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, February 5, 2013

Healthy, Wealthy & Dead (1994) by Suzanne North

Healthy, Wealthy & Dead (1994) by Suzanne North - In the foothills of the Rockies just outside Calgary Phoebe Fairfax is back at The Ranch, a health spa set located in an old ranch. On her last visit she had leapt into the pool to recover the body of Janet Benedict who had drowned during the night. Phoebe returns to The Ranch to film scenes for an episode in A Day in the Lifestyle, a daytime program on Calgary television. Phoebe shoots the film for the series.

While Phoebe makes a living by working part-time for the T.V. station her real passion in life is making personal films. Where a conventional cinematic artist would be making “arty” movies to satisfy creative urges Phoebe is a Canadian who loves the land. She makes nature films. In the book she is completing a film about the iconic Canadian beaver. She has been filming members of a beaver colony located within walking distance of her home.

While Benedict’s murder is months in the past many, including the RCMP and Phil Reilly, the manager of The Ranch, believe Benedict was murdered but there is no proof she was actually murdered rather than committing suicide.

Phoebe is joined at The Ranch by the producer of the show, Ella, and the beautiful Candi, the interviewer. Candi’s striking blonde beauty leaves men distracted. Yet she is not an an empty airhead. She has a talent for skewering those men and women who underestimate her intelligence. I was glad to see Candi is not made into a stereotype.

Filming proceeds slowly at The Ranch. Everyone wants to be a director. Eventually arrangements are made to return another day.

The film crew is invited to stay for formal supper. Hungry appetites stand no chance of fulfillment at The Ranch. Meals are carefully calculated to meet the caloric minimum of the guests. The Ranch’s attitude toward food is best illustrated by its medical director, Dr. Morrison, who rejoices over the beautiful place settings and décor rather than the food.

Portions are minute to promote weight loss among the guests. When Phoebe takes a guest to savour the pleasures of cakes and scones in a café located at the ranch formerly owned by the abdicated King Edward VIII he exclaims:

            “There’s no calorie like an empty calorie.”

The Ranch is an unlikely setting for the weekly formal meals featuring sushi prepared by a master Alberta chef, Ben Sugamoto. Yet even desperately hungry guests hesitate to eat the sushi at The Ranch. Several of the guests and Phoebe are reluctant to eat raw fish when they are warned there is a risk of being infected with parasites. (I have not seen the issue raised in real life for at least a decade.)

The evening is drawing to an especially hungry end for Phoebe as she has been dragging heavy film equipment around all evening. The rather mundane evening for Phoebe is turned upside down when the body of Reilly is found dead on a path with one of Ben’s knives plunged through his heart. Complicating matters Ben has fled The Ranch for Calgary.

In the morning the irrepressible Phoebe starts trying to figure why Reilly was killed. He was certainly not alienating people by driving hard up the corporate ladder. He had been assigned to The Ranch because the job had less pressure for a man with fragile health.

The investigation proceeds to a credible ending.

The title is clever but does not really fit the plot.

Phoebe is an engaging character. Independent in spirit and speech she has a light wit that reminded me abit of Russell Quant in the series by Anthony Bidulka.

The book makes good use of the Alberta foothills, Albertan personalities and Canadian culture.

Healthy, Wealthy & Dead was the 6th book I have read in the 6th Canadian Book Challenge. (Jan. 31/13)


  1. Bill - This really does seem to have a strong sense of place and I like that part of it already. I like a main character with a little wit too, and Phoebe's perspective as a film-maker is innovative. Thanks for sharing this one with us.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. An unexpected benefit from the book was learning about how television camera people go about their work.

  3. I really love this series and have been trying to convince Suzanne to write more of them! so glad you gave it a go.

  4. Anthony: Thanks for the comment. Please let Suzanne know I would enjoy reading a new Phoebe Fairfax mystery.