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.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Glass House by David Rotenberg

33. – 780.) The Glass House by David Rotenberg – I found the third book in the Junction Chronicles trilogy a challenging book. Rotenberg seeks to bring together the threads of The Placebo Effect and A Murder of Crows.

Decker Roberts is back in Nambia baking apple pies and reflecting on this life and his estranged son, Seth.

Seth, ill with swiftly advancing cancer, has been kidnapped by WJ who desperately wants to learn from Seth’s special abilities for WJ cannot feel. A man of arthimatic talent who has used his skills with numbers to become wealthy he lacks feelings. He cannot appreciate relationships. Beauty and ugliness are but words. Music is at the centre of WJ’s life. He would love music if he could but feel. WJ is a technically skilled cellist but the notes are merely sounds to him. WJ sees in Seth a young man who feels life with an intensity that is transcendant. WJ is the opposite of Seth and can no longer live without passion.

Yslan Hicks, from the U.S. National Security Agency, is searching America for Seth. The American government wants his special skills.

Decker, Seth and the other synaesthetes are being drawn to the Junction where Decker had lived in Toronto and where a boy with black painted finger nails and the baby fingers on both hands cut off was hanged just after 1900 from a lightpost.

It was hard for me as the book shifted the focus from crimes being solved in the first two books to a mystical weaving together of the otherworldly abilities needs of the synasthetes. The touch of the supernatural in the earlier books has taken over the story in The Glass House.

The exceptional talents of the synaesthetes – being able to determine if someone is telling the truth, hearing the last words of someone who has died if at the death site or discerning patterns – are supplemented by their mystical abilities. Communication through the mind; traveling and meeting and talking through dreams; an overwhelming desire to reach the Glass House, are all involved in the plot.

It was interesting but stretched me past my rather normal bounds of credibility. I had expected a resolution of the saga of the synasthetes but not this venture. The book became a form of fable requiring the reader to either suspend conventional assessments or accept the plot has become a modern myth.

As with each of the first two books in the trilogy I found the book disjointed. I found connections between the plot lines awkward.

Once again, the book is unique because of the character of the synaesthetes. They live with special abilities that distance them from regular society. In the end I found myself wishing Rotenberg had concentrated on these talents, as he did in the first two books, rather delving into supernatural gifts. Readers who enjoy the paranormal, an unconventional paranormal if that is possible, in stories will be fascinated by The Glass House.

I thank Michelle at Simon & Schuster for forwarding me an ARC. The Glass House will be published in November.
The Glass House becomes the 3rd of 13 books I plan to read for the 8th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John Mutford at his Book Mine Set blog.


  1. Bill - Thanks as ever for your honest and thoughtful appraisal. I'm interested in the world of the synaesthete, so on that score alone this series might be work exploring. But I do like characters and events to be credible. I think I would probably mind the paranormal aspect of this novel. Still, I may definitely dip into the series.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Synaesthetes are absorbing people. I believe you would find the series interesting.

  2. Bill, I was intrigued by the term "synasthete" and the characters who have that special ability and found the story to be quite unusual. I'm not much of a fan of paranormal fiction although I have read something remotely close to this in fantasy and sf books.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. "Synaesthetes" are amazing people. I think it must be a challenge to live with their talents. Their real life skills approach the paranormal.

  3. I have one book by this author but it is in an earlier series, I think. THE LAKE CHING MURDERS. This one that you are reviewing sounds too paranormal for me but I may try the first in the Junction Chronicles trilogy.

    1. TracyK: I hope you get a chance to read and review The Lake Ching Murders. I would be very interested in knowing how much the paranormal was featured in Rotenberg's earlier books.

  4. Kathy: Thanks for the comment.

    I have read the story in the New York Times.

    It is so similiar to a famous Saskatchewan case, David Milgaard, who spent 22 years in jail because police and prosecutors had tunnel vision and pressured him into a false confession.

    Ultimately DNA evidence showed another rapist / murderer had committed the crime. Milgaard was freed and the other man convicted.

    You ask what lite they can now have in North Carolina. Milgaard struggled to adjust to freedom but is now doing better.

    I am glad to say our province paid him $10 million for the wrongful conviction without requiring him to sue.

    I doubt the two men in North Carolina will have comparable compensation from the state.

    Injustice happens. Sometimes it can be corrected if no death penalty has been carried out.


  5. The death penalty in this country. One of the brothers, Henry McCallum, was on death row for 30 years and saw and heard many friends executed. It disturbed him greatly. How someone can recover from that trauma is beyond me.

    Even though the Supreme Court decreed no one who is developmentally disabled should be executed, there he was on death row.

    Anyway, getting back to books, the paranormal is not a genre of choice for me. I'm going back to the other Rotenberg for legal mysteries, a preferred plot choice.

    1. Kathy D.: Brother Robert is a better choice for you!