About Me

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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, May 29, 2012

Kaleidoscope by Gail Bowen

25. – 657.) Kaleidoscope by Gail Bowen – The 13th Joanne Kilbourn is one of the best in the series. The opening of the book sees Joanne retiring as a political science professor at the University of Regina. It is a time of conflicted emotions. She is ready to retire but still filled with energy. Her immediate goal is to enjoy summer at the cottage just outside Regina.

Her paraplegic husband, Zack Shreeve, is still practicing law at a frantic pace. One of the firm’s clients is Leland Hunter, a real estate developer, who is engaged to the lovely Margot, a partner of Zack. Hunter has started work on a massive project in Regina to re-develop the warehouse district and the adjacent North Central neighbourhood. Both areas are across the tracks, figuratively and literally from downtown. (In real life the North Central area has become one of the most notorious neighbourhoods in Canada.) Leland’s ambitious plans have upset some of the area’s residents, especially the Indian gangs.

Joanne, a staunch believer in “left of centre” politics, has to work to hold her tongue as she and Zack meet for supper with Leland and Margot at the loft condos their hosts own in the warehouse district. It is intriguing to see how Joanne, still committed to progressive politics, is now living a life amidst the rich and the powerful free from the stress of financial limitations.

While Leland is thinking about community relations Joanne and Zack are shocked when they receive a call at the cottage that a bomb has exploded in the garage of their Regina home destroying the garage and severely damaging the house. Members of the Red Rage gang are suspected of the bombing.

Joanne, Zack and Taylor, Joanne’s adopted 14 year old daughter, move into Leland’s condo while he moves in with Margot.

It is a frightening and confusing time for Joanne as she tries to figure what has happened to her orderly life but she has little time for reflection as life events crowd her.

The book features two wonderful weddings.

Joanne’s longtime friends, Barry and Ed, marry in a lovely urban wedding. In a wonderful twist Joanne is their best man. Following tradition in a new era the grooms select her wedding dress, a far more fabulous dress than she would have chosen.

At their vows they recite to each other “The Bargain” by Sir Philip Sidney from the 16th Century:

            My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
            By just exchange one for another given;
            I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
            There never was a better bargain driven.
            My true love hath my heart, and I have his.
            His heart in me keeps him and me in one,
            My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides;
            He loves my heart for once it was his own,
            I cherish his because in me it bides;
            My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

In a wedding that tugged at my heart Margot weds Leland in her hometown of Wadena (just 140 km down the highway from me). It is a classic rural Saskatchewan wedding of which I have attended dozens in my life. It is a community event filled with the participation of friends and family. It reminded me of the rural Saskatchewan wedding Nelson Brunanski portrayed equally well in Burnt Out.

We are in a new age of professional women. Prior to the wedding Joanne attends a power women supper of Margot’s friends that, in decades past, would only have featured men.

Back in Regina, Leland is working to involve the neighbourhood in his project. There is a terrific phrase in the book. We have all become accustomed to the phrase “collateral damage” as a euphemism for the unintended rather than intended injuries, death and damage from a bomb. In Kaleidoscope I was introduced to “collateral good” being an unexpected good event resulting from a bad situation.

Joanne continues to enjoy, though with a mother’s hesitancy, Taylor maturing, reaching out for relationships with boys and getting ready to start high school.

At work Zack is in the midst of a very demanding murder trial.

With great skill Gail brings together the threads of Joanne’s family, marriage, friends and mystery. I enjoyed the mystery but I loved the continuing development of Joanne’s life. Gail has never let Joanne’s life be static. I look forward to each book’s joys and heartaches. (May 2/12)


  1. Just goes to show how tastes differ. I find the story as you've outlined it one that would interest me very little indeed -- it sounds more like chick lit than crime fiction.

  2. Anonymous: Thanks for the comment. I will disagree with the description of chick lit. I consider Gail has shown how a crime fiction series can be turned into a saga. I hope you will read her and reach an opinion after reading one or more books in the series.

  3. Bill - Thanks for this terrific review. I agree with you 100% that Bowen develops Joanne Kilbourn's life in interesting ways. Her life and the people in it are dynamic, but the things that happen to them are also believable. That is, Bowen doesn't make use of the melodramatic to move the plot along I think. And those two weddings sound terrific. That poem, too, is lovely - I'm glad you shared it.

  4. I love a good mystery but I love the character development in the novels better. I'm glad this novel has it.

  5. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I like your phrase that what happens in Joanne's family is "believable". Drama does not need to be melodramatic.

  6. Clarissa: Thanks for the comment. It has been fun to see ongoing characters change and characters added and subtracted during the series.

  7. Well, I started reading with Kaleidoscope and don't see that it's "chick lit," whatever that is. Does it mean it's about women?

    Joanne Kilburn isn't a usual character. There is more substance to her.

    I barely started it, but hope that events in the book don't rob her of her progressivism. I'm so tired of books where main characters move to the right.

    There's enough of that going on in the political scene in the States. I don't need it in my crime fiction, my escape, distraction and entertainment.

  8. kathy d.: I think the comment of Anonymous about chick lit was unworthy.

    I think you are going to find Joanne's progressivism interesting right through the book.

  9. Well, Bill, I am 1/3 of the way through this book and enjoying it thoroughly, including the scrumptious dialogue and the wit.

    This is like eating chocolate ice cream, just smooth and utterly enjoyable.

    I have a feeling I'll be meeting with Joanne and Zach frequently this summer, if the library cooperates.

    Do you recommend any particular books as I can't get through another 12, what with my humongous TBR pile and even larger list.

    I can see why you've been a loyal fan.

  10. kathy d.: Thanks for the comment. You have a lovely description of your feelings while reading a good book.

    I have been thinking for a day about recommendations within the series. I am struggling as the books form Joanne's life in 13 parts and I think work best going through chronologically as much as a reader can in the series. Thus I suggest you go back as far as the library allows and read them as you can considering all the books you want to read.