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.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Four Post World War I Mystery series

       I have been looking at the different series of authors I read, more specifically series featuring historical sleuths. It was striking to me that I enjoy several series set just after World War I but none set in the equivalent time period after World War II.
I do not know why I have only read post World War I series. I do believe there was a more powerful sense of waste after that war which is reflected in each series. There were better reasons for fighting World War II.
The closest series involving World War II are the novels of Alan Furst but the books I have read by Furst either take place either before the war or early in the war.
Going by alphabetical order the post World War I series are:
1.) The Rennie Airth series with Inspector Madden;
2.) The Charles Todd series of Inspector Rutledge  
and Hamish McLeod;
3.) The Charles Todd new series with nurse Bess
Crawford as the sleuth; and,
4.) The Jacqueline Winspear series with the
enigmatic Maisie Dobbs.
Each series is set in England and the sleuth had participated in the Great War and had been profoundly affected by the experience. The feelings of loss were intense for veterans of the First World War. The percentage of loss of life among the combatants was greater in World War I.
Possibly readers of the blog can suggest mystery series whose sleuths are World War II veterans similarly influenced by their war service.
Of the series quartet my favourite series has been the Inspector Rutledge series, especially the early books. The first time I read Hamish speaking to Rutledge inside his head a chill shivered down my spine.
Two of the books in different series have been Bill’s Best of the Year in Fiction. In 2001 it was Airth’s book The River of Darkness. In 2008 Maisie Dobbs was my favourite.
The generation that fought World War I was more literate than the soldiers who fought the remaining wars of the 20th Century. What other war had as many poets on the front lines? Much of the most powerful war poetry ever written came out of World War I.
In my next post on Tuesday I will review Anthem for Doomed Youth, an anthology of poetry from World War I. Wilfrid Gibson’s poem, Lament, from that anthology captures the post-war mood of the sleuths featured in the above four series:

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain,
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly, and spent
Their all for us, loved too the sun and rain? 

A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings –
But we, how shall we turn to little things,
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?


  1. Anthem for a Doomed Youth is the title of one of Carola Dunn's mysteries featuring Daisy Dalrymple. It's set in 1926. I wondered why the title sounded so poetically familiar. I just opened my copy and - voila! - there as the epigraph is the poem of the same name by Owen. That's what happens to all the review copies I get - into a pile and left unopened. (shamefacedly hanging my head)

    I have enjoyed reading the Ian Rutledge series - so utterly original and truly haunting - and Rennie Airth's first novel. I have the other two by Airth but have yet to get to them.

  2. John: Thanks for the comment. Each of the series draws deeply on the experiences of the characters during World War I. I will be interested in reading your review of Dunn's book and finding out if it also relates to the Great War.

  3. I've been reading some post-WWI fiction lately, too, and I have to say that I really like the Maisie Dobbs series -- and it's continuing into the pre-WWII years. I'm continuing forward with her!

  4. Karen: Thanks for commenting. I have not read one of the Maisie Dobbs series in some time. I am trying to read them in order and was having some difficulty finding the next in the series. I may have to look further than Saskatchewan bookstores.