About Me

My photo
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.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Black Thursday by Scott Gregory Miller

Black Thursday by Scott Gregory Miller – What an opening! Dr. George Sterling, 100 years old, is enjoying a massage before the birthday celebration of becoming a centenarian at his care home  when new hands are around his neck and he is strangled to death. The killer leaves a message. A large lump of coal has been stuffed into his mouth and the words “murderer” in Ukrainain written on his forehead.

Miller is at his best in opening scenes. I echo in this review the opening sentence of my review of Silence Invites the Dead, the first book in the Myles Sterling series.

Three generations of the Sterling family loom large in the book. They are a Saskatchewan dynasty. Dr. Sterling was a prominent doctor and businessman arriving in Estevan in 1931. His son, Hubert Sterling, has been a long term judge. Grandson, Myles Sterling, is a journalist who gained national fame for reporting from the conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Who would want to kill a man 100 years old? There is clearly a fierce bitterness in the killer.
While the murder occurs in 1994 in Prince Albert the messages makes clear that the motivation for the killing reaches back 60 years to the tumultuous events surrounding the Miners’ Strike at Bienfait and Estevan in the Great Depression.

Miller divides the story between the early 1930’s and the investigation by Myles in 1994.

Narrating the story in the 1930’s is another Sterling journalist. Darcy, a long deceased cousin of Myles, who left his memoirs with the father of Myles. The memoirs have always had a conspicuous gap from the early 1930's. Myles surreptitiously obtains the missing pages at the family home. They recount what happened around the Strike.

Darcy was infiltrated into the ranks of the Slavic miners who worked the coal seams near Estevan for the Souris Mining Company. Dr. George, as much businessman as doctor, wanted spies among the miners.

Coal prices have dropped during the Depression but the mine operators, determined to have profits, arbitrarily decrease wages and summarily fire miners. It is a constant struggle for the miners to survive.

In 1994 Myles goes from P.A., where he is working for the daily paper, to Estevan to seek out the bitterness that led to the murder of his grandfather six decades after the Strike. He finds tensions still exist between management and workers. The company wants to eliminate the oiler position in the operation of a giant new dragline, the Prairie King.

With the memoirs to aid him Myles looks for information on who was connected to the Strike that would want to kill his grandfather. He finds almost everyone. His grandfather was openly racist and derogatory of the Slavic immigrant miners. As a scion of the Anglo Canadian establishment he was committed to keeping the Bohunks in their place economically and socially.

When union representatives arrive to organize the miners it is inevitable there will be a violent confrontation.

Myles finds himself intrigued by a lovely clever librarian in Estevan who has an encyclopedic knowledge of local events and history.

I was intrigued by cousin Darcy. Seeing himself as a decent man he puts himself into an impossible situation. Wanting to do right by his cousin by informing on the miners while becoming friends with and living among the miners.

Myles finds learning about family history can be disturbing.

The book, as occurred in real life, comes to a climax on the Thursday when the miners, seeking to have a protest parade in Estevan, are confronted by the RCMP. The events of that hot summer afternoon are vividly recounted in the book.

Black Thursday is a good story. It is better than Silence Invites the Dead. The plotting is more assured, though I dislike the form of ending, and the characters are interesting and well developed. I hope there will be more Myles Sterling adventures.
 Miller, Scott Gregory – (2008) – Silence Invites the Dead;


  1. This sounds like a fascinating mix of history and modern-day crime fiction, Bill. I like stories that tell parts of history like that. And I know what you mean about a strong beginning to a novel. I've not (yet) read this, and I'm already very much intrigued by the way it starts. It sounds like a well-written story, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Mystery and history and the oldest victim I can recall make for a fine read.

  2. That IS a great opening. Sounds like a good book - count me as another one who really likes a mystery mired in history.

  3. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I find reading the combination of mystery and history enhances both.

  4. This does sound like a very good book, Bill, and even more so because the story is based on events that really happened. And I think I would like the way the story is told also.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I think you would find it an interesting book. That day in Estevan has been one of the defining moments in the history of our province.