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, May 13, 2021

Fate by Ian Hamilton

(23. - 1048.) Fate by Ian Hamilton - “Uncle” Chow Tung was a powerful presence in the Ava Lee series as he mentored the young accountant turned sleuth. He had great dignity and commanded respect. Yet there was a profound sadness about his personality. The opening pages of Fate explain why. In 1959, desperate to escape Mao’s Great Leap Forward, Chow and his intended wife, Lin Gui-San, join a small group intent on swimming 4 kilometres from the mainland to freedom in Hong Kong. Gui-San does not make it.

By 1959 Chow has reached the position of White Paper Fan (administrator) in the Fanling organization of triads in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Chow’s natural gravitas and thoughtful nature has gained him the honorific of “Uncle” even among men his own age.

Chow lives a simple life. His apartment is spartan. He wears a black suit with a crisp white shirt every day. He has congee early every morning at a neighbourhood restaurant.

Chow has a single indulgence. He faithfully attends the horse races at the Happy Valley Racetrack run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Each week he pores over the racing form carefully analyzing and weighing the horses and then placing his bets. It is his escape from the demands of triad work. It is no surprise he is a successful bettor.

Chow’s restless clever mind seeks out new opportunities for the triad. Some of the triad’s leaders, reflecting the conservative nature of traditional organizations, question new ventures which inevitably have risk.

Chow sees an opportunity to move from just obtaining “protection” money from merchants to  opening a night market where they could rent out stalls and provide knockoff merchandise to vendors. 

While the leadership of the triads is considering the venture, their Mountain Master (leader), Gao, is killed in a hit-and-run by an unmarked white van. Chow is doubtful it was an accident yet it is not one of the ordinary methods of a triad assasination.

Determined to do what is best for the organization rather than simply follow the tradition of having the Deputy Mountain Master, Ma, appointed Mountain Master  he leads the way in requiring a vote of the 162 members on who will be Mountain Master.

Chow assists in the planning of the lavish funeral of Gao that will include 3 bands from the Fanling triads in the procession.

At the same time a credible rumour reaches Chow that a neighbouring organization of triads is behind the killing of Gao and are launching a takeover of the Fanling triad.

Chow considers the conflicting information on the intentions of other triad organizations. 

There is additional unexpected violence.

Chow seeks a resolution that is not violent but he is a man of principle who will stand his ground.

Chow is not impulsive. He is decisive and he will be ruthless in dealing with anyone who breaks the sacred oath “to protect our brothers above all, even at the cost of our own lives”.

Chow is a leader for whom men will go to war. They know they can trust him.

The story pounds to the ending. 

While there is a constant undertone of threat, violenc is used sparingly. I was reminded of the early Ava Lee books where the intelligence of “Uncle” Chow was pivotal to the plot.

As always, the pages of a Hamilton mystery race by. I read the book in two days. Fate is the opening book in a trilogy. I wish I could read them all together. I am going out looking for Foresight which is the second in the series and published earlier this year. Fate was on the shortlist for the 2020 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Crime Fiction novel. It is a worthy book to be considered for the Award.


Hamilton, Ian - (2012) - The Water Rat of Wanchai; (2013) - The Disciple of Las Vegas; (2014) - The Wild Beasts of Wuhan; (2014) - The Red Pole of Macau; (2016) - The Scottish Banker of Surabaya; (2018) - The Two Sisters of Borneo; (2019) - The King of Shanghai; (2020) - The Princeling of Nanjing; (2020) - Foresight

Saturday, May 8, 2021

In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear

(18. – 1043.) In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear - The title quotes the famous speech of King George VI as World War II begins in September of 1939. As England goes to war the shadowy Dr. Francesca Thomas of the Belgian embassy contacts Maisie to investigate the death of Frederick Addens in London a month earlier. He had been forced to kneel and then was executed by a single shot to the back of his head. Addens had been a Belgian refugee in World War I. Scotland Yard, busy with all the issues of going to war, has been content to resolve the case by classifying it as a killing during a theft. Maisie accepts the case on the terms she will be paid her regular rates for her work.

Six years have passed since Maisie left England with James for Canada. After a couple of years of grieving over his death she has resumed her business in its former location. Billy Beale and Sandra Pickering are also back at work with her. I gave a contented sigh that the team was reunited. The pair of intervening books had been interesting but I was grateful for Maisie’s return to being a psychologist and investigator in London. The series works best in England.

Maisie, Billy and Sandra start upon their case map, a roll of wallpaper. Maisie’s mentor, Maurice Blanche had used case maps:

“..... Putting down every thought, every consideration, on a large sheet of paper to better see threads of connection. But he always used thick wax crayons in many colours - he said colour stirs the mind, that work on even the most difficult of cases becomes akin to playing. And because a case map is an act of creation, we bring the full breadth of our curiosity to the task.”

The investigation expands when a second Belgian refugee, Albert Durant, is executed in the same manner.

Surely there is a connection. Maisie, Billy and Sandra delve deep into the refugee world of the First World War. I cannot recall the last mystery I read that explored how thousands of Belgians and French fled advancing German armies and found refuge in England. There were so many that Belgian refugee villages were established for the duration of the war.

And the violence does not end. A brutal clever killer is at work.

Maisie and Billy follow leads around London and into the country.

Maisie’s training as a psychologist aids her in dealing with a small girl sent to the countryside who will not speak and who appears to have been sent to the wrong location. Thousands of English children are being sent from the major cities to live in the countryside. Maisie’s heart aches over the stillbirth of the child she and James conceived. The lost girl tugs at her. When her father draws her to talk again all are left emotional. Yet her father and stepmother worry Maisie’s heart will be broken again.

At the same time everyone is joining up to serve their country. In the family of Maisie’s close friend Priscilla, her husband is joining the Ministry of Information, their oldest son has enlisted in the RAF, the second oldest wants to be a sailor, her French speaking nanny has signed up to be an interpreter and Priscilla is ready to be an ambulance driver.

Though 21 years have passed since the end of the Great War, Winspear continues to find credible ways to connect the mysteries of the series with that war.

Few series can move convincingly through history. Including Maisie’s childhood the books have covered the opening 39 years of the 20th Century.

In This Grave Hour is a satisfying return to excellence.


Winspear, Jacqueline – (2008) - Maisie Dobbs(Best fiction of 2008) (2008) - Birds of a Feather; (2009) - Pardonable Lies; (2011) - Messenger of Truth; (2012) - An Incomplete Revenge; (2012) - Among the Mad; (2013) - The Mapping of Love and Death; (2016) - A Lesson in Secrets; (2016) - Elegy for Eddie; (2018) Leaving Everything Most Loved; (2020) - A Dangerous Place - Part I on Maisie's life since the last book and Part II a review; (2020) - A Journey to Munich; Hardcover or paperback by choice

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Albatross by Terry Fallis

(14. - 1086.) Albatross by Terry Fallis - The perfect book for me. Sports, reading, writing,  fountain pens and a hero who does not quite fit in. 

Adam Coryell is 17. He lives in Toronto. He loves fountain pens. He worships words and wants to be a writer. He may be in love with Allison “Alli” Clarkson who equally adores fountain pens and wanting to be an author. Adam and Alli are starting their senior year of high school in 2013.

Adam is in two classes with a new teacher, Ms. (never “Miss” nor “Mrs.”) Davenport. She defies stereotypes. In her 50’s with short grey hair she is “very solidly built”. She too loves fountain pens. She teaches Physical Education (Boys) and Writing Craft. Adam is in both classes with Alli in the writing course.

On her first day Ms. Davenport measures the “extremities” of four of the boys. There is no sexual implication. She has become fascinated with a Swedish Professor Gunnarsson who has propounded the PIPP (Predicative Innate Pinnacle Proficiency) theory that every human has a body which will be suited to a sport and he has developed the measurements to show which sport. For those who exceed the 95th percentile he believes they will excel in the sport to the highest level without practice for practice will alter their natural skills. 

Gunnarsson’s theory had yet to be put into practice as he has never found anyone who scored over 89. Adam is a 99.2 in golf. While he considers himself lanky Ms. Davenport describes him as having “orangutanal arms”. Adam has never held a golf club.

At the Toronto Ladies Golf Club Ms. Davenport is Bobbie and a multi-year club champion. As she takes him to try golf I was completely caught up in the story and eager, even anxious, to find out if the theory worked. 

Ms. Davenport sets him up with a 9 iron and invites him to close his eyes and think about something other than golf and swing. She cannot believe his beautiful and efficient swing. His first swing hitting a golf ball leaves her mouth agape as he hits the ball high, straight and long. As long as he does not think he can hit the ball perfectly. Eliminating the mind from the swing lets his natural talent take over.

It is no surprise that no body measurements are perfect for putting. It is impossible to putt by neither thinking nor practising. Ms. Davenport has him adopt Jordan Spieth’s heads-up approach. Practising putting is boring but Adam is soon competent.

Watching the early development of a prodigy is exhilarating.

Going to the Masters as an amateur with Ms. Davenport as a caddy was a great written experience. I could see this amazing young man walking on the most beautiful golf course in the world all the while conversing with Ms. Davenport about any subject other than golf interrupted only by periodically coming up to his ball and hitting another long straight shot. Adam is a triumph of the uncluttered mind.

His life is simple, devoted to writing with his collection of fountain pens and playing golf.


While friendly he has no close friends. Golfers cannot understand him. His prodigious unpractised skills leave them uneasy to envious to resentful.

Writing is a solitary pursuit. While he enjoys discussions with Ms. Davenport his heart yearns to be with Alli. Without being stated I knew he longed to  complete the antiponal (each writing alternate chapters) novel they began in high school.

Adam is a nice guy. There are not many in contemporary fiction. Dramatic dysfunctional lives dominate crime fiction. To have a nice lead character is almost as rare as 90% plus Gunnarsson measurements. Yet there is subtle drama in the book which drew me through the pages. Fallis is a writer with a gift for irony and humour. 

Albatross explores innate gifts. We all have skills. If only there were Gunnarsson measurements for every human endeavour. Few would ever be perfectly suited but we could be guided by our measurements to use our talents. Yet Albatross makes clear that dreams are as important as following your talents. It is a great book.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Marian Misters Bookseller and Award Winner

Just over a week ago the Crime Writers of Canada announced the shortlists for the 2021 Awards of Excellence. In addition to the shortlists the winner of the Derrick Murdoch Award was announced. I am proud to say I have known the winner, Marian Misters, for over 30 years. The CWC stated:

The Derrick Murdoch Award is a special achievement award for contributions to the Canadian crime writing genre. As co-owner of Toronto’s Sleuth of Baker Street, Marian Misters has been supporting mystery authors since the bookstore opened and CWC from its inception. Through hosting book events, she has helped launch the career of many CWC authors. In addition, Marian served as Jury Chair for the Awards four years, during which time she streamlined and developed written procedures for the judges. She was also instrumental in guiding CWC to a new, more diverse, Jury Selection Committee format, and has been active on the Awards Committee for five years.

I called to congratulate her on the well deserved Award and we chatted about her life.

Marian was born in England and moved to Canada when she was 11. With her Dad being moved around in the grocery business she attended 17 elementary schools and 4 high schools. She never understood people at university having kindergarten friends.

Marian and J.D. Singh became a couple at the University of Waterloo where they were in a co-op program and trained as accountants. After graduating they worked for a time with accounting firms. 

Neither enjoyed accounting. She said J.D. hated it. They looked at business opportunities far from accounting including a popcorn franchise and a printing business.

One day they saw a 2 line ad in the Globe and Mail newspaper offering a bookstore for sale. Intrigued, they went to see Judy Lelkes at her store on Bayview Avenue in Toronto.

Marian said when she walked into the store she instantly knew she needed to have this store. It was the place for her. They made an offer. There was a competing bid. The balance tipped in their favour when they wanted to keep on Bill who worked at the store. The owners did not want him to lose his job. Marian and J.D. wanted him because of his vast knowledge of crime fiction. Bill read 12 books a week. 

While Marian was a reader when they acquired the store her knowledge of mysteries was more limited. She said she acquired her knowledge of mysteries on the job.

Her reading has evolved over the years. Initially she read lighter crime fiction such as cozies. Now she reads across the spectrum. She said she has little interest in psychological crime fiction, having no desire to be scared and no need to read writers playing with the reader’s mind. She is ruthless with regard to her commitment to a book. If it has not captured her in 50-75 pages she moves on to another book. If she does not like the characters she does not like the book.

Favourite authors include Louise Penny and Michael Connelly.

Marian has an endless supply of author stories. I think she should write a book about her experiences with writers.

She said Mark Billingham, while writing taut psychological crime fiction, is a stand up comic and a great person.

Much of her reading is done in her chair in her cottage at her lake. Between martinis and walks with her dog, Pixie, she will read 5-6 books a week.

Back at the store her reading is limited. Marian and J.D. have arranged a unique schedule. The store is open 4 days a week from Thursday through Sunday. They alternate weeks. Marian said she goes hard from morning to night for her days and then has 9-10 days before she returns to the store.

Sleuth has always been a special place for me. Readers are greeted. Discussions over books with J.D. and Marian are encouraged. Beyond the welcome there is a charm to their store, especially their second store on Bayview where there was a rolling ladder along high rows of books and a fireplace. She said they sought in that store to create the feel of an English manor library.

At all 3 of their locations over the past 39 years they have sought to make the store comfortable. They have carpet on the floor. There are furniture tables on the floor to hold books rather than utilitarian tables. They do not want an industrial look. She said they wanted a cozy atmosphere for work. She joked she sprays eau de book every morning. 

I recounted in my first post on the store how inviting Sleuth was to our son Jonathan when he was about 12-13:

On one memorable winter visit Jonathan curled up in a chair before the fireplace, was so engrossed in his book that his runners started smoking before he realized he was too close to the fire.

Marian and J.D. have a distinctive relationship. They were married for 20 years. They have been divorced for 22 years. Economics and loving the store kept the business partnership together. Neither could afford to buy out the other nor did they want to sell or close the store. Currently Marian rents a room in J.D.’s home when she is in the city.

As the pandemic continues they are providing curbside pickup to shoppers who can come to the store and mailing out books to online buyers. I just put in an order for the shortlist for this year’s CWC Best Crime Novel.

I do not think I have ever seen Marian without a smile. 


Sleuth of Baker Street and Update on Sleuth and 2012 Trip to Sleuth and Sleuth of Baker Street in Mid-winter of 2015 and Authors at Sleuth and A Quintet from Sleuth in Toronto, Ontario whose website is http://www.sleuthofbakerstreet.ca/

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

An Exchange with Martin Edwards on Mortmain Hall

I enjoyed reading Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards, the justly well known English author / expert on Golden Age crime fiction / solicitor. It took me some time but I wrote to him recently. I appreciated his prompt thoughtful reply. Our exchange is below.


Dear Martin: 

The title of Mortmain Hall caught my attention.

As I read the book I vaguely remembered “mortmain” had some legal meaning but it was not until I was done and happened to be reading the review by Vicki Weisfeld in the blog, Crime Fiction Lover, that I appreciated it was an ancient legal term related to the gifting of land.

The literal translation of ”dead hand” is so evocative.

It has been 49 years since I studied Legal History in law school and I doubt mortmain was a part of my first year studies at the University of Saskatchewan. Our focus was on the Rule Against Perpetuities.

Looking at online definitions I learned “mortmain” actually dealt with legislation, the Statutes of Mortmain in 1279 and 1290, attempting to prevent the gifting of real estate to ecclesiastical organizations where it would stay forever. It was interesting to read how lawyers of that time created forms of trust to evade the limitations in the Acts.

As I went on with some historical searching I found the 1736 Statute of Mormain passed during the reign of George II in which limitations were placed on donors, whether in their lifetimes or by will, to make charitable gifts.

What was unexpected to me was finding 18th Century statute being considered in a Saskatchewan estate case 100 years ago in the 20th Century. When the vast areas of the NorthWest Territories owned by the Hudson Bay Company in Western and Northern Canada officially became part of Canada in 1870 English statutes “in so far as the same are applicable to the Territories”, unless replaced by subsequent English or Canadian statutes, remained in effect.

Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. In 1918, in Re Miller Estate a Saskatchewan judge dealt with the interpretation of a will containing the following clause:

“to Mrs. Jennie Delaney of 89 Marion Street, Toronto, for Christian work or otherwise as she sees fit.”

Judge Elwood determined the 1736 statute did not render the bequest void as he concluded the statute did not apply to the Territories from which Saskatchewan formed. He mainly relied on cases from the West Indies that the statute was only intended to prevent “public mischief” in England and had no effect when not adopted by the Legislature of Saskatchewan.

In a final twist he still found the bequest void for uncertainty.

In my general law practice, which includes work as a barrister and a solicitor, I prepare wills. In the wills I have drafted I have been successful in persuading clients not to seek to rule lives far into the future by their “dead hands”. In recommending against long term trusts I refer to the unknown length of time they will be in place and the limitations on the lives of beneficiaries and unexpected consequences. I often refer to a file I handled as a young lawyer.

In the early 1980’s I was dealing with an estate in which a payment was deposited from England once a year into the bank account of the deceased in rural Saskatchewan. His family did not know the reason for the payment. Through the mails, in those distant days before electronic communication, it was determined it was interest from a war bond. What startled me was that it was a WW I war bond! Apparently the English government was content to pay modest interest on a bond for over 60 years after the end of the war. Further research determined that it had been purchased by the estate of the deceased’s wife’s father. That information meant further research into English court records which determined the will of the wife’s father had been written by hand in the 1880’s (I understand important documents were written at that time rather than typed as commercial typewriters had only been sold for about 10 years). The will provided that the interest from any bonds in his estate went to his daughter and upon her death to her husband and upon his death to some English relatives. Since the ultimate disposition did not involve my Saskatchewan clients I did not try to find out who ultimately received the funds in England. 

I am confident no will I have drafted will be administered during the 22nd Century.

I enjoyed your drawing on real life cases in Mortmain Hall. After my review of the book I wrote about the Rouse case which I believe was your inspiration for the fictional Danskin case. I had intended to write this letter earlier but did not get my intentions completed until now. Was I correct that the Rouse case inspired you? Links to my posts are below.

Will you continue to work real life cases, legal phrases and concepts into your books? I hope you will continue to draw upon past legal history.

I will post this letter in my blog in about a week. If you are able to reply and willing to let me publish your response I would put it in that post or a later post.

I admire you for the breadth of your knowledge and writing talent and having carried on an active law practice while being a writer.

All the best.

Bill Selnes


Hi Bill


Thanks very much for this interesting email. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the book, and I hope that Gallows Court – which is deliberately rather different in style – will also appeal to you.


What I try to do in all my books, to a greater or lesser extent, is to include a wide range of elements that I hope will entertain and amuse (and perhaps, just occasionally, inform) and give the story a distinctive personality. My starting assumption is that, with each book, a ‘typical reader’, if there is such a person, will not necessarily pick up on everything that is there, lurking beneath the surface, but my hope is that there will be enough there to carry most people happily along. Over the 30 years since I published All the Lonely People, my first novel, I’ve been fascinated to see the way that readers have reacted, and the different ways in which different readers and reviewers have responded to those elements.


So my idea with my Harry Devlin books was to combine a gritty contemporary urban setting with an over-arching exploration of a city in the course of recovery from social and economic calamity, and with plots and tropes from the Golden Age. Intriguingly, hardly anyone ever picked up on the GA elements, probably because that type of writing was out of fashion at the time. When I made the GA aspects even more obvious, in The Devil in Disguise, my original publisher rejected the book, since she only liked the gritty elements and wanted more of the same. Fortunately, Hodder snapped it up, but although I’m fairly philosophical about these things, I was surprised that even though the books were in general very well received, so few people recognised what I was really trying to do.


So I tried writing other types of crime novel and trying out other ideas. Take My Breath Away was set in a London law firm and combined a psychological thriller with a satire of the Blair government and the PR business. Dancing for the Hangman was an attempt to provide a psychologically credible explanation of the puzzling aspects of the Crippen case. The Lake District Mysteries deal, among other things, with the nature of life in rural England in the present century and the geography and literary heritage of the Lakes. And so on.


The idea under-pinning the Rachel Savernake books is to take GA and psychological thriller plot ingredients, a Gothic dimension, a study of England in the 30s, and…well, you get the picture. These books are obviously much darker than the typical GA mystery and have a wide variety of ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised to read one blog article discussing ‘drink’ in Mortmain Hall, which made me rather glad that I’d done my homework, and I continue to enjoy the wide range of responses.


I chose the word ‘mortmain’ partly to create atmosphere, but partly to give a clue to the main strand of plot. One of the main ideas was to write a detective novel in which it is far from obvious what central mystery the reader and detective have to solve, and ‘mortmain’ was a sort of hint. Although I’m a solicitor, I’m not an expert in wills or property law, and my main recollection of the rule against perpetuities is of attending a lecture at Oxford on the subject which to a 19 year old was less than enlivening. So I consulted my son, a Chancery barrister, whose input was valuable in getting the facts and law right.


You are right to think that the Danskin trial drew on the Rouse case. As you have no doubt gathered, various other real life cases inspired other elements in the plot, such as the Mahon case, the Thompson-Bywaters case, and the Wallace case. I was also interested to try out various ideas about story structure – starting with an epilogue, the cluefinder, having a lengthy build-up before the characters arrive at Mortmain Hall, and so on.  


The next Lake District Mystery, The Crooked Shore, takes an idea from a recent high profile murder case, but the storyline is very, very different. One of its elements is to resolve a puzzle mentioned in the first book in the series, more than fifteen years ago.


I’m currently close to completing the next Rachel Savernake book, Blackstone Fell, and  it will explore the connections between science, religion, rational thinking, and spiritualism – among many other ingredients, including a locked room mystery. There are again one or two legal elements, but these are in the background.


Thanks again. I’m always grateful when people take the trouble to discuss my books in a positive way – it’s very rewarding. I received one delightful and amusing email recently from a reader who had figured out the hidden connection between the names of many of the characters in Gallows Court, but that’s another story…


All the best





Saturday, April 24, 2021

Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith

(13. - 1085.) Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith (2010) - Arkady Renko has been neutered:

He was an investigator who investigated nothing. The prosecutor made sure Arkady followed orders by giving him none to defy. No investigations meant no runaway investigations. Arkady was ignored, welcome to spend his time reading novels or arranging flowers.

He is nominally assigned to the area including “Komsomal Square, the people of Moscow called Three Stations for the railway terminals gathered there. Plus the converging forces of two Metro lines and ten lanes of traffic”.

Zhenya, the teenage boy who calls Arkady his friend and occasionally stays in Arkady’s apartment, is at the Three Stations daily looking for chess games and studying a Russian-English dictionary in a reversal of Bobby Fischer who learned Russian to read chess analysis. Known as “Genius” Zhenya hustles and observes and lives in a shuttered casino.

Zhenya becomes Maya’s protector. The 15 year old Maya from some distant part of Russia east of Moscow, has had her 3 week old baby stolen just before the train arrived. Exhausted from the journey she had fallen asleep.

Desperate to find her baby she is adamant about not seeking police help after her initial report is dismissed as a lie.

Arkady blunders into the investigation of the death of a young teenage woman near the Three Stations. She was found in a trailer with a direct phone line to the nearest police station. If Arkady does not investigate no one will for it is convenient to believe she was a prostitute and it would be very inconvenient should she be tied to the police. Not wanting to have the unidentified teenager be an abstract he calls her Olga.

Arkady’s supervisor wants to fire him. Maya will do anything to find her baby. Zhenya is baffled that he is attracted to Maya.

Arkady is as stubborn and principled as ever. He is a curse to Russian bureaucracy with his determination to find real killers rather than easy scapegoats or better yet expedient denials of any crime.

While he has survived suspensions and dismissals and even an exile to a factory fishing ship in the Bering Sea he is getting older. “Bureaucracy” always wins as it never ages.

I was disappointed with Smith resorting to a gratuitous body count to end the book. He is a better writer than such a resolution.

Overall Three Stations is a complex mix of fascinating characters coping with the harsh realities of  Putin’s Russia. His allies are gradually displacing and/or disposing of the original oligarchs of post-communist Russia. From the fetid streets of the Three Stations to the magnificent excesses of the Club Nijinsky Arkay relentlessly pursues a killer and a baby.

Smith, Martin Cruz – (2006) - Wolves Eat Dogs (2nd Most interesting of 2006 – fiction and non-fiction); (2007) - Stalin’s Ghost; Hardcover

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

2021 Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence Shortlists

This evening the Crime Writers of Canada announced the short lists for this year's Awards of Excellence on video. It was an interesting way to make the announcement. Congratulations to those listed. I intend to read the short list for Best Crime Novel as usual. As equally customary I have not read any of them.

Best Crime Novel
sponsored by Rakuten Kobo, with a $1000 prize

Marjorie Celona, How a Woman Becomes a Lake, Hamish Hamilton Canada; Penguin Canada

Cecilia Ekbäck, The Historians, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Will Ferguson, The Finder, Simon & Schuster Canada

Thomas King, Obsidian, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Roz Nay, Hurry Home, Simon & Schuster Canada


Best Crime First Novel
sponsored by Writers First, with a $500 prize

Raye Anderson, And We Shall Have Snow, Signature Editions

Chris Patrick Carolan, The Nightshade Cabal, Parliament House Press

Guglielmo D’Izza, The Transaction, Guernica Editions

Russell Fralich, True Patriots, Dundurn Press

Emily Hepditch, The Woman in the Attic, Flanker Press


The Howard Engel Award for Best Crime Novel Set in Canada
sponsored by The Engel Family with a $500 prize

Randall Denley, Payback, Ottawa Press and Publishing

Helen Humphreys, Rabbit Foot Bill, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Ann Lambert, The Dogs of Winter, Second Story Press

Kevin Major, Two for The Tablelands, Breakwater Books

Katrina Onstad, Stay Where I Can See You, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.


Best Crime Novella
sponsored by Mystery Weekly with a $200 prize

C.C. Benison, The Unpleasantness at the Battle of Thornford, At Bay Press

Vicki Delany, Coral Reef Views, Orca Book Publishers

Winona Kent, Salty Dog Blues, Sisters in Crime - Canada West

Sam Wiebe, Never Going Back, Orca Book Publishers


Best Crime Short Story
sponsored by Mystery Weekly with a $300 prize

Marcelle Dubé, Cold Wave, Sisters in Crime - Canada West

Twist Phelan, Used to Be, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine

Zandra Renwick, Killer Biznez, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine

Sylvia Maultash Warsh, Days Without Name, Carrick Publishing

Sarah Weinman, Limited Liability, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine


Best French Crime Book (Fiction and Nonfiction)

Roxanne Bouchard, La mariée de corail, Libre Expression

Stéphanie Gauthier, Inacceptable, Éditions Québec Amérique

Christian Giguère, Le printemps des traîtres, Héliotrope NOIR

Guy Lalancette, Les cachettes, VLB éditeur

Jean Lemieux, Les Demoiselles du Havre-Aubert, Éditions Québec Amérique


Best Juvenile or YA Crime Book (Fiction and Nonfiction)
sponsored by Shaftesbury with a $500 prize

Frances Greenslade, Red Fox Road, Puffin Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House

Janet Hill, Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House, Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House

Sheena Kamal, Fight Like a Girl, Penguin Teen, an imprint of Penguin Random House

Kelly Powell, Magic Dark and Strange, Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Tom Ryan, I Hope You're Listening, Albert Whitman & Co.


The Brass Knuckles Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book
sponsored by Simpson & Wellenreiter LLP, Hamilton, with a $300 prize

Jeff Blackstock, Murder in the Family: How the Search For My Mother's Killer Led to My Father, Viking Press

Norm Boucher, Horseplay: My Time Undercover on the Granville Strip, NeWest Press

Silver Donald Cameron, Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes, Viking Press

Justin Ling, Missing From the Village: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That FailedToronto's Queer Community, McClelland & Stewart

Michael Nest with Deanna Reder and Eric Bell, Cold Case North: The Search for James Brady and Absolom Halkett, University of Regina Press


The Award for Best Unpublished Manuscrit
sponsored by ECW Press with a $500 prize

The Future by Raymond Bazowski

Predator and Prey by Dianne Scott

Notes on Killing your Wife by Mark Thomas

A Nice Place to Die by Joyce Woollcott

Cat with a Bone by Susan Jane Wright