The book opens in the totem carving shed on Granville Island in Vancouver long into the night where a young Indian is carving a cedar log into a totem pole:
He breathed in the rich scent of the cedar. He imagined this is what it smelled like on Haida Gwaii, a place he’d never visited, despite it being the home of his people. Only in his dreams did he walk amongst the giant cedar and Sitka spruce that covered every inch of the mountainous islands. Someday, when he had the money, he would go.
Someday will never come for he is murdered in the shed.
As I read the opening pages I realized reading fate had made the timing of the book perfect for I was on my way to Vancouver last week for the Grey Cup Game, the Canadian Football League Championship.
From past visits I could already visualize the setting of the crime. On every trip to Vancouver I go to Granville Island. It is a special place tucked underneath one of the massive bridges over False Creek.
Last Saturday morning I visited the island.
Between a building housing shops, including a store featuring indigenous arts, and the cement yard is the carving shed.
Open at the front and sides the shed contains massive portions of cedar logs for carving into totem poles. As portrayed on the photo to the left beautifully carved salmon are mounted on logs at the entrance.
As you stand outside the shed the wonderful scent of the cedar logs flows around you.
Looking inside the shed you can see the poles in various stages of completion. Another photo below shows an example. Most of the time there is no one actually carving during the day.
I stood outside the shed for a few minutes thinking of the vivid images being carved into the logs and the powerful presence created when the poles are erected. Each totem pole tells a story in the figures carved upon the pole.
After leaving the shed I walked through the Public Market which is filled with vendors selling fresh fish, meat, vegetables, fruits and flowers. I enjoyed a plate of lovely French country fare (roast chicken, small potatoes in their skins, red beets and green salad with homemade dressing) from a trio of young French men. (The cost was but $12.50.)
I found a Christmas present for Sharon, a translucent deep red with persimmon coloured flowers silk jacket, in a small boutique. The jacket was designed within the store and made upon the island. The shops at Granville are individual rather than chain stores.
Later we gathered at the Granville Island Brewing Company taproom for a tasting quartet of their beers that cost but $7.00.
Earlier I mentioned a cement yard. Part of the charm of the island is its mixture of shops, restaurants, playhouse and industry. Brightly coloured tanks are in the cement yard adjacent to the shops.
Every reader of Silver Totem of Shame will never see the carving shed without thinking of the book.
Each visitor to Vancouver should go down to Granville Island. Give yourself at least half a day. I predict you will be entranced.