After six months it is time to leave Vancouver, leave Canada, and head east to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York. One of my favourite places in the city, from the first week I moved here, is Stanley Park. Larger than New York’s Central Park it is a world of its own, far away from hectic downtown but with a beautiful view of the skyline.
It was therefore fitting for my last book in Canada to be Stanley Park, by Timothy Taylor.
The story is made for Vancouverites; it involves two of the city’s best attractions – Stanley Park and food.
Vancouver is a heaven for foodies and fittingly, the main character Jeremy is a chef. He owns a restaurant in Crosstown, just south of busy and touristy Gastown, the Monkey’s Paw. His restaurant serves locally sourced food and ingredients and brings up the conflict between the local and independent shops and the fictive international chain Inferno, owned my Dante Beale. Even though Beale is his nemesis, Jeremy has to rely on him to save him from bankruptcy which eventually leads to a re-branding of the restaurant.
The real focus however is on Stanley Park, which Jeremy is lead into through his father.
They arranged to meet at Lost Lagoon. It was an in-between place, the city on one side, Stanley Park on the other.
A Professor, an anthropologist, studies homelessness in the park, living himself in the depths of Stanley Park. He befriends and speaks to the homeless on a journey to learn about a real-life unsolved mystery of the park: In 1953, the skeletons of two children were found in the park. The police found an axe, the murder weapon, but the murderer was never found. For a long time they were thought to be a brother and a sister, but it was later discovered that they were bodies of two brothers.
The more Jeremy gets involved in his father work and helps him in his research, the more he gets drawn into the story and into the park.
He went for an early evening walk in Stanley Park. It felt like coming home by now. Jeremy walked the trails with certainty, knowing exactly where he was relative to his destination. For so long his father’s camp had been impossible to find, and Jeremy found his way in the dark instinctively, feeling between trees whose textures had become individual to him. Western red cedar, western hemlock, Douglas fir, and on the ground too, spiny wood fern and sword fern and foam flower.
Towards the end, the focus is back on Jeremy’s kitchen and the real rush backstage of Vancouver restaurants, from Saltspring Island chèvre to Chilliwack rock doves. But he always comes back to the park: its sights, the characters and people he meets through his father and he explores areas that, as tourists or even Vancouverites don’t get to – the depths of the park, far into the forest and woods that are away from the famous sights of Totem Poles, statues and the sea wall path.
Stanley Park by Timothy Taylor