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, January 28, 2014

Open Secret by Deryn Collier

Open Secret by Deryn Collier – In the fictional town of Kootenay Landing in the southeast corner of British Columbia, just north of the American border, Bern Fortin is the coroner. Retired from the Canadian Forces where he was a Lieutenant Colonel who saw duty in Rwanda, Bosnia and Afghanistan, Bern is afflicted by the traumatic events, especially Rwanda, which he witnessed and sometimes participated.

Cindy Johns is an aboriginal girl growing up a generation ago near Kootenay Landing in horrific family circumstances.

Cindy’s story and some of Bern’s past are provided in a series of flashbacks.

Gary Dowd, a bookkeeper in a local company, has secrets from his youth that have affected his marriage with Michelle.

Michelle and her parents are even more disturbed by the trauma of a family tragedy.

Dr. Juniper Sinclair is a beautiful harried doctor with too much work and too many people to care for in town with not enough doctors.

Juniper’s housemate, Gia, is gradually wasting away.

Constable Maddie Schilling of the RCMP is struggling with debilitating cramps. Too early for her period she finds relief in a locally made topical cream. She also struggles with low self esteem as she compares herself with trimmer, more classically lovely, women.

Sitting against a rock ledge, enjoying the beauty and stillness of the fall mountain scenery, Bern hears a rifle shot. Instantly dropping behind the ledge he instinctively reaches for his military rifle. Finding none there he returns to the reality of the day. Calming himself he goes down to the marshy area where the sound of the shot came from and finds Seymour Melnychuk mortally wounded.

Dr. Sinclair is desperately tries to save him giving mouth to mouth resuscitation but Seymour is soon gone.

Seymour, an associate of the Hell’s Angels, had grown up with Gary and just spent some time at Gary’s home.

Seymour’s presence back in Kootenay Landing has caused fear, even terror.

No one will mourn his passing but who killed him.

Bern assists Constable Schilling as she probes the relationships of the characters and looks for connections.

The area of B.C. in which the mystery is set has major marijuana grow ops. Production of marijuana is a major industry. The business of marijuana is a prominent part of the book.

The effects and uses of marijuana are featured in ways I had not expected.

Collier does a good job of creating a realistic fictional community. Her descriptions of the mountainous country are striking even lyrical.

I wanted to like the book a lot. It is set in rural Canada. It had an intriguing murder. Yet it did not work well for me.

I found the characters depressing. While I would find unbelievable characters whose lives were all sunshine I found these characters dominated by troubled pasts. I expect those readers who like their characters dark in spirit will like the book.

I found the plot moved slowly for me. Ordinarily I appreciate authors fleshing out relationships and providing backgrounds but I did not find the pace of Open Secret quick enough for me.
I thank Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy. Open Secret will be released on April 8. It is the second book in the series. Blog readers may remember I participated in a cover reveal last year for the book.

Open Secret is the 10th book of 13 for this year's Canadian Book Challenge which ends on July 1, Canada Day. The Challenge is hosted at the Book Mine Set blog.


  1. Bill - The first thing that struck me as I was reading your review was the setting. It sounds quite well-done. But characters really are important to a story and if these characters didn't appeal to you, then they didn't. Still, the mystery sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The well done setting was not enough for me.

  3. Bill, apart from the setting I'm intrigued by the various characters with "troubled pasts" and how their disparate lives play out, singly or jointly, in the overall story. While I don't mind the slow pace of a novel, too many depressing characters can diminish my interest.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. This might be a better book for you than me. I think you would find interesting reading about that part of B.C.

  4. So funny how subjective books are. I'm reading Open Secret now, and I'm gripped by the plot and the characters. Depressing doesn't bug me (I LOVED Gone Girl, and man, were they ever people you don't want to meet in real life). And I agree with you--the setting is a real strength.

    I like your review, though. It's well-written, comprehensive, and serves as the best reminder of all that books reach each reader so differently.

    I look forward to reading more of your opinions.

    1. Robin: Thanks for the comment and kind words. I hope you drop back often. After writing reviews for this blog and reading other blogs I have come to think, unless a reader has a specific affinity for a reviewer, it is a good idea to get reviews of a book from more than one source before reaching a conclusion on whether to get the book.