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.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

December Dread by Jess Lourey

December Dread by Jess Lourey – While in snowy Minneapolis in January I met Jess Lourey at her book launch for January Thaw at Once Upon a Crime bookstore. She recommended I start reading her series of Murder by Month Mysteries with December Dread. I finished the book on the beach in the Bahamas today.

Mira James, part-time librarian and part-time local newspaper reporter, is eking out a living in Battle Lake, Minnesota when she is advised the Town Council has decided to close the town library for 2 weeks at Christmas as a budgetary measure. Her editor, Ron, who is also a town councillor urges her to return home to Paynesville where she grew up to spend the Christmas season with her mother and attend a week long Private Investigator Course. When he pays the tuition for the course she is on her way home.
Mira dreads the return home as she has unresolved issues from high school. Her drunken, verbally abusive, father died in an accident in which he killed two people. Never a popular girl the circumstances of his death left her even more isolated. Her memories of high school are vivid and mostly bitter.

Her mother gratefully welcomes Mira home though Mira is less positive:

If there’s a phrase scarier to a 30 year old woman than, “Your room is just as you left it,” I have yet to hear it.

Mira describes her bedroom as she left it for university 12 years earlier:

I was greeted by Led Zeppelin and a Footloose-era Kevin Bacon poster on the wall, loaded bookshelves, a multi-colored dresser with Cabbage Patch stickers down the front, worn quilt on wrought-iron bd with my childhood sock monkey perched in the center and lingering smell of AquaNet and Love’s Baby Soft.

Being in the room returns her to memories she had worked to forget after leaving Paynesville.

Mira is credibly insensitive to her mother’s feelings. She rushes out to spend time in almost any way other than with her mother.

Mira finds the private investigator’s course more interesting than she had expected. The instructor, Mr. Denny, has experience as an investigator and as a former police officer.

While the class occupies part of her day the attention of Mira, as with every woman in the Midwest, is drawn to a serial killer who has been working his way west from Chicago each December. Two years earlier there were murders in Illinois. A year ago it was Wisconsin. Now it is Minnesota.

The killer has become known as the Candy Cane Killer because a candy cane or canes has been sent to or delivered to each victim.

Once the killer has slain a classmate of Mira’s in nearby River Grove she is determined to help find the killer.

She is joined in her quest by one of her best friends from Battle Lake, Mrs. Berns, who is under 5’ in height and over 80 years in age and has a tart and engaging tongue. As with Sheldon Horowitz in Norwegian by Night an octogenarian is a lively spirited character.

Their investigation leads them to an online dating service. Mira’s reaction:

“Ugh.” I had a theory that one should never shop online for leather pants or men. I could see why other people did it. It was so lonely in these parts, and if you didn’t fall in love at work or go to church, that left only bars and blind luck. There was just something about it that didn’t fit me right.

Such services are outside my experience.

When Mira is reluctant to go to a Christmas party of her high school classmates Mrs. Berns says:

“Only jocks, prom queens, and dumbasses hang on to high school this long. Everyone else goes on to better things. Go. Confront your past. Get over yourself.”

The mystery is well done but the real heart of the book is small town Minnesota. Lourey is very convincing in her portrayal of life in rural Minnesota. My next post will consider that portrayal with Small Town Mysteries in Saskatchewan.

Mira is a clever interesting woman. It is too bad Lourey is approaching the end of 12 months of mysteries in the series. Her publicist at the book launch was quick to say they will find a solution. (Mar. 6/14)


  1. This sounds interesting Bill, and I like sound of the comments on her life and lifestyle. I'm sure she'll find a new theme! You can see where Sue Grafton & Kinsey Milhone were so smart choosing alphabet theme...

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I think you would like Mira. Mystery by the Month is certainly more limited than mystery by the alphabet or mystery by colour.

  2. Bill - This one really does sound as though it has a very well-done sense of place and atmosphere. And it's very nice to know too that the mystery is credible. I like the wit too, and the way Mira's personality comes through in those bits you've shared.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Mira is a character you wand to spend time with and know more about as a person.

  3. Bill, this does sound good, but I would want to start at the beginning (May Day). I liked the quote about online dating. I fell in love at work, so I was lucky.

  4. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Tell me more. I am sure no one else is reading right now.

    1. Right. We met in one city in a job for a government contractor. We moved to another city, got married, and actually worked for the same company for over 25 years. It was very nice (working together). Relatively small town, small company. Now we are at different work places but both work for educational institutions. We have been very lucky.

    2. TracyK.: Thanks for taking the time to tell me more. Your comment touched me. I appreciate a long lasting love that remains strong. Best wishes.