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.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Door in the River by Inger Ash Wolfe

A Door in the River by Inger Ash Wolfe – I cannot recall ever being more disappointed with a book in a series I have enjoyed. The first two Hazel Micallef mysteries had introduced a fascinating middle aged woman sleuth and interesting mysteries clearly set in Canada.

 A Door in the River has a promising start.

Henry Wiest, well regarded hardware store owner and talented repairman, in Port Dundas is found dead in the parking lot of a smoke shop on a nearby Indian reserve. (cigarettes can be sold for much less on the reserve as they are not taxed the same).

The autopsy concludes he has died from a heart attack caused by an allergic reaction to being stung by a wasp. The reserve police find no evidence of foul play.

Inherently distrustful, Hazel is troubled. Why was Henry at the back of the parking lot late in the evening? Why was he on the reserve? What wasps are out at night? Why the allergic reaction when he has no history of problems with being stung?

Hazel forces a second autopsy and the pathologist determines Henry had actually been shot with some form of stun gun, an unknown variation on a Taser.

Returning to the reserve Hazel is troubled by the laidback attitude in the reserve police force to investigating what happened. The focus of the reserve is keeping its large and successful casino operating efficiently.

At the same time a mysterious young woman emerges from the woods and attacks Henry’s widow, Cathy, using the same weapon with which she attacked Henry. Cathy survives. While she was unconscious the assailant has searched financial records in the house and taken $2,500 in cash but left several thousand dollars more behind.

Hazel and her fellow officers become a task force investigating the crimes. She struggles to find connections in the evidence.

At the same time her feisty mother, Emily, almost 88 has suddenly aged. Emily, the octogenarian spitfire, has become muted. The spark that animated her is gone.

At the office the re-organization that will bring her former subordinate, Ray Greene, back as her commander is proceeding.

An intriguing mystery is under way but suddenly the plot veers from credible to a form of comic book reality. The second half of A Door in the River is a schizophrenic departure from the rest of the series. I found myself asking who wrote the second half and why?

As in some of the Armand Gamache books of Louise Penny there is a secret place in the countryside. Lots of people come and go. In A Door in the River the place is underground which makes it even more unreal. It could not have stayed a secret in rural North America. Rural residents know who and what is in their neighbourhood.

How the police penetrate the place takes too great a suspension of disbelief though what actually occurs in the secret place is unfortunately believable.

How Hazel acts and reacts as the plot is resolved is out of her character. She is not credible as a violent avenging police officer.

The second half would fit well into the script of a Hollywood blockbuster comic book movie. It does not serve Hazel and the reader well.
There was no reason for the plot to swerve into Hollywood. There was a good story. It did not need to be pepped up by some Indiana Jones type of location. Hazel is not a hard boiled detective.

A regular mystery does not transpose well into a wild modern thriller.

If the author, Michael Redhill, still writing under the pseudonym of Inger Ash Wolfe had wanted to venture into the unreality of modern thrillers he would have done far better to have just created a new lead character and written a thriller for the whole book.

If he was intending an allegory it did not work for me.

If it was recommended to him that he needed to increase the violence quotient and make his work creepy mysterious he received bad advice.

I do not know what happened to Redhill but it would be hard to convince me to read another Hazel Micallef mystery.

Because of my strong feelings with regard to the book I looked up other online reviews after writing this review. I wanted to see how other reviewers reacted to the book. My next post has quotes from those reviews.


  1. How disappointing for you Bill - and what a shame a promising series is crashing and burning. I wonder if someone did advise him badly, as you suggest. It will be interesting to see other people's views in your next post.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I wish I knew why the second half of the book was written in the way it was published.

  2. Bill, thank you for the review. Regarding the discrepancy in the two autopsy reports, does the author say why the first autopsy concluded Henry Wiest died from a heart attack or if the reserve police possibly had a possible hidden motive for keeping the death under wraps? I wonder if the answers to these questions are crucial to the plot which, as you point out, veers in another direction, quite unexpectedly and infuriatingly so for the reader.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. The first autopsy could have been done better but there was no hidden motive with regard to the autopsy. As well it was a situation where the timing of the second autopsy meant some more information was available. I regret to say I do not think the answers to your questions had anything to do with where the plot went in the second half of the book.

  3. Bill - I'm so very sorry to hear you were so disappointed in this one. And it's doubly so since the series is, as you say, a really good one. Hard to say whether it was because Redhill heeded bad advice or for another reason, but it's really sad when this kind of thing happens. I'll be very interested in finding out others' views in your next post.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I think you will find interesting the thoughts of other reviewers.

  4. I have not even read the first two in this series but do have them and plan to read them. I will be interested in seeing those quotes from other reviewers in the next post.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I hope you get to read all three books in the series.