About Me

My photo
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, June 15, 2014

Social and Cultural Issues in Miss Montreal

Howard Shrier’s book, Miss Montreal, is an excellent mystery which delves into historical, cultural and social issues in Montreal without losing its character as a mystery.

The victim, Slammin’ Sammy Adler, was beaten to death in a predominantly Muslim area of Montreal. Adler’s Jewish heritage instantly raises the issue of whether his murder was a hate crime.

In the book there is a story of a Muslim father burning to death in a house his daughter who refused to wear her “scarf”.

Recently there was a real life trial in Canada in which a Muslim father was convicted of killing female family members as a matter of “honour”.

In the book the Jewish Adler had been reaching out to a different group of Muslim immigrants. An Afghani family has set up a successful rug business and is adapting to Canadian culture.

Arthur Moscoe, who hired Jonah Geller, to solve the murder had grown up poor in Montreal at a time when Jewish residents were marginalized. Quotas were in place to limit the number of Jews who could attend professional colleges such as law and medicine.

Still Moscoe was a part of the English community of Montreal which dominated Quebec economically. Moscoe built a successful life in the 1950’s and 1960’s. To the working class French he was part of the English elite who controlled Quebec business and rarely learned to speak French. Prejudice lingers. One of the detectives calls Jonah a maudit juif (damned Jew).

Moscoe was a part of a migration to Toronto of many Anglo Quebeckers when the Parti Quebecois gained power in the 1970’s and pursued their separatist agenda.

For some Franco Quebecois, at the heart of the movement is a desire to exclude from the province those who do not meet their French standards.

The book highlights the current tension with Muslim immigrants who do not want to conform to a secular French Quebec society. They refuse to be conform to French Quebec.

Sammy was probing a new political party, Québec aux Québécois, which embraced such a philosophy. The founder, Laurent Lortie, is a proud pure laine (pure wool) a descendant of the early settlers to New France hundreds of years ago. It is another form of elitism.

Lortie seeks checks and balances needed with regard to certain communities:

And yes, since you raise the issue, I speak of Muslims – not all of them, just those who resist our way of life. Who would impose their will if we allow it. If we insist that Quebec will never again be dominated by the Church, we most certainly will not submit to the laws or practices of unassimilated minorities.

And then there are recent Muslim arrivals to Montreal in the book from Syria fleeing the civil war but still connected to the conflict.

Who has the ironic Slammin’ Sammy so disturbed in this volatile mix of culture, religion and politics that they would brutally murder him?


  1. Extremely interesting Bill, and confirming me in my view that this is a book I would find informative and should put on my list.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Shrier takes you into deep into Montreal life and history.

  2. Bill - Thanks for this discussion. History often gives us insight into why certain resentments have arisen and certain groups dislike each other. It's not that understanding that history means we excuse violence. But I think it does help us understand what's behind the violence. And the feeling of having been oppressed can lead to powerful, and sometimes violent, reactions.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Well put when you describe the feeling of oppression being powerful. Even when circumstances change that "feeling" that should be now in the past can cause great problems.

  3. So, since I sympathize with the Quebecois and Muslim immigrants, am I going to be annoyed at the tone of this book?

    1. Kathy D.: I do not think you will be annoyed. I think you will find it interesting to read of the interactions between Jewish residents, old stock Quebecois and the variety of recent Muslim immigrants. It is a book that reflects the complexity of big city ethnic and cultural groups.