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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Issues with Open Season by Peter Kirby

I enjoyed Open Season by Peter Kirby, winner of the 2016 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Crime Fiction novel, as set out in my last post but I have issues with the book.

Open Season takes on a couple of challenging themes.

The primary plot involves the plight of failed refugee claimants in Canada who actually have a good claim to refugee status.

The secondary plot involves the trafficking of young women from the Ukraine to Canada and forcing them into prostitution.

There are many serious issues on each plot line.

What distressed me was the one dimensional quality of those characters who were not Montreal City Police officers or the victims.

I understand the desire to portray those involved in the kidnapping of the Guatemalan journalist, Luna, and those who trafficked Katya but they were all evil. There was no nuance to them.

What bothered me more was that members of other law enforcement agencies were also depicted as bad.

The Canadian Border Service enforcing court orders were seen as cruel.

The members of an RCMP task force into international human trafficking were uncaring and mean.

The narrow picture of the criminals and other law enforcement officials left me considering the book good but not great.

Showing the villains as humans does not diminish their wickedness. John Le Carré in his books creates villains who are real characters. Richard "Dickie" Roper in The Night Manager is a suave sophisticated arms dealer with a family who is among the most dangerous men in the world.

I regret the current tendency in crime fiction to create villains who are only wicked.


The other issue was the cover. It did not attract me. While covers should not matter I admit they do influence me. Having just said I found the cover unappealing I received a comment from Brandi who said the cover drew her to the book. I would be interested in comments of other readers on their reaction to the cover which is at the top of this post.


  1. You make a well-taken point, Bill. People are complex and multi-dimensional. That includes people who commit crimes. I liked it best, too, when characters in novels reflect that multidimensional nature, so that they aren't just 'cardboard characters.' That said, though, this does sound like a fine premise for a novel, and I'm glad you found things to like about it.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Where have all the multi-dimensional characters gone?

  2. And I'll comment on you last paragraph: where have all the cover artists gone?! I'll not mount my soap box about how I feel about the trend in ugly Photoshopped covers on novels of any type. I'll just say simply I can't stand them. It's hard for me to believe that it involves any real talent. Computer skills alone do not make an artist, IMO. [...grumble, grumble...] I'll retreat to my curmudgeon's corner of the blogosphere now. ;^)

    1. John: Thanks for the comment. I am just reading a book with a fine and memorable cover that is artistic. There are just not enough of hem. Curmudgeons are always welcome.

  3. Although this sounds overall like an interesting book about an interesting topic, it is a shame that the portrayals were one dimensional. You are right, even criminals have real lives and motivations. And law enforcement people can't all be bad.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I think you would like the book. To clarify not all the law enforcement were bad. Those in the Montreal Police Department were highly regarded.

  4. Interesting - I so agree about the disappointment of one-dimensional characters, seems like a missed opportunity to go deeper.
    I don't dislike that cover. The ones I really hate are the copycat ones - so many thrillers and crime stories have covers that resemble another, similar, book. How unimaginative.

  5. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I like your description of "a missed opportunity" in not developing the characters of villains.

    It seems I am in a minority on the cover.

  6. Talking about multi-dimensional characters, have you read any of Denise Mina's series about police detective Alex Morrow? A number of them delve into the personalities and motives of criminals.

    The most recent one, "Blood, Salt, Water," actually focuses on a hired hit man and examines his motives. Mina is hard-hitting and is interested in what drives people to commit crimes, especially murder. Quite multi-dimensional this one.