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, September 19, 2017

The Unknown children of Ari Greene, Travis McGee and Harry Bosch

Robert Rotenberg
In Robert Rotenberg’s book, Heart of the City, there is a surprise opening for long time readers of the series. Toronto detective, Ari Greene, is returning to Canada after spending time in England after he was cleared of killing his lover, Jennifer Raglan, in the previous book, Stranglehold. With him is 20 year old, Alison Gilroy, his daughter.

Ari had never known he was a father until after Alison’s mother had died. Following instructions her solicitor contacted Greene to advise he has a daughter. Shocked but elated he travels to England. The solicitor arranges for him to meet Alison and she learns that her birth father was Greene not the unnamed New Zealander she had understood was her father. After some time together she expresses interest in going to live in Toronto and they return to Canada.

Her presence adds several dimensions to the book.

There is another generation of the Greene family. Ari’s father, Yitzhak, is delighted to have a granddaughter:

…. [He] is the opposite of Ari. Outgoing and fun, he hugged and kissed her all the time. Within days she was calling him Grandpa Y, and soon he was fixing up a room for her in the basement of Ari’s house to give her some privacy.

There is a new dynamic for Ari having an adult daughter. They are establishing a parental relationship while living together.

She becomes a part of the story through her anonymous blog, Kensington Confidential.

Alison’s unexpected entrance into the series reminded me of two other famous fictional sleuths who learned they were fathers long years after the child’s birth.

I remember being caught totally off guard over 30 years ago when I read The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald. In the final book of the Travis McGee series he learns that he is the father of a teenage daughter, Jean, whose mother, Puss Killian, had been McGee’s lover in Pale Grey for Guilt.

Jean has an unnerving unseen presence for the normally unflappable McGee through the book as he keeps finding cat shaped pipe cleaners outside the door to his houseboat, the Busted Flush. Only at the end does he actually meet her.

It was very clear that McGee was excited by the new relationship and it is a regret that MacDonald died before he could have developed that relationship in more books. I expect Jean would have wanted to become part of McGee’s “salvage operations” but McGee, more conscious of danger for her than himself, would have unsuccessfully sought to keep her out of the operations.

A generation later Harry Bosch, in the double digit series by Michael Connelly, learns he has a 4 year old daughter, Maddie, with former FBI agent, Rachel Wish. The abrasive hard nosed detective is softened by being a father. He enters her life somewhat tentatively.

In the book series she comes to live with him after her mother is killed while Harry and Rachel are seeking to rescue Maddie from kidnappers.

In last year’s addition to the series, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Maddie has finished high school and Harry is dealing with the emotions of her going away to university.

In the television series a different storyline is developing. Rachel and Maddie come to spend time with Harry in Los Angeles after a killing puts their safety in Las Vegas in issue.

Each of Greene, McGee and Bosch are hard men made a little softer by learning they are fathers.

I found it interesting that all 3 unknown children were girls. I do not have a theory why each of the authors chose the unknown child to be a daughter. I invite comments on the authorial choice of girls.
****
Rotenberg, Robert – (2011) - Old City Hall; (2011) - The Guilty Plea; (2012) - Stray Bullets(2012) - "R" is for Robert Rotenberg; (2013) - Stranglehold; (2017) - Heart of the City and Lawyers Hate to Lose

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lawyers Hate to Lose

In my review of Heart of the City by Robert Rotenberg posted a few days ago I expressed my regret over the minimal role of lawyers in that mystery. In one of the few scenes where a lawyer was important long time defence counsel, Ted DiPaulo, is frustrated over a client who had lied. He says:

“I’ll tell you what happens with clients like you,” DiPaulo said through gritted teeth. “They get convicted. They go to jail. I lose. I hate to lose. When I lose, I don’t sleep for days. And I like to sleep. How can I possibly represent you now?”

DiPaulo expressed a sentiment common to trial lawyers, both criminal and civil. Lawyers hate to lose. In discussing whether to proceed with a trial I tell clients I do not recommend a trial unless I am confident we can win. I finish the discussion by saying I hate to lose.

Contrary to public perception lawyers want to win according to the rules. A competition without rules is impossible. Civil court actions proceed under the Rules of Court. Saskatchewan’s Queen Bench Rules are 479 pages in length. In Western democracies we live under the Rule of Law.

While trial lawyers can be overtly or quietly aggressive in court their common character trait is competitiveness. You need passion to succeed as a trial lawyer. Without passion the long hours of preparation and the stress of conducting trials could not be endured.

There is an exception to hating to lose for those trial lawyers who are prosecutors. Their role is not to win but to present the facts and law to the judge. Yet prosecutors must be competitive to fulfill that role.

I cringe when reading books in which victims of crime think of prosecutors as their lawyers. It is worse when fictional prosecutors espouse the cause of victims. Such personal identification with victims is great for drama but bad for objectivity. Canadian prosecutors represent all members of society as counsel for the Crown (the provincial or federal government).

The fear of defeat drives lawyers harder than the anticipation of victory. Some years ago I wrote to Saskatchewan author, Gail Bowen that no lawyer, except in fiction, gets to win every case. She replied:

I think it would be good for Zack to lose a big case, especially if the case was one readers really wanted him to win and felt he deserved to win.  Any suggestions? 

I took up the challenge and sent an email to Gail providing her with three examples of such cases – a medical negligence action, a criminal case and a family law custody case – in which the lawyer expected to win but lost each case.

I added that if you really want to devastate a lawyer have him or her lose all three cases in a row. While such an experience is crushing real life trial lawyers go through such losing streaks. You can say to yourself as a trial lawyer that you do not win or lose but in reality it hurts to lose. It is modest comfort in a losing case to say you have done your best as the advocate for your client.

Tough Crimes contains a collection of stories written by real life Canadian criminal lawyers on memorable cases. It was not a surprise to me that several of the lawyers chose cases that they had lost in court. In particular, there were a pair of Saskatchewan cases where defence counsel I personally knew, Brian Beresh and Mark Brayford, saw their clients convicted. While both Brian and Mark faced overwhelming odds in their respective cases each continues to doubt their clients should have been convicted.

The pain of defeat is intense. You have expended everything you have and lost. It is a despair I have often in seen in 40 years of covering sports, especially CFL football. The most extreme example involved the Saskatchewan Roughrider football team after the 2009 Grey Cup. On the last play of the game, a missed field goal, they were assessed a penalty for too many men on the field. Montreal won the Grey Cup when they kicked the field goal after the penalty. There was a silence in the locker room I had only previously experienced at funerals.

Yet lawyers, as with athletes, are optimists. After a loss there is a belief we – I personally join in that belief – will win the next one. A competitive urge keeps trial lawyers going to court. It is the same urge that sends the trial lawyer back to the office the day after winning or losing a trial to deal with the next case for only in fiction does the lawyer not have a desk full of pending cases needing attention. If that competitive urge ebbs a lawyer will cease to be a trial lawyer.
****
Links to the posts concerning Gail Bowen referred to in this post -

Links to Tough Crimes and the cases chosen by Brian and Mark -

Monday, September 11, 2017

Heart of the City by Robert Rotenberg

(33. – 920.) Heart of the City by Robert Rotenberg – (Spoilers are inevitable in this review with regard to previous books written by Rotenberg because he carries on the story of many of his characters from book to book.)

There is not the explosive crime opening of earlier books such as a famous radio host announcing to his newspaper delivery man he had killed her (his second wife is dead in the bathtub) in Old City Hall or a shocked widow delivering to a defence lawyer the knife used to kill her husband in The Guilty Verdict or a stray bullet killing a child in a coffee shop parking lot in Stray Bullets or a Crown prosecutor, Karen Raglan, found strangled in a motel room awaiting her lover police detective Ari Greene in Stranglehold.

There was a dramatic opening with regard to Greene, who after months away from Toronto following being cleared of the murder of Ms. Raglan, is returning to the city with Alison Gilroy, the 20 year old daughter, he never knew. She was born to an English lover who gone back to England and has now died.

Greene has made a quiet return to Toronto with Gilroy. He has just started working as a construction worker on a condo development being built by the high profile developer, Livingston Fox. The young aggressive Fox has managed to gain the enmity of anti-development community. He has gained the derisive nickname of Mr. Con Dough.

Leading the charge against a further condo development in the Kensington Marker area, near where Greene is working, is 67 year old Cassandra Amberlight. She is a “progressive” aggressively on the front lines of every protest against commercial development with personal bullhorn in hand. She has been equally aggressive in private life having been convicted of assaulting a pair of ex-spouses. In a twist on conventional spousal abuse she has assaulted both male and female spouses.

As in Stranglehold it is Greene who finds the body. In a shed at the back of his work site Greene finds the body of Fox impaled on the floor by a length of rebar. Unlike Stranglehold he immediately calls the police. The case is assigned to his protégé, Daniel Kennicott.

Later that day Greene is contacted by his former criminal defence lawyer, Ted DiPaulo, who has already been called by Amberlight. She knows instantly she is the prime suspect. DiPaulo wants Greene to assist him in the defence. He pays Greene, who is reluctant to accept money, a retainer of $100.00 which is the same amount, the only amount, Greene had paid him when Greene was charged with murder.

Gilroy becomes ensnared in the investigation as she strives to start a career in journalism through a blog. As a fellow blogger she is bound to be a favourite character of mystery review bloggers.

Fox’s parents are New Age eccentrics running a wellness clinic, the Foxhole Wellness Centre, just north of Toronto. Their parking lot sign reflects a laidback approach to life:

            Peacefully park your troubles this way.

The parents hold a highly public outdoor midnight candlight ceremony to celebrate their son’s life.

It would be hard to find a child, in fiction or real life, who was more different than his parents. It is little surprise that the hard driving Fox argues constantly with his father.

In the high stakes world of condo development financial disaster is but a project away. Fox has stretched himself thinly with a major new project on the waterfront.

It is a strong story and the pages turned easily but where are the lawyers? DiPaulo makes but brief appearances and Crown prosecutor, Albert Hernandez, makes but token appearances.

The front page blurb from the Telegraph-Journal that “Rotenberg is Canada’s John Grisham” is as ill timed as most blurbs. Until Heart of the City I would have found the claim plausible though William Deverell is another great Canadian writer of legal mysteries.

Heart of the City is a police procedural. The major characters are Kennicott and Greene. The investigation is carefully conducted.

Still there is a hidden legal moment in the book that ratcheted up the tension. Kennicott, a lawyer before he became a police officer, conducts an interview of Amberlight which is really a skillful cross-examination. I have read transcripts of lots of real life police interviews and trial transcripts and I see a lawyer pinning down Amberlight not a police officer questioning a suspect. It was the best scene in the book.

Heart of the City is a page turner but it is a conventional police procedural. The earlier books tackled major legal issues. While it is a well done police procedural there are enough police procedurals in Canadian crime fiction. There are too few good Canadian legal mysteries. In fact, I am writing to Rotenberg to ask where the lawyers went in Heart of the City.
****
Rotenberg, Robert – (2011) - Old City Hall; (2011) - The Guilty Plea; (2012) - Stray Bullets(2012) - "R" is for Robert Rotenberg; (2013) - Stranglehold

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

(32. – 919.) The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer – The opening of the book reminded me of The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre. Emmett Kohl, deputy American consul in Budapest, has been married to Sophie for 20 years. He is a modestly talented diplomat. They have spent their married life on postings away from the United States.

At a quiet restaurant Emmett elicits from Sophie that she was unfaithful to him while they were stationed in Cairo. She had carried on affair with Stan Bertolli, a CIA agent.

Moments later Emmett is shot to death by a professional killer.

Guilt and curiousity drive Sophie to go Cairo. I hoped the consequences of this quest for the truth behind a spouse’s death would not be as grim as in The Constant Gardener.

Shortly before his death Emmett had met with Jibril Aziz, a Libyan now working for American intelligence, and Sophie wants to know if there is a connection between Emmett’s death and Aziz.

John Calhoun, a contractor – free lance intelligence operative - hired by the CIA, has taken Aziz from Cairo across the border into Libya. Arab Spring has inspired demonstrations and revolutions through the Arab world and Libyans are rising up against Muammar Gadhafi.

A few years earlier Aziz had worked on a plot to oust Gadhafi by using Libyan exiles and a small elite group of American military. Aziz is convinced the plan called Stumbler has been put into action but would America be so reckless as to directly intervene in an Arab revolt? The concept seemed less plausible when the book was written in about 2013.

In Cairo there are dizzying layers of deceit. Most of are of the most challenging nature. They are the lies of partial truths.

As Sophie is enveloped in the shadows of espionage I thought of another skilled writer of spy fiction, Alan Furst. Had the book been set in and around World War II it could have been a Furst story.

As with Furst and Le Carre the clash of intelligence services involves the spies of multiple nations interacting in Europe and Africa.

A good book became great when a mole in Cairo is revealed. I had not an inkling of the identity of the leaker. The book reaffirmed my weakness at unraveling deceit. The clues were there but I did not understand them.

The book explores how much deceit can a person absorb and still function. Sophie is surrounded by deceivers. When you can trust no one perhaps it is best to trust everyone.

The resolution of the multiple threads to the plot is skillfully and, better yet, credibly done by Steinhauer. Without saying more the ending is the opposite of the finish to The Constant Gardener.

As I read the book I thought has it only been 6 years since Arab Spring began. So many wars and regime changes have taken place in the Arab world. I am sure those events occurring after The Cairo Affair was written will inspire more spy fiction.
****
Steinhauer, Olen – (2009) - The Tourist; (2010) - The Nearest Exit; (2013) - An American Spy;

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell

The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell – As set out in my previous post I was invited by Craig Sisterson to participate in a worldwide blog tour of the books short listed for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards in New Zealand. Craig asked me to review The Ice Shroud, one of the finalists for the Best New Fiction Award.

There is a powerful graphic opening to the book with a woman’s body being found frozen face down along the edge of a river in a gorge on the South Island not far from Queenstown. Becoming a rock descender, Detective Sgt. Malcolm Buchan goes abseiling down to the river to free the body from the ice. The title effectively evokes the book.

When he subsequently sees the body up top Buchan recognizes her as Edie Longstreet, a woman he “Had Known. Intimately.” With their relationship several years in the past he hesitates and then decides not to disclose the relationship. As Longstreet is a resident of the area he knows her identity will soon be established. Concealing the relationship does mean a continuing tension on whether the relationship will be discovered during the investigation. I did find it hard to believe a Detective Sergeant would conceal his relationship with the deceased.

Among the police officers assisting Buchan are a pair of women. Detective Constable Deborah Somerville is a young woman with an “athletic figure” and “shoulder-length blonde hair”. Traffic Sgt. Magda Hansen has a “pleasant, even motherly-looking face”.

I appreciated that the primary investigative methods involve the intelligence of the police officers.

While Longstreet enjoyed numerous sexual relationships the search
Ngaio Marsh Awards
for the killer, as with many investigations, turns to financial issues. At her death Longsteet was running a business, Figments, discreetly described as selling “saucy underwear” but the business is not doing well. It is actually failing. While Queenstown is a resort community the customer base for her merchandise is limited. How has she been able to keep the business afloat?

There is some deft phrasing. On how Longstreet was getting money:

‘I can’t understand how she got that,’ Constable Heaphy said. ‘It’s like she had a private line to the money god.’

Queenstown has 14,000 – 15,000 people and Longstreet has frequent interactions with members of the local business establishment, casually known as the “Gang”. Members of the Gang meet often for drinks at the end of the work day.

Reading about the Gang made me reflect on my role in the business community of Melfort, here in Saskatchewan. After 42 years in private legal practice I guess I would be considered part of the establishment. In our community of 6,000 the “establishment” does not gather socially as often as the fictional Gang in New Zealand. Our lives are also considerably less colourful than Ell’s businessmen.

The men who make up the Gang resent the impertinent police probing into their private and commercial lives. They are accustomed to their lives of privilege.

Ell provides a fine picture of life and landscape in the Queenstown region. The Ice Shroud is a distinctive New Zealand story. I did wish the unpleasant characters, especially men, were not consistently given unattractive appearances. 

I found the ending abrupt but convincing. I had the impression there was some major editing. Ell is off to a good start in crime fiction. I expect his next book to be better yet and I hope to read it. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards Blog Tour

Great ideas come from clever minds. Craig Sisterson is an inventive thoughtful blogger. Since I became a blogger almost 7 years ago Craig instantly comes to mind when I think of New Zealand crime fiction. His blog, Crime Watch at kiwicrime@blogspot.com, is a wonderful resource for New Zealand crime fiction. I might be influenced because he trained as a lawyer though he is not practising law.

On behalf of the Ngaio Marsh Awards for New Zealand crime fiction he contacted me a few weeks ago with a plan to promote the Awards around the world. He offered to send me a book from the shortlists and I would provide a scheduled review as part of a worldwide blog tour of reviews and/or interviews of the shortlists ant the authors.

I was glad to participate and will be putting up my review of The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell.

Craig’s concept provides a grand exposure of New Zealand crime fiction. As with many great ideas I wish I had thought of it. 

Below is a listing of the participants in the tour. I have started reading the daily posts and intend to follow them around the world:

Image may contain: 2 people
More information is available at Craig's blog or the Awards Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/NgaioMarshAward/.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Connecting With the Winners' Circle

The Winners’ Circle by Gail Bowen - It is not often that tears well up when I read but I found myself choked with emotion more than once while reading The Winner’s Circle. I have connected deeply with sleuth, Joanne Kilbourn, and her family and her friends in the 17 books of the series. Yet I have not often felt so emotional about one of the books.

In the opening of The Winners’ Circle, as set out in my last post, the teenage daughters of major characters call on their parents and spouses to join them in a gathering based on the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration.

To meet and remember resonated with me. You cannot reach my age of 65 without significant loss in your life. Major loss began for me with the death of my mother when I was 29.

For the teenage girls of the book it began earlier. Taylor lost her mother when she was 4. Gracie’s mother died before she became a teenager. Isobel lost a sister as a teenager.

Their goal of healing through “reminiscing and sharing some of the things that have brought their loved ones joy when they were alive” was moving.

Taylor is using, for an art project, Dia de los Muertos decorations to explore “the function of death images in the work of Frida Kahlo.” One of them, a female figure, has “her face framed in delicate paper flowers and her body draped in a gold lame cape”:

“That’s Santa Muerte,” Taylor said. “Sometimes she’s just called Bony Lady. Her followers – and online it says that there are millions of them – believe she’s a saint who will protect them in their lifetime and, when death comes, deliver them safely and lovingly to the afterlife.”

Gracie’s face was grave. “It would be nice to believe in Bony Lady,” she said.

……

I [Joanne] caught Gracie’s eye. “It would be nice to believe in her,” I said.

Halloween evening, when the families meet to share memories, is a special night beautifully described.

Every reader can relate to families struggling for long years with grief. As inevitable there are feelings of guilt among the living over those deaths.

Ultimately Gail skillfully uses an unresolved grief composed of the potent mix of sorrow and anger as the motive for murder.

Many books deal with the stresses intruding upon families of grief but it is Gail’s skill as a writer which makes the experiences of her characters so vividly real.

I know Gail is a woman of faith who lives her Christian beliefs as a member of the Anglican Church of Canada. She has an understanding of the need to take time to celebrate and remember among the living especially when death has been sudden and unexpected.

Reading Gail’s descriptions of her characters, especially the thoughts and observations of the teenage girls, collectively gathering to deal with loss reminded me of personal experiences with death.

I believe in the sharing of memories of the dead. Over the years I have delivered several euologies at the funerals of friends and family. Within our Catholic parish I have presided over prayer services and given reflections at those services. Every time I have spoken about those gone I have felt better for having shared with those in attendance at the funeral or prayer service.

Gail tests her characters on how they grieve later in the book with violent death. Fortunately I have never had to deal such death in real life.

The Winners’ Circle is a good mystery though I have now written two posts about the book that barely touch upon the mystery. Gail’s probing of death and grief in The Winners’ Circle left me grateful I had read the book.
****

Bowen, Gail – 2011 Questions and Answers with Gail2011 Suggestions for Gail on losing court cases; The author's website is http://www.gailbowen.com/ - (2011) Deadly Appearances; (2013) Murder at the MendelThe Wandering Soul Murders (Not reviewed); A Colder Kind of Death (Not reviewed); A Killing Spring (Not reviewed); Verdict in Blood (Not reviewed); (2000) - Burying Ariel (Second best fiction of 2000); (2002) - The Glass Coffin; (2004) - The Last Good Day; (2007) – The Endless Knot (Second Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - The Brutal Heart; (2010) - The Nesting Dolls; (2012) - "B" is for Gail Bowen; (2012) - Kaleidoscope and Q & A on Kaleidoscope; (2013) - The Gifted and Q & A and Comparing with How the Light Gets In; (2015) - 12 Rose StreetQ & A with Gail Bowen on Writing and the Joanne Kilbourn Series; (2016) - What's Left Behind and Heritage Poultry in Saskatchewan Crime Fiction; (2017) - The Winners' Circle; Hardcover

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Winners’ Circle by Gail Bowen

(30. – 917.) The Winners’ Circle by Gail Bowen – Since Zack Shreeve came into Joanne Kilbourn’s life the Winner’s Circle has played a role in the series. The Winner’s Circle, a self-proclaimed group of law students, was formed by Zack and four other law students (Isobel, Chris, Kevin and Blake) in their first year of law school at the University of Saskatchewan. Blessed with brains and charisma they later founded a law firm that became prominent and successful in Regina. Almost 30 years have passed since they finished law school.

Legal prominence and financial prosperity has not shielded the Winner’s Circle from tragedy. Earlier books in the series chronicle the deaths of Chris and Blake’s wife, Lily. Though those deaths are years in the past they have left the survivors and their families heavily burdened.

It is early October and the members of the Winner’s Circle have gathered at Lawyer’s Bay where each of them has a cottage, more aptly summer homes. Having written a series that follows the lives of her characters for over 25 years Gail now has three generations within the families of the Winner’s Circle.

Three teenage daughters of the legal partners - Taylor, Isobel and Gracie - call upon their parents and spouses to commit to exploring together their enduring griefs a few weeks later on October 31 in the way of the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). Having learned that day “celebrates the lives of the dead by the living reminiscing and sharing some of the things that have brought their loved ones joy when they were alive” one of the girls, Isobel, says:

“That’s when we knew that the Day of the Dead offered something our families needed. We’ve all lost people we loved or people we wish we’d had the chance to love. Gracie and Taylor’s mothers both died. The sister who I never knew existed until three years ago died before I had the chance to meet her.”

She continues by talking to her Zack of what has been lost because of their family sorrows:

            “Every night we fell asleep to the sounds of the adults\\
            laughing,” ….

The adults agree to the request.

A few days later Gracie, whose mother Lily was a member of the Lakota First Nation at the Standing Buffalo Reserve near Lawyers’ Bay, talks to Joanne about her Aunt Rose from the Reserve who has reservations about them drawing on a different culture which they do not fully understand. Having grown up in “white culture and Dakota ways” Gracie has an appreciation of traditions and their power.

I can think of few other series where teenagers are given a meaningful role.

At the same time Falconer Shreeve, with Zack focused on being mayor of Regina and doubtful to return to the law firm, has major decisions to make about leadership and transition. The Winners’ Circle has maintained tight control of the firm. If the firm is to survive it must adjust to accommodate the young partners who have been kept from an equity position within the firm. Change for the founders is no easier for a close knit law firm than for any other business. It will not be seamless. There is bound to be relief that the firm is progressing but pain is inevitable.

The themes of exploring the past through personal lives and moving into the future for the law firm intersect at a gala banquet in Zack’s honour to raise money for the foundation created in honour of Chris. The foundation is “dedicated to funding initiatives that help young people overcome obstacles in their lives.”

At that banquet Regina Police Chief, Debbie Haczkewicz, speaks about how Zack, who has been in a wheelchair for decades, convinced her son, left paraplegic in an accident and wanting to die, that life is worthy living. She provides a creative image “that, like the orca and the great white shark, police officers and trial lawyers are natural enemies.” After recounting how Zack helped her son “overcome” she concludes:

“Zack will always be a great white shark and I will always be an orca, but we’ve learned to cherish the times when we’ve been able to swim side by side.”

However, the banquet ends in discord as law firm issues intrude upon them.

Drawn deeply into the compelling story I was shaken, which no longer happens often after reading a couple of thousand mysteries, by an act of violence that is shattering in its impact. The capable and efficient Joanne is left reeling.

Gail’s 17th book in the Joanne Kilbourn series is among the best. It takes a truly gifted writer to write so well so long into a series.
****
Bowen, Gail – 2011 Questions and Answers with Gail2011 Suggestions for Gail on losing court cases; The author's website is http://www.gailbowen.com/ - (2011) Deadly Appearances; (2013) Murder at the MendelThe Wandering Soul Murders (Not reviewed); A Colder Kind of Death (Not reviewed); A Killing Spring (Not reviewed); Verdict in Blood (Not reviewed); (2000) - Burying Ariel (Second best fiction of 2000); (2002) - The Glass Coffin; (2004) - The Last Good Day; (2007) – The Endless Knot (Second Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - The Brutal Heart; (2010) - The Nesting Dolls; (2012) - "B" is for Gail Bowen; (2012) - Kaleidoscope and Q & A on Kaleidoscope; (2013) - The Gifted and Q & A and Comparing with How the Light Gets In; (2015) - 12 Rose StreetQ & A with Gail Bowen on Writing and the Joanne Kilbourn Series; (2016) - What's Left Behind and Heritage Poultry in Saskatchewan Crime Fiction; Hardcover

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Is the Largest T-Rex in Saskatchewan?

Scotty
Craig Johnson, in Dry Bones, uses the discovery of a T-Rex fossil in Absaroka County in Wyoming as the inspiration for an interesting Walt Longmire mystery. No doubt to heighten interest he sets out the T-Rex is the largest discovered in the world. He further set out that Wyoming has been the home of many of the T-Rex fossils discovered.

Johnson’s statement about the fictional T-Rex being the largest caused me to reflect on a T-Rex fossil found in southwestern Saskatchewan near the small town of Eastend. Some years ago I had visited the museum, in the area of the discovery, whose primary exhibit is that T-Rex. I recalled that it was stated to be the largest in the world.

Seeking to solve this minor mystery I set off into the internet.

The Field Museum maintains it has the largest in “Sue”:

The world-famous fossil known as “SUE” is the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex every found. SUE measures 40.5 feet long from snout to tail and 13 feet tall at the hip. She boasts 58 dagger-like teeth and cuts a fine figure as the Museum’s most popular backdrop for visitor photos. A replica skull crowns the skeleton in Stanley Field Hall, while SUE’s original skull, which weighs 600 pounds, rests within an exhibition on the Museum’s balcony, under a mural depicting this majestic creature in the flesh.

In 2006 the website phys.org advised that Montana now had the record, at least for the skull:

The world’s largest Tyrannosaurus rex skull, unearthed nearly 40 years ago in eastern Montana, is now on display at the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Read more at httpa://phys.org/news/2006-04-museum-unveils-world-largest-t-rex.html#jCp

The skull measures 5 feet long, making it bigger than the previous record-holder – the T-rex named “Sue” at Chicago’s Field Museum, according to Jack Horner, the Museum’s curator of paleontology.

Skull fragments from the specimen, known as MOR 008, were found in the Hell Creek Formation near Billings in the late 1960’s and collected by Bill McMannis, an MSU geologist. Museum preparatory Carrie Ancell began their reconstruction in the late 1980’s, and preparatory Michael Holland finished the job this year.

There was a major lawsuit over “Sue” who was discovered in South Dakota that further inspired Johnson:

Forma charges didn’t arrive for months afterwards, but the government ended up alleging that the BHI team had removed Sue from federal land, rendering his agreement with Williams (rancher) void. Complicating the matter further was a claim from the Bureau of Indian Affairs claiming that Sue was found on reservation land, further mooting the already moot deal.

So basically, the whole situation devolved into a four-way tug-of war between the Larsons, Maurice Williams, the federal government, and the reservation. The battle went for years, all while Sue was locked up in a shipping container collecting dust.

Now in Saskatchewan the T-Rex fossil, known as “Scotty” was discovered in the summer of 1991 by a high school teacher, Robert Gebhardt, searching for fossils with palaeontologists from the Royal Saskatchewan Musuem. Their website describes “Scotty” as “the world’s most massive T.rex skeleton”.

On Scotty’s size I found an article from 2011 about a scientist from the University of Saskatchewan (the university I attended decades ago):

Lara Shychoski has developed techniques that utilize the technology of CT scans to recreate the entire head of many of the world’s largest T- Rex specimens, including Scotty, the beloved mascot of Eastend, Saskatchewan’s T-Rex Discovery Centre.

“Scotty is possibly the largest T-Rex out there,” she says. “There are others, like Sue from the Field Museum in Chicago that have been described as larger, but when you examine the bones and the skeleton of Scotty, you can see that he is so robust. His bone structure and shape is just fascinating.”
With a skull that measures five-feet long, recreating Scotty was no simple task, as CT scanners can usually handle about two-foot specimens. So, Shychoski ran 30 separate pieces of Scotty’s skull through the scanners before coming up with enough information to recreate a 3D model. It is providing valuable information about the strong and weak points of T-rex specimens. And despite what we might think, there are actually a dozen different species in the family Tyrannosauridae, “and some were as large as Scotty or as small as a dog, but they all exhibit similar traits.”

While everyone wants their T-Rex to be the largest I will lay claim for Scotty being both the most massive and the largest.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson

Dry Bones by Craig Johnson – The find of possibly the world’s largest T-Rex dinosaur near Durant thrusts Sheriff Walt Longmire into a quagmire of jurisdictions. Danny Lone Elk, the owner of the ranch where the fossil is found, has made a deal for $37,000 to sell the fossil to the local High Plains Dinosaur Museum.

A straightforward business transaction suddenly becomes complicated:

You see, the rancher bought that particular land from a white homesteader in 2000 and exercised his right to have it held in trust for twenty-five years by the U.S. Department of the Interior under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, which allowed him to not have to pay taxes on it. The problem is that in putting your land in trust, either federal of Cheyenne, limits the options of selling it or anything on it.

Then Danny Lone Elk is found dead floating in a turtle pond on his ranch. On his death the land was to be “signed over to the Cheyenne Conservancy”.

Federal officials, the Cheyenne Tribal Council, representatives of the local museum and the Lone Elk Family are all jousting over the T-Rex now known as Jen in honour of the young archaeologist who discovered her.

While an interesting scientific find the real source of the conflict is that the T-Rex is worth at least $8,000,000.

Walt wants to pursue who will benefit from Lone Elk’s death but how could a killer know if the death would actually be beneficial? There are so many competing interests.

A late addition to the mix is a grass roots campaign to keep the fossil in Wyoming which adopts the slogan “Save Jen”.

Walt is also having visions connected to the Cheyenne:

“I was following someone in this dream, and when I got closer I could see it was a buffalo, but when it turned it changed shape into a man, a man with no eyes, just spaces where you could see the stars shining in the darkness – like his head contained the universe.”

It is Lone Elk who was found with no eyes.

Personally Walt is looking to forward to his daughter, Cady, coming home to Wyoming with his granddaughter, Lola. That visit is shattered by a truly startling violent action. Johnson is willing to let his characters experience tragedy.

For two-thirds of the book I was caught up in a plot that concentrated on careful, even thoughtful, investigation. I thought Johnson had shifted from recent books in the series where violence was the solution.

I was dismayed by the final third, not because of the violence involving Cady’s life, but because the plot descended into a conventional Hollywood type of resolution.

Walt’s physical injuries now exceed the long list that Travis McGee endured in the series by John D. Macdonald.

I was doing alright, despite the violence, when the plot headed into a cave. I have rarely found searches in caves to be credible and the journey underground in Dry Bones was no exception.

Had the plot left Walt uninjured and above ground it would have been a great book. Overall it was a good book which is an improvement on recent books in the series. There is less of Walt being the Lone Ranger.
****
Johnson, Craig – (2007) - The Cold Dish(Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - Death Without Company; (2008) - Kindness Goes Unpunished (Third Best Fiction of 2008); (2009) - Another Man’s Moccasins; (2011) - The Dark Horse; (2011) - Junkyard Dogs; (2012) - Hell is Empty; (2013) As the Crow Flies; (2013) - Longmire T.V. Series; (2014) - A Serpent's Tooth; (2015) - Radio in Indigenous Mystery Series; (2015) - Any Other Day;  (2015) - Where is the Walt Longmire Series Headed; (2016) - Musings on the 5th Season of Longmire; Hardcover