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, February 27, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee – Before I read the book I vaguely knew it involved a court case from the deep American South when segregation was vigorously enforced. Little did I realize that I would read of one of the most remarkable characters in fiction. Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout, is 6 years old as the book begins in 1932. Lee does a remarkable job of having Scout narrate this book. I cannot think of an author who has done better at creating the mind of a child and how she perceives the world.

Scout lives in Maycomb, Alabama with her father, Atticus, and her brother, Jem. Her mother died before Scout’s living memory. Their cook, Calpurnia, is an African American woman.

Scout is fierce. Feisty is too mild a term. Woe to the boy who mocks or challenges her. In her words she will let fly her fists.

Starting the first grade is a torturous experience. Scout is as much a misfit as the country children repeating the first grade because they have missed too much school. Scout, being able to read already, confounds her teacher and leaves Scout desperately bored in a class working to assemble simple words from the alphabet.

Atticus, almost 50, is a country lawyer dealing with all the legal problems of the people of Maycomb and surrounding area. While I have not seen the movie I have seen photos of Gregory Peck as Atticus and he perfectly matches my image of Atticus from the book.

Jem, her older brother by 3 years, is her constant companion through most of the book. She is determined to do everything that Jem is doing. Scout is contemptuous of those who expect her to act like a girl in preparation for becoming a lady.

Atticus is a wise father threatening harm to misbehaving children but not following through with lickings. He is prepared to let his children learn from experience. It struck me how current parenting is so focused on protecting children. How do you learn to stand up for yourself when parents do not give you those opportunities?

Atticus guides his children. Scout is refusing to attend what is a useless Grade One for her. Rather than trying to dictate she must go to school Atticus works out with her:

            “Do you know what a compromise is?” he asked.

            “Bending the law?”

    “No, an agreement reached by mutual concessions. It
    works  this way,” he said. “If you’ll concede the necessity
    of going to school, we’ll go on reading every night just as
    we always have. Is it a bargain?”

             “Yes sir!”

At the heart of the book is Atticus defending Tom Robinson, a young black man, charged with the capital offence of raping a white woman. While the community considers Mayella Ewell trash she is white trash. When Atticus is appointed to defend he does his best. He can do no less for any client.

Harsh words reach down to Jem and Scout about their father being a n----- lover. (It is one of the profound changes in our culture that 53 years after the book was written and 80 years after it was set that the “n” word has become one of the most objectionable words in the English language.)

I have never represented anyone looked down upon by his/her community in the same way Maycomb deems Robinson guilty. I have represented many the city assumed were guilty.

Saskatchewan people treated its black people better than America in the 1930’s. I spoke with Negro Leagues star, Buck O’Neill, who told me his traveling baseball team enjoyed coming to Saskatchewan in the 1930’s. He said we were treated like people. At the same time Saskatchewan had public prejudice with regard to our Canadian Indians. It was little different even 30 years later as William Deverell captured in the trial of his Indian client in I’ll See You in My Dreams.

As she does through the rest of the book Lee, by telling the story through Scout’s eyes, offers a unique approach. Most writers use the lawyers involved. Scout’s observations, as a child, add to the trial.

While Jem and Scout are colour blind in how they treat people they barely notice how callously the coloured people are dealt with by the white population of Maycomb. While Scout believes all people are just folks she casually accepts white privileges. Segregation is her way of life. Still there is an inkling of the change to come in race relations.

The scene in which Scout and Jem join Atticus in confronting a mob intent on lynching Robinson is as powerful a scene as has been written.

The trial is very credible. For a non-lawyer, Lee accurately depicts the process and questions of the lawyers. Lee’s background as the daughter and sister of trial lawyers and a law student (she dropped out in second year) no doubt assisted her. Atticus does a fine job of attacking the evidence against his client.

The aftermath of the trial is just as well done as the lead-up. Few legal mysteries deal well with what happens after the trial.

Scout, Atticus and Jem are life time memorable characters. Scout’s personality will stay with me the best.

Five decades after it was first published, To Kill a Mockingbird remains a subtle and rich book that contains a great trial.

I wish I had read the book previously. It is worthy of its Pulitzer Prize and vast praise. It will be a strong candidate for Bill’s Best of 2013 Fiction. I have become one of the millions who regret Lee wrote no further novels. (Feb. 18/13)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Buying in Hawai'i

My resolution not to buy books while on vacation in Hawai'i lasted no longer than the first library I visited on O'ahu. A couple of days into the vacation Sharon and I visited shops in an old sugar mill. After learning at one shop how they grew coffee and cacao beans and a different store how they made soap from locally grown plants I saw a sign for the Waialua library.

The staff told me it is the smallest library on O'ahu. After enjoying a chat I saw they had a book sale of used books. I could not resist buying a copy of "V" is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton for $0.25.

A few days later we were at the giant, 290 stores, Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu. Having already broken my resolution I went to Barnes & Noble to buy some Hawaiian mysteries. I was sadly disappointed. I was not surprised when a clerk told me they did not have a designated section of Hawaiian mysteries. I was dismayed when she took me to the Hawaiian section of the store where she thought there was Hawaiian fiction only to find there was no collection of Hawaiian fiction. When asked about looking on the computer she advised they could only search by title and author. Having failed to buy Hawaiian crime fiction I comforted myself by buying a classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, that I had never read. (My next post will be a review of the book.)

Determined to buy a Hawaiian mystery I spent some time on the internet researching and writing down titles and authors of Hawaiian mysteries. When we returned to the mall I went back to Barnes & Noble with my list of approximately 15 authors. It was discouraging that only 3 of the authors had books in the store. I did buy Murder Leaves Its Mark  by Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl. I chose the book as it was set, albeit almost 80 years ago in Hale'iwa on the North Shore. We were staying a few kilometers out of Hale'iwa at the beach.

A few days later we were in Kāneʻohe and another library lured me. The city library turned out to have its own bookstore with thousands of books for sale. I decided on a A Lawyer's Journey by Morris Dees with Steve Fiffer (an autobiography). When they told me it would only cost $0.25 again I felt guilty. While not much of a gesture I did pay $1.00 for the book. The staff told me they keep the prices low to keep the books moving out of the store.

My book buying would have ended but for driving by the BookEnds store in Kailua after a meal at Buzz's Original Steakhouse which advertises itself online as the restaurant President Obama eats at when in Hailua. The President made a good choice.

BookEnds turned out to be a nice store jammed with books. The mystery section covered over half the back wall. There was a comprehensive selection of American mysteries. Authors from outside the United States were few in number.

I picked out Village of the Ghost Bears by Stan Jones. It is the 4th book in the Nathan Active series. This weekend I will be posting some Q & A with Stan.

I also bought a book for which I do not know anything about the author or the plot. It is One Blood by Graeme Kent featuring Sister Conchita and Sergeant Kella. I was attracted by its setting in the Solomon Islands. It is not Hawai'i but it is at least set in the Pacific. As I chose the book I realized it has been too long since I just bought a random mystery that looked interesting and had neither read reviews nor received recommendations about the book.

For the remainder of the holiday I avoided library signs and never saw another bookstore.

The holiday turned out to be a typical book vacation for me. I completed reading 4 books while buying 5 books. I do have good intentions about the TBR piles.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil by Donald Thomas

Sherlock Holmes and the King’s Evil by Donald Thomas – Another wonderful collection of short stories from a modern master of Holmes. Each of the stories features the scientific Holmes. He does not deduce solutions from his amazing powers of observation and analysis. Instead, he is the early criminalist applying the sciences of his time.

In the first story, The Case of the Tell-Tale Hands, Holmes is asked to determine why Arthur Savile, the brother of Raymond Ashley Savile who is the third Earl of Blagdon, has moved from eccentric behaviour to the bizarre. He has taken to wearing gloves inside and outside. He will take them off to play the piano but for few other reasons. More puzzling he has broken into his brother’s house in the middle of the night. Nothing has been taken. It appears he has only entered the house to spend a short time handling expensive porcelain pieces on display.

Holmes brings his fingerprint powder to the house. Carefully dusting the porcelain collection he determines which items were handled and where they were touched.

At the same time he has learned the brother, Arthur, is a believer in spiritualism and easily convinced there is real science in the palm reading.

As with the original stories by Doyle the evidence for the conclusions are there to be drawn but I, like Watson, rarely see them until Holmes explains their significance.

The second story, The Case of the King’s Evil, sees Holmes and Watson working to determine what has happened to two brothers, keepers of the Old Light beacon, missing in the quivering sands near the coast.

The twist is that Alice Castelnau, sister of the missing men, has come to engage Watson rather than Holmes for the investigation. To the amusement of Holmes and the bemusement of Watson, she is looking to Watson to solve the mystery.

A modest clue is pebble brought by Miss Castelnau. Holmes conducts tests upon the stone. Determining its specific gravity allows him to identify the mineral and provide a lead.

As they move forward I learned that the disease of scrofula was also known as the King’s Evil because almost a thousand years earlier the pope had given the English king, Edward the Confessor, the power to cure the condition by touching the victim.

The other three mysteries are as interesting and clever. The last story has Holmes dealing with a famous World War I incident involving the United States.

Thomas effectively treads the delicate line with Wason of avoiding him either being a fool or the equal of Sherlock. He is the earnest aide to the Great Detective. The difference between them is well illustrated by Holmes statement:

Indeed so. I fear that on such occasions, my dear Watson, you see but do not observe. The distinction is quite clear and not unimportant.

To read Thomas is to return to the Baker Street created by Arthur Conan Doyle. He brings out the brilliance, sly humour and quick wit of Holmes. It is great to see Holmes and Watson alive again on the printed page. (Feb. 16/13)
My previous review of a Thomas collection of stories and a profile of the author can be found at (2010) - The Execution of Sherlock Holmes and (2012) - "T" is for Donald Serrell Thomas

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Submission for Petrona Remembered of Prairie Hardball.

Petrona Remembered
Since Maxine Clarke, writer of the Petrona blog, died last year blogging friends from around the world have posted tributes and memories of Maxine. Recently several of those friends have virtually gathered to put together a new blog called Petrona Remembered.

As part of that blog they have invited bloggers, with regard to a crime fiction novel they have loved, to forward areview, a pitch, a love letter, a poem or, a video. Or something else entirely”. They will be posting a submission each week upon the site.

I am glad to promote the new blog and keep fresh memories of Maxine.

I will be submitting a post from 2011 which is my review of Prairie Hardball by Alison Gordon below. My reasons for loving the book are best set out in the opening paragraph of the review. It remains the only mystery in which I was present at the event featured in the book.

Alison is also an interesting writer. As set out in the review she was the first woman sports writer to cover major league baseball in Canada.

I hope lots of bloggers will also make submissions. I can hardly wait for March when they start being published. They are going to be fun and informative and a wonderful way to remember Petrona.
27. – 588.) Prairie Hardball by Alison Gordon – I re-read my favourite Saskatchewan mystery as I was not writing reviews when I read it the first time. I love the book because it is set in rural Saskatchewan, has a baseball theme, focuses on the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame of which I am Second Vice-President and features the induction banquet for the Saskatchewan women who played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League which I attended in the mid-1990’s.

Over half of the 50 plus Canadian women who played in the league were from Saskatchewan. I examined every character in the book carefully but none resemble me.

In the book, Kate Henry has returned to Saskatchewan to accompany her parents to Battleford where her mother, Helen Henry, will be one of the inductees. She had played several seasons for the Racine Belles. Joining Kate is her partner, Andy Munro, a

Toronto police inspector on his first trip to Saskatchewan.

Gordon’s description of Kate’s hometown, Indian Head, is a perfect portrayal of small town Saskatchewan. She has been a skilful observer of us.

At the banquet Virna Wilton creates a grand entrance by wearing her old uniform over 40 years after she last played baseball. (I can vividly recall the actual lady who wore her uniform to the induction banquet. She looked great.)

The banquet was Saskatchewan charming. It is hard for me to distinguish real life memories from Gordon’s description. It was a nice evening honouring a group of women who had never received the recognition due them.

In the book everyone is shocked when Virna is murdered. Andy is asked to help the local RCMP. The nosy Kate demands to know everything going on in the investigation. The probing of lives brings out secrets that startle and even shock Kate. Life in the AAGPBL was more complex than she realized.

The book goes into some detail on the AAGPL which existed from the early 1940’s to the mid-1950’s. The movie, A League of Their Own, with Madonna, Geena Davis and Tom Hanks was a Hollywood version of the league. It was not sensationalized as much as many Hollywood movies but Gordon’s description of the league is far more factual.

Within the book Helen was a woman professional baseball playing pioneer and Kate was a woman professional baseball sports writing pioneer. (In real life Gordon was the first woman journalist to cover major league baseball in Canada.)

Those young woman who went South from Saskatchewan to play baseball were an intrepid group leaving friends and family to play sports at a time when travel was limited and society offered little support for women making any career let alone an athletic career. I met several of the actual players from Saskatchewan and wrote about them for the sports column I write in Melfort. They were as gracious and lively as the women described by Gordon.

The mystery flows well. I know I am enjoying a book when the pages glide by and there is no consciousness of time passing. It is the best rural Saskatchewan mystery. (May 21/11)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Frozen Sun by Stan Jones

Frozen Sun by Stan Jones – Alaskan State Trooper, Nathan Active, is asked by Jason Palmer, principal of the Chukchi school, to find his daughter, Grace Sikingik, as his wife, Ida, is dying of liver cancer. (Her liver problems have been traced to hepatitis tainted blood she received when giving birth to their son. It is a story with which I am sadly familiar from my work representing Canadian hemophiliacs and blood transfused infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through the blood system.)

The stunningly beautiful Grace, Miss North World, has disappeared after moving to Anchorage to attend university. (The cover photo above by the author is a vivid evocation of the fictional Grace.) The last the family has heard is that Grace was on Four Street. The infamous street, filled with strip clubs and cheap bars, has been the end for many young indigenous Alaskans who have left their rural homes for the city lights.

Nathan sends the little information he has on Grace to a friend on the Anchorage Police Department. Nathan expects little as years have passed since Grace was last seen in Anchorage.

Back in Chukchi, Nathan’s relationship with Lucy Generous, a detachment dispatcher, is sexually intense and emotionally charged. Lucy describes their sex as “melting bliss”. Lucy yearns for more than a handsome trooper to share her bed. Nathan finds it hard to commit more to their relationship. He has yet to resolve a sense of abandonment over his Inupiat mother, Martha, giving him up for adoption as a baby.

Lucy is dismayed when she sees Nathan entranced by the photo mural of the exquisite beauty queen Grace on the school wall. She senses an attraction for Nathan that he has never felt for her. Grace’s fox eyed loveliness has beguiled her Nathan.

The relationship is further challenged when Nathan, designated to go to Anchorage for computer training, decides he will spend some time looking for Grace on Four Street.

What could have taken the lovely intelligent Grace to using drink and sex on Four Street to reach oblivion?

Nathan’s quest for Grace takes him past Anchorage to other distant edges of Alaska. What he finds laves him forced to consider societal and family relationships.

The author takes on some big issues from a northern perspective. While I found the resolution predictable I admire the willingness of Jones to approach big issues from a wider perspective than authors committed to expressing a message in their books.

At the end there were a pair of remarkable court cases. One managed to induce the rare combination of disgust and laughter. The other displayed a cunning manipulation of the judicial system.

The northwest coast of Alaska, the northwest corner of North America, is a wild and rugged land. Jones creates vivid images of the country and people of Chukchi. I have come to love my book visits to Chukchi in the same way I enjoy going to the fictional village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships of Quebec in the Inspector Gamache series of Louise Penny.

Each book in the Nathan Active series deals with an issue of modern indigenous life. In Frozen Sun it is the tremendous challenge of adaptation from rural to urban life.

Frozen Sun is a good mystery. It is a better exploration of life and love and loss. (Feb. 3/13)
My reviews of the earlier books in the Nathan Active series and a profile of Stan Jones can be found at the following links - (2009) - White Sky, Black Ice; (2010) - Shaman Pass; (2012) - "J" is for Stan Jones
I expect to have an interview with author, Stan Jones, next weekend. I anticipate having a post with questions and answers shortly after.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Member of Crime Writers of Canada

After reading about the Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) and the Edgar Awards for several years and now becoming a blogger I decided to join the CWC.

They have different classes of membership. As I am not a writer of crime fiction I have joined as an associate member. The annual dues are $86.00.

As part of the membership I get the monthly CWC newsletter, Crime Beat.

Because of all the other commitments in my life I have not asked to participate in any committees. I have asked for information on the Edgar Awards.

I do not anticipate ever becoming a judge. I am not so presumptuous as to think they would want me as a judge. Even were it possible, having looked at the lists judges are expected to read, the process would dominate my reading for the year. I do not want to spend all my reading time on the nominated books. I admire those judges who will commit to all the reading required. I have decided I am going to try to read all of the short list for Best Novel so that I can reach my own conclusions on what is the best for the year.

I am going to try to find out how the winning choice is made. I am not sure whether it is a straight vote of the judges or a vote after a discussion or an effort at consensus. In the past I have never read all of books on any short list so it is hard to say whether I agree or disagree with the chosen book.

For our vast country the CWC has come up with a method of joining the country together to announce the short lists for the different categories of the Edgars. There are reveal events in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal on April 18 with a different category being revealed at each event. I will pass on the short lists after reveal day.

As one of the almost 300 members of the CWC.I hope blog readers will drop by the website which is http://www.crimewriterscanada.com/.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage

Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage – The first book in the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series set in Brazil. I have been thinking about reading in the series for some time and bought the book while in Minneapolis last month.

The book opens with a flourish. Dom Filpe Antunes, the Bishop of Presidente Vargas, makes a triumphant arrival by helicopter at Cascatas do Pontal, a rural town in the state of Sao Paulo, to celebrate a new church being consecrated. As he steps forward to greet his people a bullet wound appears on his chest and then a second shot takes off part of his head.

With the Pope calling the President of Brazil there is great urgency to solve the murder. Silva, though a member of the Federal Police, is immediately dispatched with his nephew, Hector Costa, to assist the local state police in solving the crime. Colonel Emerson Ferraz does not want help and barely deigns to spend 5 minutes providing basic information to Torres.

Silva is familiar with Cacatas because Aurelio Azevedo,  a local leader in the Landless Workers’ League, together with his wife and two children have been brutally killed a few months earlier outside the town.

On arriving in Cacatas the investigation is expanded as Orlando Muniz Junior, the dissolute son of a huge estate owner has disappeared.

Gage’s Brazil is a brutal land for the rich and the poor. The conflict between the great estate owners and the landless poor is escalating as the book begins. With over 1,500 of the poor killed it is verging on civil war in the interior.

Amidst a rising tension between the landless masses and the privileged elite, Silva seeks information on who would want the bishop dead. Could believers in liberation theology want the conservative bishop gone?

Silva and Costa are men of integrity in a legal system filled with the dishonest. Justice is most often found at the end of a gun. Between corrupt police and judges there is little chance of honest verdicts.

The excerpt from Psalms 58:10 to open the book is most apt:

The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

Vigilante justice is practised by all. With all Brazilian men claiming the right to be God there is the predictable consequence of escalating vendettas. 

They would be well advised to read the next verse of the Psalm:

So that a man shall say, verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.

It is God, not man, who is to make judgment upon and take vengeance on the wicked.

Gage is uncompromising. It is not a book for those who dislike blood. I will try to read another in the series as I liked the characters but I hope the body count diminishes in later books in the series. When the death toll exceeded two dozen in Blood of the Wicked it was hard for me to think of the book as a mystery. (Feb. 10/13)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Update on 6th Canadian Book Challenge

Over half the year of the challenge, July 1 to July 1, has passed and I am just over half way on the reading challenge. After 7 months I have read 8 of the 13 books I plan to read to meet the challenge which is hosted by John Mutford at his blog, The Book Mine Set. A year ago I was reading at at the same pace. I had 8 books read by the end of February

The seven I have read to date are:

1.) Before the Poison by Peter Robinson - Chris Lowndes has returned to England after a successful 35 years in America. When he finds out that the former owner, Grace Fox, was hanged for killing her husband in the house he feels compelled to find out why she was executed. There is an excellent trial sequence from her trial;

2.) The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton - Ava Lee may ben the most aggressive forensic accountant in crime fiction and real life. Following in the footstpes of Travis McGee she joins in the recovery of property and money from skilfull thieves when all other means have failed. The books takes her around the world;

3.) Murder in a Cold Climate (1988) by Scott Young - One of Canada's most prolific authors delved into crime fiction with this very interesting investigation led by the RCMP's first inspector. It was my favourite find of the seven to date (Fish and Brewis);

4.) The Legends of the Lake on the Mountain by Roderick Benns - The second in the Legacy and Leaders Young Adult series sees our first Prime Miniser, Sir John A. Macdonald, as a teenager near Kingston investigating a water monster (Caesar);

5.) Healthy, Wealthy & Dead (1994) by Suzanne North - The first mystery in the Phoebe Fairfax series sees the television camera woman dealing with murder in a modern "rustic" resort in the foothills of the Rockies just outside Calgary (Donair);

6.) River in a Dry Land by Trevor Herriot - The Saskatchewan naturalist travels the length and breadth of the Qu'Appelle producing a book rich in history, observation and reflection (Moosehead Beer);

7.) Redefining Success by W. Brent Wilson - The Saskatchewan born investment banker made a fortune in Calgary while losing his wife and drifting far from his children. He advocaes a lifestyle that encourages participation in community events. I will be posting the review later this month (Double Double); and,

8.) Sleep While I Sing by L.R. Wright - The second book in the Karl Alberg series set on the B.C. Sunshine Coast in Sechelt sees the RCMP officer investigating a gruesome death just off the main highway. It is a good book but not of the quality of the first in the series, The Suspect. The only one for which I do not yet have a review is Sleep While I Sing by L.R. Wright. I plan to write a review later this month (Yellow Pea Soup).
The names at the end of each book description is that of  a classic Canadian food or drink. They mark each level reached in the Challenge.

I expect I am going to meet the challenge but I will probably not read more than the 13 needed for the challeng.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Healthy, Wealthy & Dead (1994) by Suzanne North

Healthy, Wealthy & Dead (1994) by Suzanne North - In the foothills of the Rockies just outside Calgary Phoebe Fairfax is back at The Ranch, a health spa set located in an old ranch. On her last visit she had leapt into the pool to recover the body of Janet Benedict who had drowned during the night. Phoebe returns to The Ranch to film scenes for an episode in A Day in the Lifestyle, a daytime program on Calgary television. Phoebe shoots the film for the series.

While Phoebe makes a living by working part-time for the T.V. station her real passion in life is making personal films. Where a conventional cinematic artist would be making “arty” movies to satisfy creative urges Phoebe is a Canadian who loves the land. She makes nature films. In the book she is completing a film about the iconic Canadian beaver. She has been filming members of a beaver colony located within walking distance of her home.

While Benedict’s murder is months in the past many, including the RCMP and Phil Reilly, the manager of The Ranch, believe Benedict was murdered but there is no proof she was actually murdered rather than committing suicide.

Phoebe is joined at The Ranch by the producer of the show, Ella, and the beautiful Candi, the interviewer. Candi’s striking blonde beauty leaves men distracted. Yet she is not an an empty airhead. She has a talent for skewering those men and women who underestimate her intelligence. I was glad to see Candi is not made into a stereotype.

Filming proceeds slowly at The Ranch. Everyone wants to be a director. Eventually arrangements are made to return another day.

The film crew is invited to stay for formal supper. Hungry appetites stand no chance of fulfillment at The Ranch. Meals are carefully calculated to meet the caloric minimum of the guests. The Ranch’s attitude toward food is best illustrated by its medical director, Dr. Morrison, who rejoices over the beautiful place settings and décor rather than the food.

Portions are minute to promote weight loss among the guests. When Phoebe takes a guest to savour the pleasures of cakes and scones in a café located at the ranch formerly owned by the abdicated King Edward VIII he exclaims:

            “There’s no calorie like an empty calorie.”

The Ranch is an unlikely setting for the weekly formal meals featuring sushi prepared by a master Alberta chef, Ben Sugamoto. Yet even desperately hungry guests hesitate to eat the sushi at The Ranch. Several of the guests and Phoebe are reluctant to eat raw fish when they are warned there is a risk of being infected with parasites. (I have not seen the issue raised in real life for at least a decade.)

The evening is drawing to an especially hungry end for Phoebe as she has been dragging heavy film equipment around all evening. The rather mundane evening for Phoebe is turned upside down when the body of Reilly is found dead on a path with one of Ben’s knives plunged through his heart. Complicating matters Ben has fled The Ranch for Calgary.

In the morning the irrepressible Phoebe starts trying to figure why Reilly was killed. He was certainly not alienating people by driving hard up the corporate ladder. He had been assigned to The Ranch because the job had less pressure for a man with fragile health.

The investigation proceeds to a credible ending.

The title is clever but does not really fit the plot.

Phoebe is an engaging character. Independent in spirit and speech she has a light wit that reminded me abit of Russell Quant in the series by Anthony Bidulka.

The book makes good use of the Alberta foothills, Albertan personalities and Canadian culture.

Healthy, Wealthy & Dead was the 6th book I have read in the 6th Canadian Book Challenge. (Jan. 31/13)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month (January of 2013)

For at least January I am joining Kerrie Smith’s meme, Crime Fiction Pick of the Month. You can find lists from several blogs at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise. I am not sure if I will be a participant every month as I do not read several mysteries every month.

January of 2013 turned out to be a good month of mysteries for me. I completed 7 books in January with 5 of them being mysteries.

The books were:

1.) Healthy, Wealthy & Dead (1994) by Suzanne North;

2.) The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau;

3.) The Bone is Pointed (1938) by Arthur Upfield;

4.) River in a Dry Land by Trevor Herriot;

5.) Slip & Fall by Nick Santora;

6.) The Racketeer by John Grisham; and,

7.) Redefining Success - Still Making Mistakes by W. Brent Wilson.

River in a Dry Land and Redefining Success - Still Making Mistakes were non-fiction books. One was set in Saskatchewan and the second is connected to this province.

I have also been reading the massive third volume in William Manchester’s biography of Winston Spencer Churchill. Manchester died before completing the book and the task has been completed by Paul Reid. While very interesting it is very long. I am 747 pages into the book, one of my Christmas gifts, and still have over 300 pages to go to finish the book.

Out of the mysteries I completed during the month The Bone is Pointed (1938) is my favourite. As noted in my review it is the best of Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte series I have read. It is far more complex than the average mystery with Upfield delving into aborigine / white issues and the psychology of Bony being a half caste in his words.

Unfortunately, the TBR pile increased by 8 during the month with the 6 mysteries I purchased on my trip to Minneapolis and a pair of books sent to me by Simon Schuster – Pierced by Thomas Enger and The Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews. I was going to resolve not to buy any books in February but with a vacation planned for 2 weeks of the month I fear such a resolution would be futile.