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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Killing Pilgrim by Alen Mattich

(21. - 818) Killing Pilgrim by Alen Mattich – (DDB) I was grabbed in the opening chapter. The Montenegrin, top assassin in the Yugoslav Secret Service, is in Stockholm in February of 1986. He is on a solo mission to kill “Pilgrim”. It has something to do with Swedish centrifuges sold to Belgrade and then sold on by the Yugoslav government. Patiently stalking his quarry the Montenegrin finds him unguarded on a winter night and kills Pilgrim on a quiet Swedish street. He has assassinated Olaf Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden. 

Five years later Yugoslavia is breaking down. Slovenia has already broken away. Croatia has declared independence. Serbia is clinging to the concept of Yugoslavia. Serbian and Croatian nationalists are arming and forming militias. 

Western Canadian pizza magnate, Zlatko Horvat, has returned to his native Croatia where he forms an ultra-nationalist militia and is profitably smuggling arms into Croatia. Abruptly he is made Deputy Minister of Defence. 

War is coming. 

With Yugoslavia collapsing Marko della Torre is in administrative limbo. Formerly a member of the UDSB, the national secret service, his Zagreb unit is being assigned to Croatian Military Intelligence. 

Della Torre is better known within the Secret Service as “Gringo”. He spent several years of his youth in America where his father was a professor for a time.

Della Torre is still recovering from a bullet wound sustained when Bosnian killers tried to kill him in Zagreb Cowboy (a book I am going to have to read). 

To gain some money he sold some UDSB files. One is the Pilgrim file. While the documents of the Pilgrim file are sketchy and do not reveal the name of the target the sale of the file created alarm. 

Della Torre, while the new Army bureaucracy tries to find a role for him, is sent on some meaningless fact finding assignments. 

On a visit to his father he meets a stunning American researcher, Rebecca Vees, who is researching “the development of the Glagolitic alphabet” (the research involves Slavonic languages.) 

A short time later his world is jolted when Rebecca turns out to be a highly skilled American intelligence agent. It is never clear which agency employs her. Not the least of her weapons is her beauty and sensuality. 

Croatia is desperate to find international friends and none would be better than the United States. If Croatia can help America it will do anything to please the U.S. 

While it is not clear why America wants the Montenegrin, Della Torre is directed to help the American agents.  

There is the same pervasive tension of Alan Furst’s pre-World War II books. Nations are preparing for war and intelligence agencies have urgent instructions. What the spies do can have great consequences in the looming conflict. 

Della Torre is caught between a pair of killers. He knows the Montenegrin, a vicious retired killer though well connected and well protected. He is accompanying Rebecca, an amoral killer herself. 

Rebecca is a predecessor to the American intelligence agents who, after 9/11, ranged the world wreaking vengeance on America’s enemies.  

It is a complex thriller which is a rarity in my recent reading experience. Della Torre is living in dangerous times. Readers cannot help thinking of the devastation about to be unleashed in the Balkans. The plot is subtle darkness. 

Killing Pilgrim is well worthy of being on the shortlist for the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian crime novel. 


  1. Skimmed the review as I have this on the pile somewhere. There was an earlier book by him ZAGREB COWBOY which I believe features the same protagonist.

    1. Col: Thanks for the comment. I think this series would be a good series for you.

  2. Bill - I'm glad you enjoyed this. Too often, thrillers don't have the depth and complexity to them that one would like. I'm glad this one did. It's also about a fascinating and terrible conflict, and it sounds like that background is also handled well.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I do not a believe a thinking thriller is an oxymoron. Everyone in the book knows the future is going to be bad and none have a way of preventing the war.

  3. This sounds really good, Bill. I like this kind of book and your description makes it sound very appealing. I will definitely put it on a list to look for. Right now in the US it is only available on Kindle at too high a price for me. And Zagreb Cowboy is fairly expensive also. I will have to be patient.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I think the series is popular enough you should be able get a reasonably priced book in the near future.

  4. This sounds very interesting, I will have to find out more about this series and look out for the books...

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Mattich resides in England. There is a good chance his books will be published in England.