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, 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


  1. That's the thing about a really skilled writer, Bill. A skilled writer makes the characters and their experiences come alive, so that the reader connects with them. And I agree with you that Gail Bowen has a real talent for doing that. I also like the way she uses subtlety. And the grief and other emotions her characters deal with are all the more real for that.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I enjoy interesting plots but I now enjoy interesting characters more.

  2. I like Gail Bowen's writing, but don't know don't know if I'll read this. Just the name of the holiday, Dia de los Muertos, makes me sad every time I read about it.

    Yes, we all suffer grief in our lives, some of us sooner than others. And we live with grief and some guilt over what we should have said and done with our loved ones.

    But, just to say one doesn't have to be religious to feel the full impact of loss and grief with all that entails. It's a universal experience of every culture, country, nationality, and religion.

    We may deal with loss differently as far as traditions and practices go, but the feelings are universal. While many people turn to religion to deal with loss, others turn to art, poetry, nature and the support of friends to deal with it.

    I just feel like I'd get too sad reading this book.

  3. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I think you will be sad if you read the book but also uplifted as the characters, especially the teenage girls, deal with their sorrow.