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.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Burnt Out by Nelson Brunanski

Burnt Out by Nelson Brunanski – The third Bart Bartkowski mystery is the best in the series of small town Saskatchewan mysteries.
            After a successful spring season and a short break Bart is getting ready to return to his fly-in fishing lodge to get it cleaned up. Back home Crooked Lake (the town of Wakaw in real life) is getting ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
            Dominating the Saskatchewan summer is a heat wave that has left the whole province tinder dry. Up north forest fires are being ignited after every thunderstorm.
            After flying his float plane up to the lodge Bart and trusted employee, Charlie McKenzie, make a good start on the cleanup. That night Bart suddenly awakes to find the camp in flames. While a water bomber contains the fire the lodge is totally destroyed. While examining the devastation Bart stumbles over a charred body.
            RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) investigators fly in to deal with the murder and what was clearly arson. Close attention is paid to Bart.
            The consequences of the fire are multiplied for there was no fire insurance. Bart, to save high premium costs, had discontinued insurance coverage a year ago. His wife, Rosie, is crushed as she contemplates them looking at starting over again.
            Trying to figure out what to do with the destroyed camp Bart is approached by a mining company, Uranium Inc., which wants to buy out Bart’s lease.
            Adding spice to the mystery is the return of Janine Kincaid to Crooked Lake. A few years younger than Bart, she had gone unnoticed by him while in high school. Now a stunning single woman she makes very clear her interest in Bart.
            Crooked Lake celebrates the centenary in classic small town fashion. Rosie contributes her design skills to the float being put in the parade by the Junction Stop, a local gas station.
            Within the book there are legal proceedings that grate upon me as a lawyer. They do not take place in the right court, they proceed in a manner different from our Criminal Code and they have a decision that would not occur in Canada. I wish authors set out legal procedures accurately. The drama of the story does not have to be compromised by accuracy. When errors are made it makes wonder about the other research done by the author.
            I did appreciate the skilled legal assistance needed was provided by a Saskatchewan lawyer residing outside Saskatoon or Regina.
            The book has a deft little twist. Several names of people or places in the book are plays on real life names. You would have to be familiar with Wakaw to pick out these names.
            In previous reviews of Crooked Lake and Frost Bite I had expressed admiration for the faithful picture of rural Saskatchewan but regretted the quality of the mystery. This time the mystery matches the portrayal of Saskatchewan. I was not fond of the ending but the series has improved dramatically. As always the cover is striking and will jump out in a bookstore. I look forward to the 4th in the series. My 2012 reading is off to a fine start.
           The book is the 6th book I have read in the 5th Annual Canadian Book Challenge hosted at the Book Mine Set blog. I have reached the Williston Lake level. My goal is to read 13 books to reach the highest level of the Challenge. (Jan. 1/12)


  1. Bill - I got a real sense of place just from reading your post, so I would imagine the book really evokes the setting, and that's great. I am sorry to hear that the legal aspects of the novel weren't as accurate and well-researched as they might have been. I agree with you completely about the need to "do one's homework." It's good to hear that didn't completely take away from your enjoyment of the novel, though.

  2. Margot: Thanks for commenting. It is a good book for a reading trip to rural Saskatchewan.

    My comments over legal procedure were irritation on my part. I enjoyed the book.