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.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“B” is for the Saskatchewan B’s

Anthony Bidulka
My province of Saskatchewan is large in area but limited in population with just over 1,000,000 people. There are three mystery series set in Saskatchewan and all are written by authors whose surnames start with “B”. They are Anthony Bidulka, Gail Bowen and Nelson Brunanski. They are the Saskatchewan “B’s”. Collectively they are my “B” for the 2013 Alphabet in Crime Fiction hosted by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise.

Gail Bowen
Being a lawyer rather than a statistician I do not know the odds of having three mystery authors setting their books in the same province and having the same letter of the alphabet to begin their last names but it must be long odds.

Of the trio Tony and Gail reside in Saskatchewan. Nelson grew up in rural Saskatchewan at Wakaw which is just over 80 km. from my home in Melfort.

Nelson Brunanski
The author backgrounds overlap. Gail grew up in Toronto and moved to Saskatchewan where she was an English professor at the First Nations University until she retired. Tony grew up in rural Saskatchewan on the family farm. He has had a series of jobs including bull cook at a uranium mine (not a job for the sensitive), waiter, teacher and shoe salesman. He appeared to have settled into being a chartered accountant until he decided to become a mystery writer. Nelson grew up at Wakaw where his family published the local weekly newspaper. He was an English teacher in British Columbia until he retired. Tony and Nelson actually grew up about 60 km from each other with Nelson being a few years older.

Their books are set in three different parts of Saskatchewan. Tony’s books featuring Russell Quant are based in Saskatoon which is the largest city in the province with approximately 270,000 people. Gail’s series with Joanne Kilbourn take place in Regina, the capital of the province. Nelson’s mysteries with Bart Bartkowski are set in the small town of Crooked Lake which is a thinly veiled Wakaw.

Their sleuths have very different occupations. Russell is a private investigator. Joanne spent most of the series as a political science professor at the University of Regina and just retired in the latest book. Bart is the operator of a fly-in fishing camp in northern Saskatchewan.

I have thought about what common elements there are for their sleuths and their mysteries. In particular, I have reflected on aspects of the characters and the plots that I would associate with Saskatchewan.

Family is very much a part of the lives of each of the sleuths. Russell is very close to his mother, Kay. Joanne has recently remarried and is happy with her lawyer husband Zack (Who could not be happy with a Saskachewan lawyer husband?). Bart is in a strong marriage with Rosie. Joanne and Bart have children with whom they have good relationships.

Each of the families of the sleuths have problems but none are the desperately dysfunctional families I see so often in crime fiction. Their issues are the challenges all of us face in life.

Each sleuth has a character trait associated with Saskatchewan people. They are all polite. While politeness may be boring to some it is a provincial attribute with which I am comfortable.

None of the books are piled high with bodies. I am sure each of the authors could have written large body counts but they are content with 1 or 2 or 3 bodies. With Saskatchewan having a low rate of murder in real life the books reflect our province.

Each of the sleuths clearly enjoys living in Saskatchewan. They like their fellow Saskatchewanians. They appreciate lifestyles that are not in the midst of millions of people.
The sleuths reflect the egalitarian nature of Saskatchewan. Joanne has been a committed supporter of the left leaning social democratic party. Russell is far from an elitist associating with all kinds of people. Bart is an average guy who happens to solve murders.

Each of the sleuths is someone a reader would find easy to sit down with for a chat or meal.

The authors are equally fun. I have spent time with Tony and Gail. They are wonderful people with whom to have a conversation. I encourage any reader having a chance to attend an event with them to go see them. You will not be disappointed.
My connection to the Saskatchewan “B’s” is the simplest in the alphabet. Being a Bill I have been a Saskatchewan “B” all my life.


  1. Bill, thank you for writing about three of Saskatchewan's prominent mystery writers and taking me through the fictional lives of their sleuths. I enjoyed reading this post very much. I wonder if unique places like Saskatchewan inspire writers to create unusual and fascinating characters.

  2. Thanks to your website, I have become acquainted with Russell Quant and Joanne Kilbourne, both good characters.

    I particularly like Russell's sense of humor. Flight of Aquavit caused me to often laugh out loud and smile when I wasn't laughing.

    Interesting to hear that politeness is a tradition in Saskatchewan. I don't find that boring, and would be very glad if everyone I knew practiced this. A simple "Thanks" goes a long way.

  3. Bill - What an excellent choice for the letter B. All three of these authors are so very talented and their stories really do reflect Saskatchewan. That's one thing I really like about these series; they show the province's culture and life. Oh, and the mysteries are well-written too. :-)

  4. Thanks for this lovely post about Saskatchewan mystery authors. You did such a good overview of all three of them. I have enjoyed my foray into reading Bowen and Bidulka and plan to read more of each. I will have to look into Brunanski more. I don't know how I missed him.

  5. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I agree that sleuths outside major urban areas are more often unique characters.

  6. Kathy D.: Thanks. I appreciate your generous words. I am glad to have broadened the reading world for Saskatchewan mystery authors.

    Russell is such a witty guy. Every book he makes me laugh.

  7. Margot: Thanks for the comment and praise of the Saskatchewan B's. They make me proud to call them Saskatchewan mysteries.

  8. TracyK: Thanks for the comment and kind words. Nelson's books are not always easy to find though they have found a new publisher. I hope you can keep reading about Saskatchewan.

  9. Do these authors grow on trees? Seriously, its nice to have some well known and not so well known authors up North.

  10. Scott: Thanks for the comment. Maybe it is the six month winters that create writers. We still have lots of snow around.

  11. Bill, generally, we see authors only through their books, so your post and especially the personal reflections were very interesting to read.

    Also, as a semi-statistician, I would say the odds can be calculated with a few assumptions. The first assumption is that the probability of three mystery authors with a last name starting with A is independent of the probability of the last name starting with any other alphabet.
    P(3 mystery authors with last names starting with the same alphabet) = P(starts with A) + P(starts with B) + ... + P(starts with Z).
    Next, most authors set their novels in places to which they have a connection. So, the next assumption is that we divide all the authors in Canada by province and that each one writes only about one province (which is not true but good enough for estimating).
    So, P(starts with A) = P(starts with A in Alberta) + ... + P(starts with A in Saskatchewan). And so on for all the alphabets.
    Finally, P(starts with A in Alberta) = number of mystery authors whose last name starts with an A divided by the number of people in Alberta whose last name starts with A.
    Add up all the probabilities and you know what the chances are of having three authors writing about the same province and having last names that start with the same alphabet.