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, November 3, 2013

Furies by D.L. Johnstone

Furies by D.L. Johnstone – In bustling Alexandria, over 2,000 years ago, Decimus Tarquitius Aculeo, a proud Roman merchant, is reduced to poverty by the sinking of two fleets of ships carrying grain for him. He had recklessly borrowed, at ruinous interest raters, from moneylenders. When the ships sank they ruthlessly descended on Aculeo seizing every asset.

Aculeo’s beautiful wife, Titiana, judges him a fool and returns to Rome with their son, Atellus. Her wealthy family soon finds a new husband for her.

Aculeo is leading an aimless existence in a small apartment with his slave. Xanthias, and gradually drinking his way through the meagre amounts he can raise from the sale of Titiana’s jewellery.

Former friends who equally lost their fortunes blame Aculeo for persuading them to invest with him though it is obvious he has lost as much as anyone.

Alexandria is a city of extremes. There are numerous fine buildings and prosperous districts. At the same time a much greater part of the city is composed of slum level housing and acute poverty. In the book there is no middle class. A resident is either a member of the rich elite or desperately poor. Aculeo has moved the heights to the depths.

The strength of the book is in its descriptions of Alexandria and its history. I learned a great deal about the city.

The book was a good example of the challenge of names in ancient crime fiction. There are so many unfamiliar names for such matters as people, government and religion (objects, buildings and principles).

For many of the characters it was easy to tell if they were good or bad by their appearance.

It was hard to maintain interest in the story when the main characters are extremely poor and living bleak dark lives. I believe I can enjoy stories where the characters are poor but prefer not everything be grim about them.

Aculeo is muddled at times, no doubt from the large quantities of cheap wine he consumes, which left the plot for periods unclear to me.

Aculeo is roused from his listless life by reports that Iovinus, an associate of his deceased business partner, has not drowned with the sunken fleet but is in Alexandria. As he searches for Iovinus there are murders of women with which Aculeo becomes involved. I did not find the combination of mysteries worked well together. I think it would have been better to have concentrated on either the financial mystery of the missing ships or the cruel murders of young women.

I did find Sekhet, an aged healer and funeral attendant, a fascinating character. She had better potential to be the sleuth with her clever mind and unusual combination of skills.

I admired the ending. It was not predictable and suspenseful.

A reader interested in mysteries set in ancient times will find the book interesting. I thank the author for sending me a copy of the book (Nov. 1/13)


  1. Bill, I'm glad you enjoyed this and it's an interesting review. I can't say that I have read anything from this period myself, though I ought to try at least one at some point.

  2. Bill - This does sounds like an interesting novel in terms of its description of the historical period. Really interesting! And I know what you mean about novels where one wishes the author would concentrate on just one mystery rather th an try to pursue more than one. It's hard to get that right I think.

  3. col: Thanks for the comment. I will be interested in your review if you get a chance to read the book.

  4. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Subplots can be interesting but two mysteries in one book is difficult.

  5. Another Canadian author. I like historical mysteries but this is going a bit further back in time than I usually like. Thanks for this review, I will put D.L. Johnstone on my list of Canadian authors to try.

  6. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I will be interested in your comments if you read the book.