This installment of “Rapid Reviews” includes five titles which run the gamut from Maine to Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and then Canada in general. One is pure fiction, another a combination of essays/short fiction, one is of Nova Scotia beaches, another about the late Newfoundland musician Ron Hynes, and lastly a reference book on the history of policing in Canada.
Came Home to a Killing by Mahrie G. Reid
Leaving her life on a western cattle ranch to travel to the east coast of Canada, Kelsey Maxwell is trying to track down her biological father. She has just found out that she was adopted by the people she always thought were her real family, but that information has left her with many questions. In Halifax, she unknowingly gets caught up in an undercover surveillance operation that her father is involved in, and quickly becomes a target of the “bad guys”. She is soon in need of protection and it comes in the form of Sam Logan, one of the security consultants working undercover in a Halifax bar where her father also works. The action and suspense come to a climax in the fictional town of Caleb Cove, not far from Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. An excellent read for the young adult and older, Came Home to a Killing is free of profanity as well as gratuitous sex and violence. What you have then is a good, action-filled, suspense story that you will devour, leaving you with the desire to read Ms. Reid’s other works in this series, Came Home Dead and her latest, Came Home Too Late.
Old Maine Woman by Glenna Johnson Smith
The author, who is still alive at this writing and is 96 this year, certainly qualifies for the title “old”. In her essay entitled “Defense of “Old Woman”, she states:
I like the sound of the words “old woman.” They’re strong words – earthy, honest. I’m grateful I’ve survived long enough to be able to label myself by them.
This collection of her essays and short fiction is fun and insightful to read. Her humour is endearing and in several stories, borders on the type of humour writing that Stephen Leacock became famous for. Compare “My Financial Career” from Literary Lapses with Ms. Smith’s “I Live Alone- I Think”. Many of her essays have to do with her reflections on everyday life, then and now, in her beloved Maine. This title was published in 2010 by Islandport Press, and there is another collection called Return of Old Maine Woman which was released in 2014.
Beaches of Nova Scotia by Allan Billard, Photographs by Donna Barnett
Do you love beaches? Nova Scotia? Great photography? Then this large softcover coffee-table book published by Formac in 2015 will appeal to you. Subtitled “Discovering the secrets of the province’s most beautiful beaches”, the author, accompanied by photographer Donna Barnett sets out to do just that: discover the secrets of each beach and photograph them at heir best and most natural. Since 1989, all beaches in NS are protected under the Beaches Act, resulting in many beaches and their dunes (such as the 27 highlighted in this book) being maintained in a most natural state for all to enjoy and benefit from. The introduction states:
What follows is an exposé of twenty-seven well-known Nova Scotia beaches: their most attractive features and the characteristics that make them different from any other beaches. That is the point; each beach is different. Walking on Martinique Beach on the Eastern Shore is very different from walking on Blomidon Beach on the Bay of Fundy.
There is a helpful map of Nova Scotia with each beach numbered from the Eastern Shore around the mainland to Cape Breton. There are 200+ photographs not only of the beaches but also their associated flora and fauna. This book is not for the casual tourist or visitor to “Canada’s Ocean Playground”; Bill Spurr of The Chronicle Herald said of Beaches Of Nova Scotia: “If your interests are in the bird habitat, biology, oceanography, photography and geology vein, this book is right up your alley.”
One Man Grand Band, The Lyrical Life of Ron Hynes by Harvey Sawler
East coast music legend Ron Hynes passed away in November of 2015 from his battle with cancer. Best known for songs such as “Sonny’s Dream” and “The St. John’s Waltz”, he was a songwriter, musician and performer who was an original member of the Wonderful Grand Band (do a YouTube search to see them perform) that was a huge hit on the CBC in Newfoundland back in the late 70’s. This large, 184 page softcover book produced by Newfoundland’s Breakwater Books, is richly illustrated with many photographs (all are black & white, in keeping with the book’s respectful, sombre style) is a wonderful tribute to a man who brought meaningful lyrics with great melodies to so many people. With quotes from his friends and former band mates, One Man Grand Band is a must have for any Ron Hynes fan.
The Vigilant Eye, Policing Canada from 1867 to 9/11 by Greg Marquis
Released this year by Fernwood Publishing (“Critical Books for Critical Thinkers”), The Vigilant Eye is an in-depth reference work for anyone interested in how policing evolved in Canada and it’s perception and role in the public’s eye today. The author states the purpose of this book:
This study is concerned with the evolution of Canada’s public police at the municipal, regional, provincial and federal levels. The project was undertaken because, two centuries after the first stirrings of police reform and 140 years after the organization of the NWMP (Northwest Mounted Police), we lack a basic overview of the development of Canadian law enforcement.
Broad and sweeping in its scope, The Vigilant Eye covers topics such as:
- policing in the age of social reform
- crime fighting vs. actual policing
- from the early Cold War to the new left
- counter terrorism, counter subversion
- the challenges of policing a multicultural population
While perhaps not intended for the general history reader but directed primarily at the researcher, The Vigilant Eye is nonetheless engaging in its historical and critical social examination of one of Canada’s most important institutions.
James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.