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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four… and Five…, by Simon at Stuck in a Book

Today when I was checking Jose Ignacio’s blog at TheGame’s Afoot I found his take on the meme, One Book, Two Book, Three Book, Four… and Five…, by Simon at Stuck in a Book.

As I looked around other blogs it popped up here and there including Bernadette’s Reactions to Reading with some variations from the original.

With this post I join the meme:

1.) The book I'm currently reading: Mr. Clarinet by Nick Stone. The book has been on my TBR pile for a long time. It is off to a fascinating start with former Miami police officer, Max Mingus, just out of jail, getting ready to travel to Haiti to pursue a kidnapped child.

2.) The last book I finished: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. The book had been highly recommended by mand and was an excellent book. As the plot unfolded I found myself accelerating the reading pace to see what was going to happen next in the book. I will be putting up a review later this week.

3.) The next book I want to read: The Bushman Who Came Back by Arthur Upfield. I have already read two of the Napoleon Bonaparte series this year and enjoyed them. The book has been tantalizing me for some time sitting there anxious to be read.

4.) The last book I bought: The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith. As Child 44 was at the top of My Best of 2010 for Fiction I am looking forward to reading this book.

5.) The last book I was given: The Goodbye Man by Chad Barton. I wrote a trio of posts about the vigilante killer featured in the book. I found it a challenge to write about a character whose actions are contrary to my beliefs in our system of justice.

6.) The last book I borrowed from the library: An easy answer as it is Murder on the Matterhorn by Glyn Carr. My review is the post below this post.

7.) The most recent e-book read: I am not reading e-books for pleasure. All day I read documents and court cases at the office and do not want to read more off a screen when I come home.

It has been a fun meme.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Murder on the Matterhorn (1951) by Glyn Carr

57. – 517.) Murder on the Matterhorn (1951) by Glyn Carr –Abercrombie “Filthy” Lewker, distinguished Shakespearean actor / theatre company manager, is an unconventional hero as a “bald and bulbour-nosed gentleman, five-foot eight and broad out of all proportion” with a “booming” voice. He is far from one of the beautiful people. Not many sleuths are not conventionally good looking men or women. At the same time Lewker is a very active man. He is also a highly intelligent character who, during World War II, was a secret agent in France.

About to leave for Switzerland for a climbing holiday at the famed Matterhorn he is contacted by British intelligence to make inquiries into threats against Leon Jacot, a swiftly rising political star in France. Lewker and Jacot worked together during the war in Occupied France.

At Zermatt an intriguing group of characters are assembled at the Hotel Obergabellhorn. Jacot’s wife, Deborah, is deeply worried by the threats which are being shrugged aside by her husband. Her pilot brother, John Waveney, is present to offer her support. Comte and Comtese de Goursac have a troubled marriage. Pretty Margaret Kemp is accompanying her ougoing Aunt Beatrice Fillingham. Author John Bryce and alpiner, Dr. Lawrence Greatorex. Wandering eyes and more complicate the relationships.

It is an English country house mystery in the Alps in format. It becomes a Swiss mystery by the participation of the mountains, especially the Matterhorn.

When murder occurs on the mountain all the alibis and opportunities are tested against the mountaineering abilities of the characters. All of the guests of the hotel have explanations for their location at the time of the murder.

Herr Schultz, the Kriminal Kommissar, is a competent, if pompous investigator, of the crime. He readily draws on Lewker to assist him.

It is a well plotted mystery clearly set in its era of the beginning of the 1950’s. Lewker is an engaging, larger than life character. I plan to look for further Lewker mysteries. (Oct. 22/11)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin

34. – 497.) Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin – Adelia, Mansur, Glytha and Allie flee the fens just ahead of a summoner for the local consistory court which is intent on charging and executing her and Mansur for going treating people. They join Emma, her young son and her champion as they seek to consolidate the holdings her son inherited. When there is resistance, trial by battle is conducted to determine the rightful owner. At the same time Henry II has been forced to come to Wales to deal with persistent insurrections inspired by the legend that King Arthur is just sleeping and will rise again to lead the Welsh to independence. When Rhys, a Welsh bard, convincingly passes on the comments of his late uncle, a monk at Glastonbury, that Arthur and Guinevere were buried 16’ deep at the abbey Henry orders an exhumation. Two skeletons (one tall and robust while the other is short and slight) are found. To Adelia’s anger Guinevere’s skeleton is missing the pelvic bones. Henry calls on his mistress of the art of death to determine if they are actually the bodies of Arthur and Guinevere for, if they are, rebellions will ebb as there is no Arthur to awaken. The Bishop of St. Albans, Rowley, comes back in to Adelia’s life. Back in his presence she reflects on what she has missed by not being with him. The investigation twists and turns through the forests and history of Glastonbury. There is an intriguing section on the beginning of the common law. Royal Courts are supplanting trials by combat. Words are to be the weapons in resolving disputes. It is a superb historical mystery. The history is fascinating and the mystery both appropriate to its time and skillfully plotted. Hardcover. (Aug. 28/09)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nightshade by Paul Doherty

56. – 516.) Nightshade by Paul Doherty – In early 1304 Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the Secret Seal, and personal representative of King Edward I is been dealing with the theft of treasure from the King’s storehouse in London – a real life event. Corbett is given great authority to investigate and act on behalf of the King.

The King sends him to Mistleham in Essex to deal with a number of issues involving Lord Oliver Scrope. The King demands precious items from his treasury returned. He wants explanations found for Scrope’s conduct in slaying a group of wandering religious and hasty execution of one of the thieves of the royal treasure.

Mistleham is in turmoil on Corbett’s arrival. The Sagittarius, also known as the Bowman, has been terrorizing the community. After three blasts of a hunting horn the Bowman is killing men and women, apparently at random, with well placed arrows.

Corbett finds Lord Scrope well prepared for his investigation. Plausible answers are offered to all questions. Corbett is not deterred and carefully seeks out information.

Then another name is offered by Sagittarius. He calls himself Nightshade as he threatens Lord Scrope. Since Lord Scrope is an ill tempered brutal man there are an abundance of potential killers.

Lord Scrope’s wealth is based on treasure taken during the fall of Acre at the end of the Crusades over a decade earlier. What happened in the final assault on the last Crusader fortress is at the heart of the mystery.

Corbett’s investigation becomes more complicated by murder within a locked room. It is actually a double form of the sub-genre. The room, actually a building of one room, is on an island surrounded by water with no bridge and guards watching out for anyone seeking to cross to the island. It has been some time since I read such a mystery. It is deftly handled by Doherty.

The era is a brutal time. The rule of law is tenuous with the sword more often used to deliver justice with all the arbitrariness that comes from decisions made by the wielder of the blade.

It is not a great book. It is an enjoyable story with lots of colour and a vivid portrayal of the early 14th Century. I expect I shall read more in the series. I was encouraged to read more of Doherty by the Puzzle Doctor who has a whole category devoted to the prolific Doherty’s books at his blog In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel. (Oct. 16/11)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Snow Job by William Deverell

55. – 615.) Snow Job by William Deverell – I have never read a mystery / thriller / satire where war is declared on Canada. Deverell manages to find a reason for our peaceable nation being at war with the fictional Central Asian country of Bhashyistan. The father of Igor Muckhali Ivanovich, National Prophet and Ultimate Leader for Life, was assassinated in Canada 15 years earlier. When several members of the Bhashyistan Cabinet are killed by an IED on a visit to Ottawa Mad Igor is enraged. Shortly thereafter, several representatives of a Calgary oil company in Bhashyistan are caught on tape discussing a bribe for the rights to a major oil project and making disparaging remarks about Igor’s Revered Mother. Igor imprisons the Canadians and declares war.

Distinguished B.C. lawyer, Arthur Beauchamp, who has escaped the turbulent world of a Vancouver litigator for the rural pleasures of Garibaldi Island, finds himself in the middle of the turmoil because of marriage. He has joined his former antagonist and now wife, Margaret Blake, in Ottawa where she is the leader of the Green Party and an MP for Cowichan and the Islands. (Deverell is prescient in that the current real life leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, was elected to Parliament three years after the book was written as the member for Saanich-Gulf Islands which is the same area as Margaret’s fictional riding.)

Arthur is a reluctant resident of Ottawa and consort of a well known politician. He longs to return to his acreage on Garibaldi.

The governing Conservative Party is in turmoil over how to deal with  a war with a landlocked dictatorship many thousands of kilometers away.

The day before the IED explosion Abzal Erzhan who had been found not guilty of killing the Ultimate’s father disappears from his quiet life in Montreal. Arthur is gradually drawn into the storm because of his firm’s connections with Abzal. A member of Arthur’s firm, Brian Pomeroy, had gained the acquittal at trial for Abza. With Pomeroy having disappeared into the Arctic it is up to Arthur to advise Abzal’s family back in Montreal.

Complications abound when CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) is tasked by the Government to investigate what has happened to Azbal and the connections with Arthur and Margaret.

Adding to the mix is a Saskatchewan connection which I appreciated. A trio of rural Saskatchewan women, on tour in Central Asia, get stranded in Bhashyistan after the declaration of war and must go into hiding with opponents of the Mad Igor’s regime.

Deverell has a fine time with the follies of the political processes and politicians of Canada. That satire strongly reminded me of the duet of books by Terry Fallis – The Best Laid Plans and The High Road - on the machinations of Federal politics. It is a rare legal mystery that is nominated for Canada’s Stephen Leacock Humour Award.

With wit and insight Deverell keeps the plot moving forward.

Arthur barely gets into a courtroom in the novel but he is a skillful counselor fulfilling another traditional legal role. The problems on which he provides counsel are as challenging as any criminal defence he has undertaken.

It is an entertaining book. Once again it is not a conventional legal mystery with the absence of a trial but I will list it under Legal Mysteries because Arthur uses his legal skills throughout the book. I am looking forward to getting the next in the series I’ll See You in My Dreams which has been published this fall.

This book is the 5th book I have read in the 5th Annual Canadian Book Challenge hosted at the Book Mine Set blog. I have reached the Lake Claire level. My goal is to read 13 books to reach the highest level of the Challenge. (Oct. 10/11)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Favourite posts from Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass

Over the 12 weeks of the trip around Europe I posted reviews of mysteries set in each of the countries. In this post I am discussing three posts I put up and a pair of posts from other participants that caught my attention.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg is set in Denmark and Greenland. It is the only mystery I have read that features Greenlanders and the huge icy island of Greenland. The book explores the uncomfortable issues of Greenlanders brought to Denmark to attend school. There are many challenges for the Greenlanders trying to adjust and fit into a new culture. What makes the book outstanding is Smilla, a vivid unusual character, long to be remembered. (I also thought of my visit to Copenhagen in the spring taking a lovely boat tour around the harbor area and enjoying supper on the dock after the tour.)

The Premier by Georges Simenon was my contribution for the stop in France. Most of my reading of Simenon has involved the series he wrote featuring detective Maigret. The Premier features the 82 year old former Premier of France. The book is unusual in the main character being in his 80’s. It is a rare mystery which gives precedence to an elderly character. I think more interesting mysteries could be written involving the 80+. Much of the book explores the thoughts and assessments of the Premier. It is a superb exploration of a mind.

My favourite book of the journey was TheMiracle Game by Joseph Skvorecky set in what was Czechoslovakia during the Communist years of the 1940’s through the Prague Spring of 1968. The book explored the bizarre results of taking all actions and making all decisions based on rigid Marxist – Leninist dogma. Freedom of thought was a dangerous concept as it did not fit with the required thoughts of communist doctrines. The lead character, Daniel Smiricky, publicly goes along, as much as needed, with communist thought while privately rejecting them.

In reading the book I was struck by how attitudes have changed. Smiricky is a young teacher in the late 1940’s teaching at a high school of all girls. He is pursued by the girls. There is no condemnation of a relationship between a teenage girl and her teacher. It would find disfavor with Communist authorities of the time but not the societal disapproval of today against such relations.

I enjoyed a pair of posts from other contributors concerning Turkey, the final destination.

Host Kerrie Smith on her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, offered a lovely post on the hotel in Instanbul, the Pera Palace Hotel, where Agatha Christie is believed to have written Murder on the Orient Express. You can stay in the actual “Agatha Christie” room at the hotel.

John on his blog, Pretty Sinister Books, reviewed Mehmet Murat Somer, a Turkish writer, whose sleuth is a Turkish transvestite (handsome computer consultant by day and glamorous nightclub owner by night wearing Audrey Hepburn lookalike outfits). John said the series explores aspects of gay life within an Islamic culture.

I am very glad I was on Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Review of Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass

On Monday I completed my journey on Kerrie Smith’s meme Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass when the train arrived in Turkey. Kerrie hosted the meme at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise.

For each of my posts I profiled a book in the country of the week.

My journey around Europe saw the following posts:

9.) Czech Republic - The Miracle Game by Josef Skvorecky 

Thankfully there were 12 weeks for the journey unlike my 1981 bus tour when it was if today is ----- we must be in -------.

I read a variety of different mysteries ranging from the early 19th Century to current days.

They were written from the 1950's to 2010.

Several were authors I read for the first time and I would not have encountered them but for the meme.

Switzerland was the most difficult nation for me to find a book. I searched bookstores and ordered through the local library but the interlibrary loan was slow. Finally on a trip to Regina, 300 km from Melfort, I tracked down The Pledge in one of the suburban libraries of the Regina Public Library.

It was a great trip and I thank Kerrie for hosting the tour.

On Friday I will discsuss my favourite posts from the dozen I put up for the trip.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin

The Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, has reached its final destination in Turkey. I have chosen a book from the 19th Century when it was still known as the Ottoman Empire. It has been an interesting literary journey around Europe for the past few months.


33. - 348.) The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin – In 1836 ennuch, Yashim, is called to the Sultan’s Court for 2 investigations. Four young officers of the New Guard have disappeared and one has been found gruesomely killed. In the harem the jewels of the Valide (Sultan’s mother) have been stolen and a Circassian girl has been murdered. Yashim’s investigation delves deep into exotic Istanbul. He keeps coming across signs of the destroyed Janissary corps (an elite army unit which had gone corrupt). One of Yashim’s friends is Stanislaw Palewski, the Polish ambassador (even though Poland ceased to exist a generation earlier). There is a startling encounter with Eugenia, the Russian ambassador’s wife. I had not read a novel featuring a ennuch. The emotions and challenges were moving. The ending is a touch contrived. Overall it is a skilful beginning to a new series. Hardcover (July 25/06)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Experiences with John G. Diefenbaker

As set out in my review below of The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder the Diefenbaker homestead near Borden was about 200 km west of our family’s homestead at Meskanaw.

When I was growing up on the farm John G. Diefenbaker was a mythic figure. When I started school he was Canada’s Prime Minister. He remains the only Prime Minister to have come from Saskatchewan.

He was fondly referred to as “Dief the Chief”. The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder sets out his close connection with the Indian peoples of Canada.

While he was Prime Minister, Dief was remembered in our community as a talented criminal defence lawyer. One report says he represented 18 people charged with capital murder. He was successful in defending many of them but at least one of his clients was convicted and hung. An interesting article on his legal career is available at http://ecommons.usask.ca/bitstream/handle/10388/242/Whiteway_Diefenbaker_manuscript.pdf?sequence=3.

Diefenbaker’s first law office in 1920 was in Wakaw which is 85 km down the highway from Melfort. He traveled for court cases through our rural area. A photo of a replica office is to the right.

By time I reached university in the early 1970’s he was no longer Prime Minister or even leader of the Progressive Conservative Party but he remained a Member of Parliament (MP) for Prince Albert. Through changes to riding boundaries Meskanaw became part of the Prince Albert Constituency.

I had finished first year law and was back home for the summer when a federal election was called. Dief, in his late 70’s chose not to travel by car or bus while campaigning but hired a helicopter. He descended out of the sky one afternoon and I was one of the community members to have a chat with him. We talked about law school. We each had gone to the College of Law in Saskatoon.

When I graduated he was Chancellor of the University and conferred my law degree upon me. His class, 50 years earlier, had 20 students while there were about 100 in my graduating class.

While his health was in decline he was determined to remain an MP. In 1979 he was in ill health and 83 years of age but he ran again and was the winner. He had reached the stature of winning elections no matter his personal circumstances.

A short time later he died in Ottawa. A showman to the end he orchestrated his return to be buried in Saskatchewan. He arranged a train trip for 2,500 km journey home. People across Canada came out to watch the train go by and say farewell to the Chief. Our province deeply mourned Dief.

He is buried at the Diefenbaker Centre in Saskatoon beside his second wife, Olive.

The website for the Centre is http://www.usask.ca/diefenbaker/.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Leaders & Legacies series - The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder

Today’s post is the second of three posts involving The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder. Tuesday had a review of the book. My next post on Saturday will discuss personal experiences related to John Diefenbaker.

I had not been aware The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder was the first in a Young Adult Canadian history series until I read the book.

On author Roderick Benns website, http://www.roderickbenns.com/, the series is described:

“The ‘Leaders & Legacies’ series is truly a first in Canadian publishing. This historical fiction series for ages 11 and up stars none other than our own Prime Ministers as mystery-solving, adventurous youth.”

It is a great concept for a series. The collective knowledge of our country’s history by our young people is incredibly low. In a 2007 study, http://www.dominion.ca/YoungAdultHistory3.pdf, of 18 to 24 year old Canadians only 26% knew the date of Confederation, the year we became a country. (Margot Kinberg on her great blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, occasionally has quizzes about mysteries. This post is not intended to be a quiz but she has inspired me to ask readers if they know when Canada became a country? The answer is at the end of the post.) In the study young Canadians were given a basic history test. 82% failed the test. It was not a difficult test. The pass rate in Saskatchewan and Manitoba was 29%. While it is hard to be proud of a 29% pass rate was a 10% increase in test performance for the two provinces from 10 years earlier.

In The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder readers, in the context of a good mystery, learn about the settlement of Western Canada, how farming was conducted by pioneers, what was expected of kids living on farms at that time, the transition faced by Indian people from hunters to farmers and the grievances of Metis (part French and part Indian) that led to a rebellion.

The second in the series - The Legends of Lake on the Mountain: An Early Adventure of John A. Macdonald – has been published. It features an adventure involving our first Canadian Prime Minister.

Benns website includes suggestions for teachers on how to teach Canadian history.

It is a brave concept directly seeking to combine mysteries and history for young Canadians. I hope it can succeed. History has always been most interesting for me when I am reading about people within the events of history.

I will be looking for The Legends of the Lake on the Mountain.

The answer to my one question quiz: Canada became a country in 1867.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder by Roderick Benns

54. – 614.) The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder by Roderick Benns – I do not often read books written for ages 11 and up. I was drawn to this book because its subtitle is “An early adventure of John Diefenbaker” and it is a Saskatchewan mystery. The book is the first in a series of historical adventure books featuring Canadian Prime Ministers when they were 12-13 years of age. On Thursday I will put up a post on the concept of the series Leaders & Legacies. I will add a further post on Saturday discussing personal contacts with John Diefenbaker. He has been the only Canadian Prime Minister to come from Saskatchewan.

The book is set north of the village of Borden in 1908 when John was 12 and his younger brother, Elmer, was 10. Their parents and uncle had homesteaded a few years earlier.

The book gets off to a rousing start when the boys, returning home in the night after getting some water from a neighbour, are startled by a gunshot. Rushing to the Schneider farm they find that Hans Schneider has been murdered.

Immediate suspicion falls upon River’s Voice, a Cree Indian, from the nearby reserve who has had public confrontations with Schneider over fur pelts that River’s Voice claims were stolen from him by Schneider.

The Diefenbaker family does not believe River’s Voice is the murderer. John and Elmer are determined to prove his innocence. They are aided by Summer Storm, the 11 year old daughter of River’s Voice. They have but a few days to find evidence for River’s Voice is scheduled to be taken to the provincial capital of Regina to be tried for the murder.

The author is sympathetic to the concerns of the Indian peoples trying to make the adjustment from free ranging hunters to farmers in one generation.

While the young John is trying to focus on the murder there is growing turmoil in the area as a young Metis man, Andre Dumont, is agitating against the Federal Government. Asserting he is a nephew of the great Metis military leader, Gabriel Dumont, he raises the different grievances the Indians, the Metis and the white settlers have with the distant government in Ottawa. It is been 23 years since the Riel or Northwest Rebellion and few of the issues that sparked that revolt have been addressed.

Life is demanding for the settlers. Only prompt action by the family saves their home from a raging prairie fire.

The mystery is solved with flair. John is a clever boy with a great memory, an ability to assemble arguments and a talent for convincing arguments. The book shows why he became the best known lawyer of his generation.

The descriptions of life on the farm in 1908 are accurate. Everyone had to work hard to develop farms on the good soil of Saskatchewan. My grandfather homesteaded our land in 1907. He came from South Dakota with a few cattle and horses and built a farm.

It is a fine book. I wish there had been such a fiction adventure when I was growing up on the farm in the 1950’s about 200 km away from Borden. When I was a boy all the books in the library about young people were set far away in Eastern Canada or the United States or England. Had there been an adventure set a short distance away involving Saskatchewan farm kids it would have been wonderful.

The book is an excellent means of providing significant historical information on the settlement of Saskatchewan within a credible mystery. I expect I will look for more of the historical adventures of young Prime Ministers. (Oct. 4/11)


The book is my 4th book in the 5th Canadian Book Challenge at the Book Mine Set. I have now reached the Bras d’Or Lake level.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

The Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass hosted by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise has reached its second last stop in Greece. Reading about Anne Zouroudi through other blogs encouraged me to choose one of her mysteries for my post on Greece.

48. – 608.) The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi – Since Greece is the origin of classic myths it is appropriate that Zouroudi creates a modern myth set on the island of Thiminos.

Irina Asimakopoulos has died and the local police are indifferent. Suicide is presumed and the file closed until Hermes Diaktoro, the fat man, arrives to re-open the case. Was her death suicide or murder?

It should not have been a myth but I found that I had presumed life was as idyllic on the Greek isles as in the village of Three Pines in the rural Quebec mysteries of Louise Penny. I expect I was unduly influenced by the beautiful photos and posters of Greece that fill the world. I know the movie, Mama Mia, reinforced that myth. My self-created myth was shaken, if not shattered, by the descriptions of Thiminos in winter. It is a bleak place with miserable weather. Its people live in cold crumbling stone houses. Life is a struggle with the tourists gone until summer. I was depressed by the grimness of winter life on Thiminos.

The people of Thiminos live in a small world with rigid social rules. As in the distant days of the Greek gods these islanders breach the norms at their peril. I grew up in Saskatchewan near a small village and live in a city of a few thousand people. Thankfully my real life neighbours are far different than the insular islanders.

It is a challenge seeking information in a closed society. The people of Thiminos guard their secrets from non-islanders. Yet the fat man, with genial persistence, gradually learns of Irinia’s troubled life. The tension builds carefully as the details of Irinia’s life unfold.

The book comes alive as the author alternates between the current investigation of Hermes and the past with the islanders, including Irinia, talking about their lives.

There is a robust, even mythic, presentation of passion that is far more powerful than the descriptions of physical coupling customarily presented in fiction for passion.

It is rare that the means of dying shock me but I was startled by the cruelty of Irinia’s death.

It is a lovely book even if it has discouraged from considering visiting the Greek islands outside summer. Hardcover or paperback. (Aug. 27/11)

Friday, October 7, 2011

What to Read Next?

Before I started this blog what to read next was almost a random question. It might be a book just purchased that was highly recommended or from an author I especially liked. If I had been reading a lot of fiction I might consciously turn to a non-fiction book. Sometimes it would be looking at the TBR pile and deciding it was time to go to the bottom to see what I wanted to read but had let be buried from view. I say it was not quite random as I usually tried to alternate a book from a previously read author with a book from a new author.

Since becoming a blogger I find my reading has become more organized. I have participated in a couple of memes hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise. The first was the Alphabet in Crime Fiction and the second is Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass. The first I joined at the letter “G” while I have been on the train for the whole journey to date. I am also participating in the 5th Canadian Book Challenge at John Mutford’s Book Mine Set blog.

As I usually prefer to place a book review in the weekly memes it means my next reading has been influenced by what is the next letter in the alphabet or next destination on the train. Living in a community of 6,000 people with no bookstore means it is harder for me to go buy what I want to read for a meme. The nearest large bookstores are 185 km from Melfort in Saskatoon.

To get what I want to read next for memes has taken me to the library more often than I have been in recent years. As a library board member it is probably a good idea that I have been going into the library more frequently.

Another impact of writing blog posts concentrated on mysteries has been to read even less non-fiction.

Blogging, by getting me to the blogs of other book lovers, has also expanded my author horizons. The recommendations of other bloggers have sent me looking for authors I had not found on my own.

What I rarely do is re-read a book. There are so many books I am anxious to read that I have not read that it will take a special reason to go back to read a book again.

I do not think I will take part in a meme again for awhile though I reserve the right to change my mind! I would like to read next for awhile the book that looks most interesting from the stacks of the TBR.

In looking over the stacks on my desk I know that The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen is going to read next shortly. When it is done I think I am going to complete some non-fiction that has been languishing.

There remains one imperative in what to read next. A newly published Saskatchewan mystery will not even reach the pile. It will be my next read as soon as purchased. Next week I will be reviewing the most recent Saskatchewan mystery – The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder – which I purchased last month.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

“U” is for Undertow by Sue Grafton

53. – 613.) “U” is for Undertow by Sue Grafton – Kinsey Milhone is having a quiet spring when Michael Sutton walks through the door and wants her to investigate what he believes was the burial of a young girl, Mary Claire Fitzhugh, who was kidnapped 21 years earlier in the summer of 1967.

Without any pressing commitments Kinsey takes on the investigation and seeks out information to identify the alleged location of the burial. She is far from confident of the information given by her client who has recalled the incident as a repressed memory.

Patiently she assembles facts and eventually, with her help, Sutton comes up with a specific location. The police descend upon the site in the words of a wealthy neighbourhood. When the body of a dog is found police interest ceases.

Kinsey, one of the most dogged sleuths in crime fiction, refuses to close the file. She follows slender threads of information. Who else would work diligently to identify the buried dog?

The book has three interlocking stories. Foremost is Kinsey’s investigation. Second is the history of the events of 1967. Third is the story of the contemporary lives of the killers. Grafton does an excellent job of tying together the plot.

In her personal life Kinsey continues her wary re-connection with Grand, the matriarch, and other members of the Kinsey family.

While well plotted the book never took off for me. The investigation is a steady slog to the solution. I suspect I was influenced by a collection of characters who are unlikeable. Kinsey’s personal life had little sparkle. It is long series with “U” being the 21st book. The last really great book in the series for me was “P”. I will read “V” but it will mainly be because I have read the whole series. Paperback. (Oct. 1/11)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ratking by Michael Dibdin

The Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass, hosted by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise, is nearing the end of the journey around Europe. The trip reaches Italy this week. I am looking back to the opening Aurelio Zen mystery from the late 1980's. 


44. – 507.) Ratking by Michael Dibdin – The first Aurelio Zen mystery from 1988. Zen, working at a meaningless inventory position after being removed from the kidnapping unit, is chosen to handle the investigation in Perugia of the taking of Ruggiero Miletti, a prominent and wealthy businessman. When Zen arrives the local police are barely co-operative, the investigating magistrate is far from aggressive and not all in the family are distraught about the kidnapping. The book gives a brilliant portrayal of the twisted murky relationships of Italian society. For the Italian police and judiciary the wealth and influence of those involved can hamper or accelerate an investigation depending on the favours exchanged and the pressure exerted. The torturous path of Italian court cases is discussed. As I read the book the ponderous trial of Amanda Knox was reaching its conclusion and her conviction. (Two years later I post this review on the day her appeal from her murder conviction is allowed and she is released from custody.) The title refers to the tangle of tails rats can get into when too closely packed together. It is a vivid, even revolting image. The Miletti family is certainly warped and tangled. Despite the lack of support Zen progresses in the pursuit of the Calabrian kidnappers. It seems strange that, twenty years ago, negotiations for the kidnapped could continue for months. It is a subtle book. I look forward to reading the next in the series. Paperback. (Nov. 16/09)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir

62. - 612.) Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir – Thora Gudmundsdottir has a quiet practice of law in Reykjavik, Iceland. Life is hectic as she is the single mother of two children.

Suddenly her life changes when she is offered a huge fee to help investigate the death of Harald Guntlieb, a young German studying history in Iceland. Matthew Reich, a security official for the Guntlieb family bank, is looking for an Icelander to help him navigate bureaucracies and deal with the language as he does not speak Icelandic. While the friend of Harald in police custody is a credible suspect the family has doubts he is the real killer.

Thora is immediately intrigued though startled when she learns Harald was involved with sorcery, self-mutilation and erotic asphyxiation. She is shaken when she finds Harald’s eyes have been extracted after death and a mysterious symbol carved on his body.

Harald has had a long interest in witchcraft. He has come to Iceland to compare witchcraft trials in Iceland and with Europe, especially Germany. Iceland has been different in that most of those tried and executed were men while on the continent it was women.

It is a macabre subject that is reflected in Harald’s life. He has had a deep personal interest in sorcery. What he has done to his tongue made me flinch when I read the passage. While definitions of normal are difficult I have no hesitation in calling Harald abnormal.

The contrast could not be greater with Thora’s personal life. She has a sunny 6 year old and a moody teenager. They are living average lives far from the dark world of Harald and his friends.

The investigation is well done. Thora and Matthew work well together assessing information and conducting interviews.

Those book reviewers who have described the mystery as creepy are accurate.

Sorcery is not an area of history I have pursued. The mystery did not whet my interest. We do not have to look back centuries to find investigations into alleged black arts. A couple of years ago I read The Butcher’s Tale by Helmut Walser Smith. It was a non-fiction book studied by my younger son, Michael, at university for a history course. It involves the murder of a young man in 1900 in East Prussia and the belief of many villagers that he was killed by a Jewish resident as a ritual killing for blood. Belief in the blood libel persisted into the 20th Century. I will be posting a review of the book later this year.

I will read more of Sigurdardottir’s books. Thora is an engaging character. The history of Iceland featured prominently in the book.

I have had difficulty categorizing the book on whether it is a legal mystery. Normally I think of legal mysteries as really courtroom trial mysteries. I have arbitrarily decided for myself that legal mysteries are books involving practising lawyers and are not limited to courtroom dramas. (Sept. 28/11)