Farewell, Prime Crime

After twenty-four years in business, my hometown mystery bookshop, Prime Crime, is shutting its doors. Its last day of business, according to the store’s website, is March 14. “A sincere thank you to our many customers and supporters over the years,” said owner Linda Wiken in a statement. “It’s been a true pleasure to talk mysteries with you and to help you keep on top of the latest from our wonderful Canadian authors, as well as from around the world.”

The Ottawa Citizen followed up with a longer story, revealing that the store has been on the block for a year, with no takers. Mary Jane Maffini, who bought the store with Wiken in 1995 (but left several years later to focus on her own writing career) emphasized the store serving as a meeting place for crime writers and readers. “There are other bookstores in town that also do a very good job on

mysteries, but this is a special place for us, a special place in our

hearts,” she said. “It’s been the heart of the mystery-writing

community for a long time.”

Now, I must be frank: it’s people like me who contributed to the end of Prime Crime, by which I mean, I hardly ever shopped there when I was living in Ottawa. I remember making a rare trip in the late 90s and asking after a book that wasn’t in stock and I knew was available at the chain store near my parents’ house. I was told it wouldn’t be available for another two months because it had only just been ordered. Which struck me as weird, and voila, the Pinecrest branch of Chapters got my business.

But I also know things have changed somewhat in the intervening years, as Ottawa’s crime fiction community grew more established (in large part thanks to the critical and commercial success, at least locally, of Barbara Fradkin, Mary Jane Maffini, Alex Brett, and others.) And even though the commercial redevelopment of nearby Lansdowne Park drags on and will change the Glebe, losing Prime Crime does strike another needless blow to local business and neighborhood community.

So between this and the end of Indiana’s The Mystery Company, all that can be said is: don’t be like me. Shop at your local mystery indie. Because when they disappear, there is no replacing them.