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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Death Turns the Tables by John Dickson Carr

34. - 593.) Death Turns the Tables by John Dickson Carr (1941) – Justice Horace Ireton is a judge of a style that still existed when I graduated from law in 1975. Dry to the point of bloodless he prides himself on being logical and uninfluenced by emotion. While being precise and dispassionate are good qualities in a judge they become flaws when the judge is arid of feeling.

Justice Ireton appears to lack all emotion beyond a cruel sense of humour of playing cat and mouse with those convicted in his court. While using words sparingly he will lead them to believe a particular sentence is about to be imposed and then abruptly shift to a different punishment.

He is about as far in personality from the passionate Rusty Sabich of Scott Turow’s books as possible.

As I read the book I realized how rare it is to read about a judge being the potential killer. I do not know why more crime authors have not considered judges for suspects. They are very suitable candidates.

Justice Ireton is just as coolly analytical in family relationships. When his 21 year old daughter, Connie, introduces an obviously Italian fiancé, Anthony Morell (originally Morelli) the judge sizes up the foreigner. Certain of his ability to judge character Justice Ireton swiftly concludes Morell is a suitor intent on gaining financial advantage from the marriage. He immediately strikes a bargain with Morell. He will pay the Italian to go away. Unfortunately, he does not have the money to pay Morell.

When Morell is found dead in Justice Ireton’s home on the seashore, with the Judge holding the handgun that fired the fatal bullet, his prospects are grim. Yet why would the judge kill a man in his own home and sit there with the gun in hand?

With very British deference to a higher class Inspector Graham does not immediately arrest the judge. He treats Justice Ireton far more circumspectly than he would a young unemployed man found in similar circumstances.

Aiding the police is Dr. Gideon Fell, a huge man who moves ponderously through the book. I was reminded of Nero Wolfe both in size and style. Fell solves mysteries by thought rather than action. He is the analytical equal of Justice Ireton while retaining emotions.
Young barrister, Fred Barlow, seeks to have the suspicion diverted from Justice Ireton.

I appreciated a mystery where the characters are bright and articulate. It reads well 70 years after it was written. The end was a surprise to me.

I wonder if Fell could be a lead character in this era. Few authors appear willing to have their protagonist be a fat man. Almost all contemporary primary characters are fit slender attractive men and women.

It was interesting to see the clear prejudice in upper British society of that era against South Europeans. Each generation has their own biases.

I am going to look up more of Carr’s mysteries. Excellent. (June 26/11)


  1. Bill - Carr really was a terrific writer and I'm glad to see you highlighting one of his books. May I recommend The Three Coffins? It's one of the best "locked room" mysteries I've read.

    You make an interesting point about modern sleuths' appearances. Reginald Hill's Andy Dalziel is known as "The Fat Man," and Kerry Greendwood's Corrina Chapman is also heavy. There are others, too. But most of today's sleuths are not. I wonder about the effect of television on people's perceptions of how one "ought to" look...

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I will look for "The Three Coffins". I appreciate your reminder that all lead characters are not beautiful people

  3. well i rarely leaves comment on any site but your blog is really so amazing that i can't stop myself from making comment on it...