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, June 30, 2013

"M" is for Murder at the Mendel by Gail Bowen (1992)

22. – 711.) Murder at the Mendel by Gail Bowen (1992) – It is interesting to go back to read an early book in a two decade series. Murder at the Mendel is the second Joanne Kilbourn book. It is the only book in the series where Joanne leaves Regina for another Saskatchewan city and solves a series of murders. Joanne goes to Saskatoon to teach Political Science at the University of Saskatchewan for a year.
Joanne’s childhood friend, Sally Love, has stirred up equal amounts of excitement and controversy with a mural she has painted for the Mendel Art Gallery. The fresco features 100 portrayals of genitalia from the lovers of her life. While Love is undoubtedly a skilled artist the subject matter has stirred strong emotions. There are protests outside the gallery that the fresco should be removed as pornographic.

I was led to wonder what the reaction would be two decades later to a painting of sexual organs being permanently and prominently displayed in a public gallery. I expect there would still be significant controversy. I think there would be less outcry if the artist were a woman rather than a man.

As she goes to Saskatoon Joanne has adjusted to the loss of her husband and her children are doing well. She deals with the issues faced by all parents. Her oldest daughter, Mieka, wants to quit university to open a catering business with her fiancé.

Sally continues to live a turbulent lifestyle. Sally cares little about a conventional life even in her mid-40’s. The beautiful artist has recently left her marriage with Stuart Lachlan, the director of the Mendel, to go to New Mexico with a 17 year old boy. While off on her fling her 4 year old daughter, Taylor, has stayed with Stuart.  Sally's mother, Nina, came from Toronto to help take care of Taylor.

Joanne has had a relationship with Sally since they were children. When the girls were in their mid-teens Sally’s father, Desmond, died from poison after struggling with the aftermath of a stroke. Sally and Nina barely survived the same poison. Sally left shortly after and never responded to Joanne’s letters. Joanne has remained puzzled and troubled about their relationship.

Joanne has always been close to Nina. Joanne had a bad relationship with her mother and. Nina has been a great support for Joanne

Sally continues to casually strew chaos in her wake. She abruptly sells her gallery, womanwork, without even informing her longtime friend and employee, Clea Poole. Sally’s action leaves Clea devastated.

With Christmas near it is a cold Saskatchewan winter. On a bitter night Clea and a protester are murdered at the Mendel. Sally is a leading suspect.

Joanne works to figure out what happened while carrying on her busy personal and professional life.

The relationships between the characters are complex and intriguing. The mystery works it way amidst their personal lives.

My only regret is in the resolution which could be detected long before the ending.

I found I enjoyed the book as much this year as I enjoyed it in the early 1990’s. To truly savour the series it is best read in order so you can appreciate how Joanne and her family mature.
Murder at the Mendel is my post for "M" in the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme being hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise.

My connection to the book is the setting in Saskatchewan. The Mendel is a real art gallery which has had a lovely setting on the South Saskatchewan River in the heart of Saskatoon.

It is also the 13th book I have read in the 6th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John Mutford at his Book Mine Set blog. On the last day of the Challenge I have completed the last book needed. I thank John Mutford for continuing this Challenge which has promoted the reading of Canadian authors all around the world.


  1. I read The Nesting Dolls by Gail Bown a while back. It is the 12th Joanne Kilbourn novel and my first! I liked it. I have been trying to get hold of the series but with not much success!!

    One day, one day!!

    Thanks for this post!

    Here is my CFA M is for Martin Edwards post.

  2. Bill - An excellent choice for M. Such a terrific series I think, and I really so much like Joanne Kilbourn as a character. I think one of the things I like best is the way Bowen has allowed her to grow and evolve as a person.

  3. Sounds like a good mystery to read. :)

  4. gautami: I hope you are successful in finding more books in the series. You will find yourself absorbed in the lives of Joanne, her family and friends.

  5. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Once I identify with a continuing character they become a friend to be anticipated in their next adventure.

  6. Scott: Thanks for the comment. I hope you will look for the series. I believe you will enjoy it.

  7. Bill, I saw your comment on my review of Murder at the Mendel. I think you are right, I will continue to be engaged in these stories. This is a great review. I agree about the ending, but it does not lessen the overall enjoyment.

    I know what you mean about a series being moved from the city the book was set in. On a similar note, the Psych series is supposedly set in Santa Barbara, but it bears no resemblance to S.B., so I never could enjoy it that much.

  8. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I hope some day we will see a T.V. series starring Joanne set in Regina.