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.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin

55. - 687.) The Rule Book by Rob Kitchin – The fiction debut of the Irish author grabs the reader in the opening sentence:

"His eyes fixed on the sword and started to travel its length, down from the black handle, over the plain hilt and along the two-inch wide shaft to where it penetrated the young woman’s mouth."

Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy is assigned to lead the investigation. The case swiftly becomes a nightmare as the killer provides excerpts from “The Rule Book” setting out to commit perfect murders and leaving business cards with the image of a large black bird. Not surprisingly the killer is dubbed the Raven.

Examples of the Rules are:

        1a. Choose a victim at random.

1b. Have no prior interaction with the victim before the kill. They should simply be chosen because they were in the right place at the right time.

1c. Take no account of age, sex, looks or any other characteristic in selection.

        Master rule: Patterns provide psychological purchase. Avoid 

The killer makes clear his intention to murder a person a day for the next 6 days in Dublin. Having left virtually no forensic evidence, for the area of the killing has been carefully cleaned, the police face a daunting investigation.

When another murder takes place the next day with equal precision and skill the police are left desperately scrambling to find the murderer.

Within the department McEvoy’s superior, Tony Bishop, is blustering about worried about the image of the police, especially himself, as they struggle to catch the killer amidst a rapidly growing media frenzy.

Can there be a perfect serial killer? The Raven is wickedly clever and knows how smart he is with “The Rule Book”.

McEvoy is coping with the recent death of his wife, Maggie, from cancer. Their 12 year old daughter, Gemma, is providing greater support to her father than he can muster for her.

Personally he is valiantly attempting to quit smoking. McEvoy is finding it difficult to be satisfied with his fake cigarette under the pressure of an investigation drawing media from around the world.

The book is not for the squeamish. While Kitchin does not dwell on the gore he equally does not shy away from describing torture and murder. I found the violence graphic while not dominating the plot.

I did grow weary of the constant descriptions of how tired McEvoy is during the investigation. I am sure all senior police officers are worn out during a major investigation as they try to balance time spent on the investigation with their home life.

I would have appreciated some more information about the officers working with McEvoy. We learn little about them.
Having been in Dublin in September it was interesting to be able to see some of the locales in my mind and make myself an imaginary observer of unfolding scenes.

I was most impressed by the ending. The conclusion will never find its way to a Hollywood movie. I did not see it coming.

It is a good book. I wish it were not so hard to buy in Dublin bookshops. I finally found a used copy. (Dec. 13/12)


  1. Bill, this sounds like a chilling murder mystery and I especially like both the tagline and the opening that makes you want to read this book. One of the surprise elements of crime-fiction is the ending: I like it more when I don’t see it coming, and usually I don’t. I am also curious how police and private detectives balance their personal and professional lives during a particularly gruelling investigation. Thank you for a fine review of Rob Kitchin’s novel, Bill.

  2. Who publishes the book, and is it hardcover or softcover?

  3. Bill - Thanks for the thoughtful review. I agree with you that Kitchin really does a good job of evoking the setting. And those notes really are eerie aren't they? Thanks also for mentioning the violence level. This is definitely not for readers who don't care for gore. That said though, I think you're right in saying that that aspect of it doesn't overpower the story.

  4. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I usually cannot predict the ending. In particular, this book caught me by surprise.

  5. Dr. Evangelicus: The paperback copy I have was published in England by Pen Press.

  6. Margot: Thanks for your comment. The quotes from The Rule Book were chilling and frightening.

  7. Bill, thanks for the review and glad it was mostly a good read. I wrote a short piece for Patti Abbott's blog that discusses a couple of criticisms you mention (http://pattinase.blogspot.ie/2011/08/how-i-came-to-write-this-book-rob.html). It would be nice to be able to go back and do a quick redrafting of some aspects of the story. A lot of people really dislike the ending. It was a compromise; my original ending I think would have annoyed even more people! Personally, I wish I had stuck to my guns for the original ending but at least the compromise worked for you.

  8. Rob: Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Your remarks on the ending are intriguing. I enjoyed reading your post on Patti Abbott's blog. I wish it were possible to have a discussion about the ending but I would never want to spoil the book for new readers. Maybe there will come a time or an event at which you could tell me of the original you wrote for The Rule Book.