Finally, late one night, a police officer noticed lights in the attic of the house and persuaded one of his colleagues to help him investigate. The house was unlocked. Upstairs in the attic they found four homeless people smoking cigarettes – the mysterious lights!

Leslie has a good-natured writing style and you certainly get a good sense of his personality. At times the book seems a little casual and if you are an eagle-eyed proofreader, you’ll need to take off your proofreading hat before you read it. I stopped counting at 10 typos. However, the stories in the book are vivid and well balanced. It has some great creepy stories about local buildings and it’s a fun read.

Is there truth to any of these stories? I don’t know. But whether or not you believe in ghosts and haunted buildings, Creepy Capital provides a unique insight into Ottawa’s history.

Gillian Campbell is a writer and editor who grew up in the Glebe, and proofreads for the Glebe Report.

Digging up stories

by Ildiko Sumegi

Digging in the sand and dirt is a favourite summer pastime. There is always the hope that something might be found. And people have found amazing things lying forgotten in the earth; they have found treasures, trinkets, bones and even cities.

Here are a few children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction, on the subject of archaeology.

Sumegi, Ildiko Aug 2016 Digging up stories HowTheSphinxHow the Sphinx Got to the Museum (Blue Apple Books, 2010) by Jessie Hartland
Non-fiction for Grades K – 2

This is the story of how a stone sphinx belonging to Pharoah Hatshepsut made its way to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Conceived and sculpted over 3,000 years ago, the sphinx was found in pieces by an archaeologist in the 1920s. From there, Jessie Hartland takes her readers on an eye-opening journey following the sphinx as it passes through many careful hands to be reconstructed and made ready as a display at the museum. Lively and colourful illustrations are filled with interesting details. This is a book for children who like to ask questions; it is a book about how and where and who.

Sumegi, Ildiko Aug 2016 Digging up stories TheHeroSchliemannThe Hero Schliemann: The Dreamer who Dug for Troy (Candlewick Press, 2006) by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Robert Byrd
Non-fiction for Grades 4 – 6

According to author Laura Amy Schlitz, Heinrich Schliemann was a liar and a thief, but he was also a very interesting man who devoted himself to the discovery of the ancient city of Troy. Schliemann was a businessman and a linguist who, inspired by the tales of Homer, spun his own story, a story about himself. The story that Schliemann crafted features himself as the hero, and is complete with youthful foreshadowing, climactic discovery, and a destiny that begs to be fulfilled.

Not one for the slow and methodical process of the trained archaeologist, Schliemann’s enthusiastic yet ham-fisted efforts at archaeology were both a triumph and a disaster. Fans of the Illiad will enjoy this remarkable biography by Newbery Award-winning author Laura Amy Schlitz.

Sumegi, Ildiko Aug 2016 Digging up stories ThumbAndTheBadGuysThumb and the Bad Guys (Groundwood Books, 2009) by Ken Roberts and illustrated by Leanne Franson
Fiction for Grades 3 – 5

Thumb and his friend Susan live in the quiet fishing village of New Auckland, British Columbia, population 143. The problem with life in New Auckland is that it is, according to Thumb, quite boring. Thumb believes this is due to the lack of bad guys because, as we all know, bad guys can make things very interesting. Upon further reflection, Thumb and Susan decide that their village could very well be harbouring some nefarious characters and they set out on a stake out one night in the hope of coming upon someone of interest.

Soon after their stake out, a new teacher arrives. She asks her class about an iron ball that sits in front of the mayor’s house. It doesn’t look like much, but it is linked to the history of the place. A little bit of research leads the children to a site where they decide to dig in search of more evidence of the past. Between Thumb and Susan’s periodic nocturnal stake outs and their historical detective work at school, New Auckland appears to be more exciting than they had initially assumed.

This is a light hearted and funny read; a story about history, community and place.

Sumegi, Ildiko Aug 2016 Digging up stories ReadingTheBonesReading the Bones (Dundurn Press, 2008) by Gina McMurchy Barber
Fiction for Grades 5 – 7

After 12-year-old Peggy Henderson’s father passes away, she is left to live with her aunt and uncle in Crescent Beach, British Columbia while her mother searches for work in Toronto. Peggy is less than pleased with the situation. Events take a turn, however, when she finds a human skull in the back garden while digging a pond with her uncle. An archaeologist is called in to excavate what looks to be an ancient Coast Salish burial site.

Peggy helps with the excavation over the course of the summer and comes to know the old man in the back garden by means of reading the bones. While her own life thus far has been difficult, Peggy finds that the ancient Salish man had his own troubles and his own difficult childhood.

Recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History (2004), author Gina McMurchy Barber brings the past to life in this touching tale. This is a story about life and death, and about understanding the past so that we may understand ourselves.

Ildiko Sumegi is a Glebe resident, mother of two boys, and owner of a well-used library card.

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