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, March 2, 2015

Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster

(8. - 806.) Or the Bull Kills You by Jason Webster – I am writing this review sitting at the Chirinquito restaurant in the Grand Mayan Resort beside the pool and looking out at the Pacific. The Resort is in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. Sharon and I have just finished a lovely lunch of Spanish tapas and a jug of sangria. It is slow going on the review but I am fully enjoying the distractions and have just ordered some more sangria. 

It is somewhat fitting to be sitting in a Spanish restaurant to review a book set in Valencia, Spain. Max Cámara is a 42 year old Chief Inspector, single and feeling his age. Max and his girlfriend, Almudena, have been unsuccessfully trying to have a child. 

While many families would be proud to have a Chief Inspector in Homicide as a member of the family Max’s grandfather, Hilario (his only living direct family), can barely accept his grandson is a member of the police. Hilario, 82 years young, is a lifelong anarchist trade unionist who views the police as repressors. Max’s great-grandfather was also an anarchist who was killed during the Spanish Civil War. Only because Max defies the law by regularly smoking marijuana does Hilario grudgingly accept Max as a police officer. 

Max is ill-fitted to police bureaucracy. He is independent in thought and action with rough edges. He is under investigation because a suspect, later convicted, suffered a broken jaw while being questioned by Max. 

When Commissioner Pardo asks Max to replace him as the afternoon’s president of the corrida (bull fights) Max is in no position to refuse though he dislikes bullfighting. Max performs his duties awarding four ears, probably excessively generous, to Jorge Blanco from the two bulls Blanco fought and killed that afternoon.

Max consents to hand out an award to Blanco after the corrida for a local bullfighting appreciation society. While he is waiting at the Bar Los Toros a group of anti-taurinos loudly enter the bar protesting the continuation of bullfighting. Max convinces them to leave.

Shortly after a municipal policeman bursts in advising Blanco has been murdered. His body has been found in the chapel at the bullring.

Blanco has been strangled and then mutilated. Webster sets out that

“….. a pair of bright yellow and red Banderilla darts hung from the centre of his back, their sharp fish-hook points ripping at his flesh as they flopped to the ground, Higher up, towards his shoulders, a red-handled matador’s sword had been thrust into his ribcage – still swaying as the upper half of the blade caught glimmers of the street lights outside.”

There is a deep cut in his genital area.

The case is an immediate media sensation The 34 year old Blanco had been credited with reviving bullfighting in Spain. Considered the top toreador of his generation, maybe even the best ever, Blanco fought in the traditional style with great grace and passion.

Adding to the intrigue are questions about Blanco’s sexual orientation. That his girlfriend, Carmen Luna, a national celebrity most famous for being famous, while still beautiful, is over 50 does little to quell the rumours.

Carmen does give a brilliant retort to Max’s pro forma statement that he is sorry for her loss:

If there were no murders, Chief Inspector, you’d be out of a job. So unless you’re looking to be unemployed, I fail to understand how you can be sorry for what has happened. This is, after all, what you do.

Max is left speechless.

Complicating the investigation is the annual spring fiesta of Valencia, Fallas. For five days there are fireworks constantly exploding, temporary statutes being created and celebration all day and all night. A bit of a curmudgeon, Max also dislikes Fallas.

Municipal politicians press for resolution of the murder and his superiors equally demand an arrest.

The investigation takes Max deep into the world of bullfighting, an area of Spanish life of which he has little knowledge. It is a topic about which I learned a great deal from reading the book. My next post will focus on how the book deals with bullfighting.

Or the Bull Kills You is an interesting exploration of Max’s character and life in contemporary Valencia. It is not a skilled police procedural. There are some clumsy elements to the plot and the manner of solving the crimes was not convincing. At the same time I really enjoyed the book. Max is a very interesting character and the crime is firmly set in Spain. I look forward to reading the second in the series. I expect the plotting will be better with the next book.

Well, two hours have gone by as this review has meandered along. The sangria is gone and while a third order is tempting I think it is time for a walk on the beach. It is 30C above (when I left Saskatchewan a week ago the wind chill took the temperature below -30C), the sun is shining and a sea breeze is whisking across the laptop’s screen. I will work on my mistakes tonight. There are more than usual to correct.


  1. Bill, what a splendid setting to write a review of an interesting novel! I'd have put away the laptop and enjoyed the bracing sea air. I like the title and cover of this book, which befits the plot set around bullfighting, as well as the character of Max Cámara, one of a new kind of realistic and not-so-perfect sleuths and investigators we see today. The last I read about Spain in a novel was Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" though I have been meaning to read his other books on bullfighting. I wish your wife and you a beautiful holiday.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I did find Max a little too imperfect. I appreciate your good wishes on our holiday.

  2. It sounds as though you're having a lovely trip, Bill, and I'm very glad for you. I'm also glad you enjoyed the novel. Sometimes those character explorations and a really appealing setting can make up for weaknesses in a story. And this is one I've been meaning to read, so it's good to get your views on it.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the good wishes. I will be interested in your thoughts in due course. It was a good first novel.

  3. I very much like the setting for your review - sounds wonderful. Enjoy the rest of your vacation. It is very kind of you to let us all know what a good time you and Sharon are having, and as I shiver in the cold I will think of you!

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. You are but a plane trip away from visiting your own warm weather paradise. It is time for you to get on the computer and book that holiday and stop shivering.

  4. This post made me envious of your vacation, and I don't even like to travel. (Really.) I am glad to learn of this series, and someday I will try to find this book.

  5. TracyK: If you would like a place with a beautiful beach and pools and multiple restaurants and bars all throughout the complex it is a great resort. As for the book I hope you read it. I think you will be absorbed.