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, December 31, 2019

Bill's Best of Fiction for 2019

In the final hours of the year and the decade I am posting my Bill’s Best of Fiction list for 2019.  While many lists are compiled from mid to late November I prefer to make my list at the end of December representing my reading for the full year. My next post will have my Bill’s Best of Non-Fiction and Most Interesting.

The year was reading special for me as I completed my quest to read 1,000 books  in 20 years. My final total was 1,030 books read from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2019.

On to the list for 2019:

1.) The Boat People by Sharon Bala - I loved Bala’s fictional recounting of a refugee ship of Tamils arriving off the coast of Vancouver Island in 2009. The book found favour with the judges of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction winning the 2019 Prize. Bala became the first non-American winner.

In an era in  which popular entertainment, including books, pumps up heroes and demonizes villains Bala wrote a thoughtful challenging story of Mahindan and his son, Sellian, proceeding through the refugee claims process of Canada. Bala treated with respect Mahindan, his lawyer Priya and the adjudicator, Grace.

I was conflicted on the claims. The civil war in Sri Lanka had ended. What was their risk? Who is a genuine refugee? And who should be considered a terrorist can be challenging.

The end of the book did not have a resolution of the refugee claim. On her website Bala said she was leaving that issue up to the readers. I took up the challenge writing the judgment I thought the adjudicator would have written. Bala kindly wrote me she was thrilled with my engagement with her characters.

2.) The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup - I was prompted to read this book by the praise it received in The New York Times. I do not often read books about serial killers. Sveistrup proved a worthy exception. 

Danish detectives investigate a series of murders with few clues. The paucity of clues ultimately is a clue. A deliberate clue was a small figure of a man made from chestnuts. The innocent past-time of Danish children in the fall becomes a sinister maddeningly obscure clue.

Leading the investigation are Mark Hess, a detective sent back to Denmark by Europol, and Naia Thulin, a young homicide detective early awaiting a transfer to cyber-crimes. They are an intriguing clever team who must look back over 30 years to solve the murders.

Sveistrup has been a skilled screenwriter who joins other recent screenwriters of quality crime fiction. Attica Locke, who wrote Bluebird, Bluebird which was my 2018 pick for Best Fiction, was a writer for series in Hollywood. A.J. Devlin, an excellent new Canadian crime fiction author, has a M.F.A. in screenwriting.

3.) The Woman Who Married a Bear (1992) by John Straley - A beautifully written work of fiction that happens to be about crime, The Woman Who Married a Bear, was given to me by a friend, Maureen Long, who is a professor of English in the Yukon. She was right in thinking I would enjoy the book.

I found it a book in which the setting of Alaska was integral to the plot. The ocean, forests and people of Alaska were vivid and important to the story.

Straley was often lyrical in his writing, a quality not often found in crime fiction.

The sleuth, Cecil Younger, is also uncommon in that he writes poetry, including haikus, and reads The New York Times Review of Books.

3.) Blackwater Bluff by S.M. Hurley - I admit a bias with regard to Blackwatr Bluff. It would be hard for me not to like a legal mystery featuring a lawyer resident in rural Canada. It could only have been better if the lawyer resided in Saskatchewan.

S.M. Hurley, the pen name of Ontario lawyer Shelagh Mathers, created a fascinating lawyer in prosecutor, Augusta “Augie” de Graaf. Injured by an angry accused during a trial she looks to solve the murder of her mentor and inspiration in the legal profession.

In a twist on the usual process of a prosecutor relentlessly pursuing a suspect she becomes a quasi-defence counsel challenging the assumptions of guilt held of the leading suspect by the police. She carefully examines the evidence and finds the flaws in the same way defence lawyers examine evidence.

Lastly, I was impressed that Hurley had Augie use her legal training and skills to identify the killer.

A Happy New year to all readers of the blog.

14 comments:

  1. Happy New Year, Bill! I'm glad you had a good reading year, and well done on meeting your reading goal (exceeding it, actually). Thanks for sharing your 'best of' with us (I agree that it's nice to wait until the end of December for that), and I look forward to your best of non-fiction.

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    1. Margot: Happy New Year!Thanks for the comment and all your encouragement.

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  2. Hello, Bill! Congratulations on completing your "quest to read 1,000 books in 20 years". It must give you a huge sense of fulfilment. I look forward to your next post on nonfiction.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

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    1. Prashant: Happy New Year to you and your family! Thanks for your comment. I did have a personal sense of satisfaction in completing the reading of 1,000 books.

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  3. The Boat People is on my list of 2019 bests also - and I read it as a direct result of your review.

    Now, I shall have to put Blackwater Bluff on my TBR list!

    Thanks for another year of insightful reviews, Bill. I look forward to reading your blog throughout 2020.

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    1. Debbie: Thanks for the kind words. I believe you will enjoy Blackwater Bluff.

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  4. Happy New Year Bill! I always enjoy reading your end-of-year lists and making some notes.
    I had a break from blogging for a couple of months, but am back on the scene now, and hope to continue into 2020.

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    1. Moira: Happy New Year! Thanks for the comment. I am glad you are blogging again and hope you will continue your blog. I appreciate your comments. You always add perspective to my posts.

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  5. Well done Bill. I always enjoy reading your posts and finding new books through your comments

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    1. Kerrie: Thanks Kerrie for the kind words. I am glad my reviews have provided books for your reading. All the best in 2020!

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  6. Bill, I have only read one of these books, The Woman Who Married a Bear, and I agree with you on that one. I found it to be an unusual mystery that was very entertaining. All of the books you listed sound good, but I am especially interested in The Boat People.

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    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I am glad you enjoyed The Woman Who Married a Bear. I think you will be challenged and intrigued by The Boat People.

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  7. Happy New Year! Congratulations on reaching your 1,000-book goal. Now you can start on the next 1,000.

    As if often the case when I come to this blog, four more book ideas go on my TBR list. All sound good.

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    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the good wishes. They are four books I can confidently recommend.

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