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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Life as a Book 2011

Margot Kinberg at her excellent blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, finished a set of sentences with book titles. The sentences involving autobiographical statements were created at the blog Pop Culture Nerd. I was inspired to take on completing the sentences from books I have read.

One time at band/summer camp, I: (was) Burying Ariel (Gail Bowen)

Weekends at my house are: Forty Words of Sorrow (Giles Blunt)

My neighbor is: Missing (Karen Alvtegen)

My boss is: Immoral (Brian Freeman)

My ex was: King Con (Stephen J. Cannell)

My superhero secret identity is: The Sherlockian (Graham Moore)

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry because: The Devil in Me (J.D. Carpenter)

I’d win a gold medal in: Prairie Hardball (Alison Gordon)

I'd pay good money for: A Painted House (John Grisham)

If I were Prime Minister rather than president as I am Canadian I would: Cross Bones (Kathy Reichs)

When I don't have good books, I am: Dreaming of Bones (Kathy Reichs)

Loud talkers at the movies should be: The Vanished Man (Jeffrey Deaver)

I did manage to find 5 titles written by Canadian authors.

I found it fun and challenging for some of the sentences. Why not give it a try and post your efforts in a comment at Pop Culture Nerd.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg

This week the Crime Fiction in Euro Pass hosted by Kerrie at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, reaches Denmark. I have recent fond memories of Denmark having spent a week in April exploring the country. We were staying with Stine, an exchange student who lived with us 10 years ago, and her family in Kolding. It is an inviting friendly country. It is also the home of my blogger friend, Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen$3.99 and her fine blog http://djskrimiblog.wordpress.com/. My contribution to the meme is a Danish thriller / mystery that was an international success almost 20 years ago.
43. - 506.) Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg – A fascinating thriller mystery from the early-1990’s. Smilla Jespersen, half West Greenlander / half Danish, is obsessed with finding out why her young apartment neighbour and fellow Greenlander, Isaiah, threw himself off their apartment roof and killed himself when he was afraid of heights. Her suspicions are raised by his tracks in the snow. While never completing a university degree Smilla is an expert on snow and ice. Throughout the book are sprinkled the various Greenlander words for different types of snow. Her life is financed by her wealthy father, Moritz, a doctor with an international practice. The authorities try to deflect Smilla but she is determined. Those opposed to her efforts try to kill her. It was an unusual thriller in that I could not grasp what was being sought by the conspirators until very near the end of the book. I actually  bought the book when Stine was a student here. She appeared to hesitate about the book. While an international bestseller it hardly presents the Danes well in their relationship with Greenland. A generation of Greenlanders were uprooted and brought to Denmark for education. It did not go well. It reminded me of Canada’s problems with Residential Schools for Indian children. Smilla is an amazing character who brought to mind Lisbeth Salander. She is independent, smart, tenacious, emotionally troubled, socially awkward – a brilliant misfit in Danish society. After never reading about Greenland I read two books this year. Each speaks highly of living on that forbidding island. A terrific book. (Oct. 29/09) (Third Best of 2009 fiction)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Third Rail by Michael Harvey

47. – 607.) The Third Rail by Michael Harvey – It has been awhile since I read a high octane thriller in which I raced through the book impatient to read the next drama.

Michael Kelly is a former Chicago police officer turned private detective. A killing on the train is staged for him. Chasing the killer he is ambushed in an alley. A gun is put to his head and he is asked if he is ready to die. Instead, his attacker knocks him unconscious.

Another slaying a few minutes later on another train the city is in a panic over a killer preying on citizens using public transit.

While the FBI has been drawn into the investigation Chicago’s flamboyant mayor, John J. Wilson, invites Kelly to take vigilante action on behalf of the city.

What does not make sense to the investigators is why an apparently random killer seeking to create chaos in the city has tied Kelly to the killings. Can a traumatic childhood event experienced by Kelly be connected to the murders?

The FBI, led by agent Katherine Lawson, put vast resources into the investigation.

The book roars ahead with Kelly seeking to solve the killings while officialdom is content to find the easy solution. There are some unexpected twists upping the suspense level.

In his quest Kelly draws on a talented computer guy and a friend on the Chicago police force.

It is not a book with significant character development. There is no time for reflection. Kelly is charging forward with the investigation. Pages just kept turning. It is a very good action thriller. I read it in just over a day. (Aug. 21/11)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Dying Light by Henry Porter

40. – 503.) The Dying Light by Henry Porter – I had been long looking forward to Poter’s 5th book. His earlier quartet were excellent. The book gets off to a promising start with Kate Lockhart, a former intelligence officer and now a lawyer just returned to England from New York, mourning the death of her friend David Eyam. As she attends his funeral she finds she is his heir but his solicitor is attacked and documents stolen. There is troubling surveillance and extensive information being sought to register in a hotel. There is a Citizens Watch program that is quite intrusive. As she seeks to find out what happened she is shocked to learn David has faked his death and that the government has unbelievably extensive computer program spying on every English citizen. The Prime Minister, John Temple, is a blandly correct man with a Machiveallan core. Getting ready for an election he is ready to exploit a toxic algae problem. The thriller is unfortunately overshadowed by the Orwellian exploration of government invasion of privacy. It is really an update of 1984 set sometime in the near future. At times I found it hard to believe governments would spy on everyone but it is clearly possible. It was a good book but I found distracting the emphasis on upper level of political and bureaucratic government combining with private interests to pervasively enter people’s lives with closed circuity public cameras and computer searches. I will remember the book. Civil liberties continue to be threatened 60 years after 1984 was written. I have read 3 spy / intelligence novels from England in the past month. Stock and Porter have some optimism in their endings unlike the bleakness of Le Carre. (Sept. 30/09)

Since reading the book the events of The News of the World scandal have occurred in England. The plot has become far more plausible.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson

43. – 603.) Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson – The 6th book in the series featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire from Durant, Wyoming. After leaving Absaroka County for the last book I was glad Walt is back home.

It is not often a mystery contains a scene from slapstick comedy. The book opens with the Sheriff’s Department stopping an old Toronado car pulling 72 year old George “Geo” Stewart who is tied to the back of the car. How Geo came to be sliding behind the car is laugh out loud funny. It is a tribute to Johnson that he makes the sequence credible as well as humourous.

Sheriff Walt moves on to a missing body parts investigation. The tip of a thumb has been found in a cooler at the dump. Who has lost part of their thumb?

It is late winter in Wyoming. February has been a brutal month. The temperature many days has barely ascended above 0 F (about -15 C). When the sun is not shining it has been snowing. Actually it sounds like a nice February in Saskatchewan.

Geo, a tough wiry man, returns quickly to help run the family junkyard and community garbage dump. Geo prefers the title of Municipal Solid Waste Facility Engineer.

Doing an effective job of keeping intruders out of the facility are a pair of huge mutt wolf-dogs, Butch and Sundance. As always Walt is accompanied by his big dog, Dog.

There is a confrontation at the facility between the future, Ozzie Dobbs a developer of multi-million dollar properties, and the present, the ornery Geo, which returns Geo briefly to the hospital.

When Geo subsequently turns up dead during a vicious storm Sheriff Walt leads the investigation which takes the Department down unexpected paths.

Personally, Walt is feeling the cumulative effects of a series of injuries sustained in the line of duty. He is forced into a medical examination. It was refreshing to read about a tough guy wearing down. Many series there does not seem to be any long term effects from serious injury.

Emotionally Walt has grappled with the risks of the job and come to accept them. Deputy, Santiago Saizarbitoria, has physically recovered from his bullet wound but is suffering from “bullet fever”. He has lost the spirit to be a police officer. Walt desperately wants to keep him a member of the Department.

The plot is less tied to Wyoming than earlier books in the series. As always the weather has a prominent role.

The characters are Wyoming. All prize independence. They are at home in the vast spaces of the state. While they are not as charming as Louise Penny’s Three Pines, Quebec I have come to love Durant and Absaroka County. They are a real community. The dialogue is witty and the story engaging. Excellent. (Aug. 8/11)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Blond Baboon by Janwillem Van de Wetering (1978)

This week the Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass travels through Belgium and the Netherlands. Kerrie at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, has the train running smoothly with interesting books and authors at every stop. The journey has moved from England through Portugal / Spain to France and now the Low Countries. Not finding any books set in the Netherlands or written by Dutch authors in my past 11 years of reading I looked for a Dutch book for the EuroPass meme. I chose a book by Janwillem Van de Wetering written a generation ago.


45. – 605.) The Blond Baboon by Janwillem Van de Wetering (1978) – On a dark and stormy night Sergeant de Gier and Adjuant Grijpstra of the Amsterdam police are called out to investigate the death of Elaine Carnet. (I have long wanted to use “a dark and stormy night” to start a review.) She has died as a result of a fall down the steps of her house into the garden. Was it accidental or was she pushed? There is a gruesome look of triumph in her face.

De Gier and Grijpstra investigate but I found it interesting how the Commissaris and detective Cardozo are given important roles in the investigation.

Elaine is the successful majority owner of a business selling furniture. She shares a building with her lovely daughter, Gabrielle. Her long time minority partner, Bergen, appears unsettled. Franseco Pulliani, the son of her major supplier, is in Amsterdam visiting the firm. Elaine’s former lover and employee, Vluet, known as the “blond baboon” has remained in contact with her. (I wonder in the politically correct atmosphere of today if the title would be used. Were it to refer to a woman I doubt a publisher would allow the title.)

Do any of them appear to have a financial motive for killing Elaine? What are the personal connections?

Elaine has been an unhappy woman for some time spending her days in idle pursuits and her nights drinking.

The Baboon is an interesting character. A clever skilled salesman he turned down the opportunity to run the business with Elaine. Instead, he chose to live a less rewarding financial life in which he restores boats, rents out apartments and lives simply.

The investigation proceeds logically, even methodically. People are interviewed, evidence assessed and leads pursued. There are no startling twists. The pace is steady. There is but one body. It lacks the dramatic scenes of current crime fiction.

What is striking is that all of the police get along reasonably well and they are constantly thinking. Many modern detectives find their way to solutions by poking around and blundering about the story.

It is a nice solid book. I expect I will read more of Van de Wetering. As common with the mysteries of a generation ago it is 168 pages in length. (Aug. 13/11)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason

36. - 595.) Voices by Arnaldur Indridason – It is Christmas time in Iceland. For Inspector Erlendur every Christmas is a blue Christmas. Since a tragedy in childhood there has been no spirit of Christmas in his life. With neither activities nor festivities awaiting him, dealing with a murder causes no interference in his life.

Called to one of Rekjavik’s largest hotels he finds the doorman / handyman, Gudlaugur, dead in his room. It is among the saddest of deaths. Gudlaugur, wearing a Santa suit, has been stabbed to death and left in a very compromising position.

As the police probe his past they find he was an outstanding boy soprano in a well known Icelandic choir. Gudlaugur’s life was changed forever in a single moment. While most people are formed over time by small and large events for Gudlaugur there was a critical moment that transformed his life.

Listening to a record of Gudlaugur’s beautiful boy soprano voice sends Erlandur back into his childhood to relive the traumatic event that irrevocably altered his life.

At the same time Elinborg is investigating the severe beating of a young boy who cannot talk about what happened. She is convinced it is the father.

Erlendur’s daughter, Eva Lind, a long time drug addict seeks to understand her distant father who let himself be cut off from his children.

The investigation proceeds slowly. No fellow employees acknowledge a relationship. Gudlaug has no friends. He is estranged from his family. He died a lonely man in a solitary existence.
A strange British record collector is in the hotel. He had been seeking copies of the records made by Gudlaugur. Their rarity has made them very valuable.

As details of Gudlaugur’s life are gradually revealed Erlendur keeps being forced to consider his own past and how a single event still affects his life.

I have not had a single moment that defined the rest of my life. All of us know people in real life as haunted by a childhood event as Erlendur and Gudlaugur.

Christmas is a time to celebrate life and peace. When life is a trial and there is no inner peace Christmas is the most difficult of seasons. Gudlaugur never got the chance to change his life before being killed. Erlendur wants to put the past behind him but it is so difficult.

I was reminded of Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny. As Inspector Gamache struggles to deal with recent mistakes Erlendur is starting to address his errors stretching back to his pre-teen days.

It is a challenge to meld three parallel stories. Indridason has accomplished the feat superbly. (June 29/11)

Jose Ignacio in his fine blog The Game's Afoot has information on the author, a review of the book and links to other reviews.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alix Bosco Revealed and Inger Ash Wolfe Still a Pseudonym

A few weeks ago for “W” during the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise I put up a post asking “Who is Inger Ash Wolfe?”

The post dealt with theories on the identity of the author. The name is pseudonym. When the first book in the Hazel Micallef series, The Taken, was published there were articles published advising the author was a well known Canadian writer.

Since that time speculation has continued for the identity has not been revealed. I went into information from bloggers that put the leading candidate to be Russell Smith.

Wolfe’s books have done very well despite the author being unavailable in person for interviews.

On the other side of the world in New Zealand there had been another successful mystery series launched by an author using a pseudonym.

Alix Bosco published a very successful first novel with Cut & Run featuring legal researcher Anna Markunas.

Blurbs led the world to believe Bosco was a woman. Blogger, Craig Sisterton, from Crime Watch said he was convinced Bosco was a woman.

A week ago the author emerged from the shadows. To general surprise it was a man, Greg McGee, a former star rugby player.

At Crime Watch Craig has an excellent post on Bosco / McGee. He also provides a link to a long story in the Sunday Star Times where McGee was revealed as the author.

He said that he had used the pseudonym as he was convinced the book would not get a fair chance to succeed if readers knew the author was a man, especially a man known as a rugby player, whose lead character was a woman. His decision was confirmed by a panel of readers. The two who knew he was a man did not find it credible. The three who did not know had no problems with credibility.

McGee said he went public with his real identity because he heard it been a letdown when Bosco won the Ngaio Marsh crime writing award and there was no one to accept the award.

In an interesting exchange of comments on Crime Watch Kerrie raised the issue whether it was a form of deception for McGee to have used a female psuedonym. She specifically brought up the issue that were the writer Australian the author would have needed to reveal gender to be eligible for a Davitt Award. I thought McGee reacted rather defensively to the comment.

I am not sure there needs to be a protocol for authors using pseudonyms. They are intended to conceal a writer’s identity. Blurbs sound too artificial if they have no gender and make the author an “it”. No one should be surprised by the actual gender of any author using a pseudonym. Organizations and awards based on gender can simply disregard any author who relies on a pseudonym and does not reveal their gender.

The “reveal” certainly gained McGee significant publicity.

There is no indication Inger Ash Wolfe is about to identified. No one in the blogsphere has been able to help me answer the question “Who is Inger Ash Wolfe?” I am still interested in receiving information to solve the mystery.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Premier by Georges Simenon (1958)

This summer and fall Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, is hosting the Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass meme in which bloggers travel to a different weekly destination around Europe. This week's journey is to France.


42. - 602.) The Premier by Georges Simenon (1958) – Over 20 years have gone by since I read one of Simenon’s books. In the past I mainly read the books featuring his famed detective, Maigret. Participating in the 2011 Euro Pass meme encouraged me to look up his books at the library. I decided to read The Premier which is a stand alone novella at 125 pages.

Never named, the former French Premier is 82 and enduring a slow decline in his home on the cliffs of Normandy overlooking the ocean. His days proceed slowly through a rigid routine – up at 5:30, dealing with the few pieces of daily correspondence, meeting an occasional visitor, reading the newspapers, going for a short walk, eating carefully prescribed meals, getting a needle, sitting alone in his study thinking, laying in bed reflecting on his life.

While physically diminished the Premier’s mind is unimpaired. He is not haunted by death. He has lived a long life. He is bored by the life he is living in rural Normandy.
The Premier has cared little about relationships. Friends and family are almost inconsequential. His passion has been politics and he still pays close attention to turbulent French politics. He has been either a Minister or the Premier in 22 governments.

Having already written a 3 volume official set of memoirs he has sent shivers through the French establishment with rumours that he is now writing his real memoirs. He realizes someone within his household is quietly searching for documents and notes.

His estranged protégé, Monsieur Chalamont, is given the opportunity to become Premier. Within his papers the Premier has an explosive secret concerning Chalamont. What will the stern unyielding Premier do with the secret?

Simenon takes the reader deep inside the mind of a proud powerful man near the end of his existence. I thought of The Lion in Winter movie about Henry II. The aged leaders in book and movie are as fierce as ever.

An interesting article on Simenon at the age of 55 can be found at http://www.trussel.com/maig/life58.htm. I recommend reading the story after the book as it discusses The Premier and how it was written.
It is a subtle unconventional mystery in which Simenon skillfully demonstrates his insight into the human psyche. (Aug. 6/11)

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

41. – 504.) The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – The most eagerly anticipated book of the decade with over 70 million copies of The Da Vinci Code printed and at least 2 million copies of this book sold before release. Robert Langdon is back in America for this adventure in symbology. Brown moves away from the Catholic Church to Free Masons. They apparently have a secret connection to the lost wisdom of the ancients. Langdon is called to Washington D.C. by Peter Solomon, a 33rd degree Mason, for a speech. When he arrives the story explodes into action. Peter’s hand is found on the floor of the Capitol staked to a base with the fingers pointing up and tattoos upon the tips. A strange and powerful character, Mal’akh, has Solomon and expects Langdon to find and decode the pyramid in Washington that leads to the Ancient Mysteries. Solomon’s sister, Katherine, is exploring noetic science – new theories in thought and how it can affect matter. She is drawn into the maelstrom. The CIA, through its office security section headed by the fearsome 4’11” Innouye Sato, jumps into the investigation. (While not a 4th spy novel it does involve the CIA.) Brown has the amazing skill of taking a mystery from ancient theory and making its unraveling contemporary and believable. He never takes off into the impossible of some thriller writers. He suspends disbelief with a credible plot. Once again he creates a haunting villain. He provides easily knowable facts that were unknown to me. I never knew Washington was so filled with Masonic symbols. The cryptic solutions are superb. The puzzles are complex (more visual than written) but all solvable with knowledge of symbols ranging from our era to the Egypt of the pharaohs. It was hard to be fair in the reading because of the hype and because The Da Vinci Code was a great thriller. Michael considers Angels & Demons better. The Lost Symbol is a worthy successor. It is a good not great thriller. I expect the Mason hierarchy will be as unhappy as Catholic leaders if readers believe everything in the book is true. The book says they decline to respond to criticism. In the first month since release, I have neither heard nor read any response from the Masons. (Oct. 10/09)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cinderella Army – the Canadians in Northwest Europe 1944-1945 by Terry Copp

35. - 594.) Cinderella Army – the Canadians in Northwest Europe 1944-1945 by Terry Copp – The Canadian Army in Northwest Europe after the D-Day invasion carries the weight of perceptions that it underperformed, was slow in achieving objectives and of limited assistance in achieving victory.
Continuing the history he commenced with Fields of Fire about the Normandy campaign Copps carefully describes and assesses the army’s performance for the rest of the war.
           After the breakout from Normandy at the end of August the army was on the northwest flank of the Allied armies for the balance of the war.
Tasked to clear the Channel Ports they faced fortified cities in Boulogne and Calais. There was no easy way to take the cities. Copp describes the attacks as examples of modern siege warfare.
After clearing the area of the Channel they turned to the Breskens Pocket, the fortified German held area on the West bank of the Scheldt. The river had to be controlled to allow access to the huge port of Antwerp.
The Canadian soldiers faced a miserable campaign in wet weather with most of the area deliberately flooded. There was no room to manoeuvre. There was no way take the area except through methodical moves forward. Only a huge increase in manpower could have sped the process.
When the west side was secured the Canadians turned to the East side attacking Beveland and Walcheren Island. Once again they were dealing with fortified positions in flooded country.
An amphibious assault on the Island brought to a conclusion the grinding campaign.
       Through the clearing of the Scheldt the Canadians were essentially functioning with the minimum number of soldiers needed. 
It is hard not to reflect on the Canadian lives lost because Montgomery did not make clearing the Scheldt to Antwerp a priority over his thrust to the Rhine at Arnhem. From the front line private to Eisenhower all knew they needed a port and they had it in Antwerp but Mongomery’s decision meant it was unusable for a much longer time. 
Later the Canadians fought again in the wet soggy Rhineland eventually pushing the German Army further east. When they were not trying to go through flooded country they were battling in forest. They ended the war liberating the Netherlands.
From Normandy to the Netherlands the Canadians were assigned gritty difficult tasks. They had no opportunity to break through and sweep across countryside. They fought on flooded landscapes against dug in opposition. It was a striking contrast to the end of World War I when Canadians led the advance moving swiftly forward. I could not help wondering what would have happened if the Canadian Army had been given orders which gave it open countryside to forge ahead in battle.
It was striking how crucial the artillery was to every Canadian advance. While armour was useful it was the artillery which made attacks successful. 
I had not realized before this book of the importance of the flame throwing Churchill Crocodile tanks and WASP universal carriers. 
It appeared the Canadian Army did its best with the resources available and the limited priority given their assignments. More replacements would have helped but it is hard to see how full strength formations could have significantly quickened the pace. The Canadian Army’s sharp end kept being blunted by the terrain and the enemy.


      When I grew up on the farm at Meskanaw our nearest neighbours were the Colemans. Roland Drever, the brother of Tannis Coleman, was a part of the Cinderella Army. He was a rifleman in the Royal Winnipeg Rifles in the Normandy campaign. He was killed on August 27, 1944 in France in the vicinity of the Seine. His brigade successfully crossed the Seine that day. Roland is buried at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery and his Grave Reference is XXIII. H. 2. Our province, Saskatchewan, has named geographical features after our war dead. Drever Island in Reindeer Lake is named after Roland. Every year until her death Tannis, to honour her brother, would attend the Remembrance Day services each November 11 in Kinistino and the Legion supper that night. My father, Hans, and Roland were each born in 1911. 100 years have passed since their births.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

43. – 603.) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell – It is 1799 and the Dutch East India Company has the sole European trading post in Nagasaki, Japan. In Europe Napoleon is conquering continental Europe.

Following the path of generations of ambitious but poor young men de Zoet has signed up for 5 years of service in Asia with the Company. A new clerk, he is assigned the unpopular task of re-creating accurately the ledgers of corrupt predecessors. Dishonesty has become entrenched.

Dutch life is confined to the small artificial island of Dejima in the harbour. All communication and trade with the Japanese goes through the heavily guarded land gate. Japan is still intent on minimizing European contacts and influences.

Despite Japanese determination to preserve its isolation the discoveries of European science are filtering into nation. Japanese scholars are eager to learn. New knowledge is dispelling and disproving long held traditions and superstitions.

The book is a fascinating portrayal of the interaction between the Dutch and Japanese on a personal scale in this confined setting.

The lonely de Zoet, while never forgetting the lovely Anna back in the Netherlands, seeks a relationship with Orito. A well born woman disfigured by a severe burn she is a midwife and has managed to get the chance to gain medical knowledge from the crusty Dr. Marinus. A fragile contact is built.

De Zoet and Orito have modest lives. Their efforts to live with integrity find little favour in either society. Their choices are sharply circumscribed by each culture. Around them intrigues swirl and business transactions are negotiated. Each suffers for their stubborn honesty.

Orito is taken away to a monastery. De Zoet seeks to help her. The book does not unfold like a Hollywood movie.

As each adapts to life without the other international politics complicate life in Nagasaki. There is a breath taking confrontation involving de Zoet whose powerful images will long be remembered by readers.

Early in the book I found myself comparing the story with Shogun by James Clavell in which shipwrecked English sailor, John Blackthorne, two centuries earlier is drawn into the plots and schemes of aristocratic Japan. De Zoet is involved with far lower ranking Japanese. Initially, I found myself missing the grand adventures experienced by Blackthorne. As the book went I found myself captured by the challenges of the characters. While I loved the epic sweep of Shogun there are compelling personal stories in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. By the end I was enjoying the book as much as Shogun. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is deserving of its acclaim. (Aug. 4/11)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson

Kerrie Smith at her blog Mysteries in Paradise is hosting the Crime Fiction on a EuroPass meme this summer and winter. There are 12 stops around Europe. Last week the journey started in England. This week trip has reached its second destination in Spain/Portugal. I have chosen a mystery set in Portugal.


19. -151.) A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson – Police inspector, Ze Coelho, investigates the death of a teenage girl in Lisbon in the 1990’s. Klaus Felsen is taken into the SS and sent to Lisbon in the 1940’s to represent the SS. For 534 pages their stories wind and come together in a complex, exquisitely plotted mystery. The storyline is unflinching. The characters are human not stereotypes. There may have been too many extra twists for me but they were never forced. A worthy Gold Dagger winner. Paperback or cover (Apr. 21/03)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Cosy Knave Blogger Relay

Dorte Jakobsen has written a mystery, The Cosy Knave. Smashwords describes the book:

"The vicious attacks begin when the prodigal son of Knavesborough returns to the sleepy village after forty years in Argentina with fame and fortune. No wonder what spiteful Rose Walnut-Whip is killed, but when the violence escalates, Constable Penrose knows he needs help from his fiancee, librarian Rhapsody Gershwin." 

Dorte has put up a post at http://djskrimiblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/wait/ that sets out how you can purchase the book.

She has come up with a clever means of promoting her book. She is conducting a round the world blogger relay of questions and answers. Yesterday Kerrie Smith at her blog Mysteries in Paradise posted the answer to question 5 and question 6. You can follow the relay back to Kerrie at http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2011/08/do-you-like-your-cozies.html. Having made her post Kerrie has passed the baton from Australia to me in Western Canada.

Question 6 was:

What kind of plot can we expect in "The Cosy Knave"?

Dorte’s answer is:

I promise I´ll do my best not to spoil the mystery for anyone, but in the very first scene the Knavesborough gossips have just heard that the prodigal son is on his way back. The major´s son left the village forty years ago after a successful career as a musician so of course he settles for nothing less than the local manor, and soon all sorts of dramatic events shatter the peace. The prize scandalmonger of the local knitting club is killed - had she stumbled on a secret that could be dangerous for someone else?  So even though the story is light and entertaining, there is also a proper murder mystery with clues strewn over the pages, and I trust that even for the seasoned reader of puzzles there will be a few surprises.

Question 7 is:

How do you come up with your characters; are any of them based on real people?

I now pass the baton across the Atlantic to Denmark where Dorte will be posting the answer to Question 7 on August 8 on her blog, djskrimiblog. I encourage readers to make the journey to Dorte’s blog. It is amazing how the baton is racing around and around and around the world.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore

Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore in Minneapolis has the largest selection of mystery books in one store I have visited. Add in the science fiction stock from Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore which shares the location and there is a huge selection of books.

The neighbourhood is far from gentrified. If the location helps to keep overhead down and more books in the store all the better for readers.

It is interesting that Minneapolis has a pair of fine mystery bookstores. Earlier this year I did a profile of Once Upon a Crime Bookstore.

Entering Uncle Edgar’s is to encounter an almost overwhelming number of books that overflow the spacious store interior. There are books on shelves, on revolving stands, on the floor. There are mysteries everywhere.

The staff is very helpful at identifying the location of books.

With so many books in the store it is a good place to search for books that have been hard to find in other stores.

Browsing is bound to mean the purchase of a bag of books.

When I was there I did wish there were easy locations to sit down and look at a book.

In the section on news and editorials Don Blyly has an interesting editorial on why he thinks e-books are being over-blamed for the drop in sales at bookstores.

The store is located at
2864 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55407
about 2.5 km south of downtown Minneapolis.

John in his Pretty Sinister Books blog discusses his visits to Uncle Edgar’s at  http://prettysinister.blogspot.com/2011/07/uncle-edgars-book-shop-minneapolis-mn.html

When I am in Minneapolis I make sure I visit Uncle Edgar’s.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker

39. - 599.) Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker – Joe Trona is a superb character. A tall bright (photographic memory) strong young man of 24 his life is dominated by a badly scarred face from acid thrown on his face by his biological father, Tron, when he was 9 months old. Joe normally wears a hat to shadow his face. I thought of Voices where two primary characters had their lives defined, even dominated, by a traumatic childhood event.

Two of Joe’s most pronounced traits are politeness and respect. Joe calls men sir and says thank you. He engages in simple politeness. He does not swear. I am not sure what it says about crime fiction that Joe is unique because he is well-mannered and courteous. He is an honest direct man living in a world of devious conspiring men.

Set in Orange County in California Joe, by daytime is a county deputy. At night he is the driver and aide to his adoptive father, Will Trona, who is a member of the County Board of Supervisors.

Will has a complex life dealing with all the issues of a fast developing county where there are strong opinions on further development. By night he deals with the personal issues of his constituency.

Joe is helping Will drop off a bag. They go on to pick up an 11 year old girl, Savannah, there is a violent confrontation in which Will is killed. Joe sets off to find the killer.

Sweet silent Joe, as described by his adopted mother Mary Anne, pursues leads diligently but politely. Neither using aggressive language or violent action he gradually assembles information on what happened. He learns Savannah is the daughter of America’s 41st richest man, Jack Blazek. He pursues the leads among the rich and powerful of Orange County never flinching when pressed or promised until he solves the murder.

The plot unfolds smoothly. It is a wonderful mystery with an unconventional hero. It is an uncommon mystery where the lead character is physically unattractive. (July 19/11)