About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Deadly Appearances by Gail Bowen

40. - 600.) Deadly Appearances by Gail Bowen – For the 600th book I have read since January 1, 2000 I chose a Saskatchewan mystery, the first Joanne Kilbourn book published 21 years ago.

The book commences with a flourish. Gail’s first victim, Andy Boychuk, is a thinly disguised former Ukrainian Saskatchewan Premier. At a political picnic on a hot Saskatchewan summer day Andy is about to speak when he collapses on the platform. He has been poisoned by potassium cyanide.

(Life is filled with coincidences. Out of the 600 books read I think two have involved killings by potassium cyanide with both read within a month. Death at La Fenice was my 596th book. Adding to the coincidence it was written a few years apart about 20 years ago.)

Herself a recent grieving widow, Joanne does her best to help Andy’s widow, Eve, cope with her husband’s death. It is not easy dealing with the solitary Eve who has resolutely stayed deep in the background during her husband’s lengthy political career.

Drawing on her experiences in Saskatchewan politics on behalf of the New Democratic Party Gail’s story features the politicians and families of our social democratic party in the mystery. (The victim is the only real politician I recognized in the book.) Saskatchewan has long had a prominent left of center party sometimes veering to socialism while at other times near the middle of the political spectrum.

Bowen cleverly gives Joanne the opportunity to delve into Boychuk’s past life by having Joanne decide to write a biography of the deceased party leader. Who can resist questions from a friendly biographer?

As she searches into his life she uncovers secrets about Boychuk. All of us have secrets. Most of us are glad no one will probe deeply into our lives. Her image of her friend is changed.

Within her own family Joanne is also coping with change. Her daughter, Mieka, has finished high school and is leaving home to attend university. While glad her sons, Peter and Angus, remain at home it is hard for Joanne to see her oldest start a new life. Joanne struggles with Mieka choosing to spend Thanksgiving with her boyfriend’s family rather than going with Joanne to visit family friends.

Joanne is an unusual sleuth in that she maintains a normal family life with its pains and pleasures while solving a mystery. It is almost unique in that Joanne is not pursuing the killer. She is seeking information for her biography rather than evidence to find the murderer.

The pace and tension rise steadily through the book. As the end approaches I found myself racing through the pages.

I do not often re-read books. Going back to read again the first Joanne Kilbourn mystery was to fall in love again with a series. After a dozen books it was wonderful to discover the series again. Gail creates interesting complex characters. It was a wonderful book to mark 600 books. Great!

The book will also count as my second book in the 5th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John Mutford at the Book Mine Set blog. I have now reached the Grand Lake level (2 of 13) (July 25/11)


  1. Bill - Thanks, as ever, for this review. What I like about the sound of this book (I confess I haven't read it yet myself) is that it seems to have a distinctly Saskatchewan flavour. I always like it as a reader when I'm unmistakeably placed in a book's setting and it sounds as though this one does that. The plot sounds absorbing, too.

    ...and you know, as I think about plotting my next book, I have this irresistible urge to have the victim die of potassium cyanide poisoning ;-).

  2. Margot: Thank you for the interesting comment. I am confident you will enjoy the book. As for poison it was in the water in Saskatchewan and in the coffee in Venice. Your characters will have to careful what they drink.

  3. I still remember this novel fondly, having been a Moose Jaw (and former Regina) resident when it was first published. Some images get really deep into one's brain.

  4. Jayne: Thanks for the comment. My memories of the book also go back in time. It was the first Saskatchewan mystery I read.