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.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Minnesota Nice and Saskatchewan Polite

My last post was a review of December Dread by Jess Lourey, a mystery set in rural Minnesota. As I read the book I thought of the Small Town Saskatchewan mystery series written by Nelson Brunanski. Both series capture rural life in the respective state and province.

Before going on with similarities Minnesota and Saskatchewan, though fairly close geographically, are described differently. Minnesota is a part of the American Mid-West. Saskatchewan is a part of Western Canada.

As I looked at the cover for December Dread I was struck by how the cover design resembles the Small Town Saskatchewan series. Copies of the respective covers are above and below this paragraph.

Living  in rural areas of the Mid-West America and Western Canada is different from living in the major metropolitan areas of both countries.

Reading December Dread will help a reader understand the phrase “Minnesota Nice”. Saskatchewan is known as one of the most polite provinces in a polite country.

There is a sense of neighbourliness evident in the books that echoes my experience.

Everyone knows each other. With modest populations in the countryside each person, young and old, knows everyone else in and around town. Whether or not you are in school you know the activities at school.

Classmates, as in December Dread, will often know each other from Grade 1 through Grade 12.

All is not sunshine in rural areas. The closeness of contact and relationship can cause intense and long lasting personality conflicts.

Mira is still scarred by the actions and words of her teenage high school classmates over 12 years earlier.

Bart has had long term personal conflicts over the community run local golf course.

Church is important to the mother of Mira James in Minnesota. It is not a Sunday event. She is participating in her Catholic parish activities every week. When the funeral for one of the victims is held at her Church Mira’s mother is part of the ladies group providing lunch.

Church life as set out by Lourey brought to mind a play Sharon and I attended in Minneapolis a few years ago. It was one of the earlier plays in the Church Basement Ladies series of plays set in rural Minnesota. Those ladies, while Lutheran, gathered in the same way Mira’s mother and her friends to work and socialize in their church.

The line I remember best from the Church Basement Ladies play was that:

            “Catholics have all the fun.”

They were referring to an era in the 1950’s when Minnesota Lutherans did not dance. Growing up Catholic in Saskatchewan I had not appreciated we had the fun.

Whether in Minnesota or Saskatchewan, communities gather for meals prepared by the local ladies.

For many rural Saskatchewan weddings a community group provides the wedding supper. In my review of Frostbite Bart laments that his daughter’s “wedding supper will not be dominated by the traditional trinity of sausage, perogies and cabbage rolls”.

In Burnt Out Bart’s wife, Rosie, helps Crooked Lake celebrate its centenary by contributing “her design skills to the float being put in the parade by the Junction Stop, a local gas station”. Parades in rural Saskatchewan will either be dominated by or be wholly composed of homemade floats.

Absent from both series are the big events of cities such as major entertainers and plays and gala meals all conducted by professionals. In the country people make their own entertainment and act and produce their own plays.

I am glad each series provides a positive picture of life outside the cities. Readers will get an understanding why I loved growing up in rural Saskatchewan and continue to reside in a community of 6,000 people.


  1. Bill - Thanks very much for your thoughts on life in both of these places. In some ways it reminds me very much of the time my family and I spent living in west-central Illinois. Life was very much the way you describe and in a lot of ways that was a very positive, good thing.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I am glad you had a chance to experience the American Mid-West and fount it positive.

  2. Bill, you live in a lovely province of Canada and I have heard and read much about the politeness and generosity of Canadians, the best in the world. Your comparison of rural life in Minnesota and Saskatchewan was interesting to read.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the kind words. I am glad that Saskatchewan and Canada are known for being polite.

  3. How nice you make both these places sound, standing out for some values that we can still respect in this busy world.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I hope travel may some day let you experience the cultures of Minnesota and Saskatchewan.

  4. Very interesting post. I think both series would be good reads. This post made me think of my Southern upbringing and my impression of the friendliness and outgoing nature of people I meet in the South, when I return for a visit. I truly believe these people are being genuine and are more extroverted (which may be why I don't fit in there). But I don't want to be in that environment all the time. This not to criticize niceness or politeness in any context. It just made me think about the subject.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for your comment and perspective on the South. I have found Americans of the South more extroverted than residents of Minnesota and Saskatchewan. Except at football and hockey game we are generally reserved.

  5. Really enjoyed the post Bill, thanks and "Catholics have all the fun” is definitiely my new bumpersticker!

    1. Sergio: Thanks for the comment. I like your new bumpersticker.