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, June 3, 2014

Defining Characters by Clothing and Actions

In reading Presto Variations by Lee Lamothe, which I reviewed in my last post, I was impressed by how he defined the lead characters, Ray Tate and Djuna Brown, by their clothing and their past actions.

Since I started reading Moira’s fine blog, Clothes in Books, I have been more conscious of how authors can use clothing to aid in the storytelling.

Lamothe created vivid visual images of Tate and Brown through their clothing and hair.

For Tate:

In spite of the heat he wore a short hacked-out brown leather jacket over a bright untucked Hawaiian shirt of avian motif that covered his handcuffs. His gun was in his right ankle boot under his jeans’ cuff. A bead chain hung around his neck, dragged to the left side where his city badge was in his shirt pocket. He had a short satanic grey-shot beard, the tip of his left ear was gone.


        Ray Tate pushed his sunglasses up into his long
        straggly hair, ……”

Brown may be even more dramatic in appearance:

…… running her hands through her spiked hair ….. She
wore a red T-shirt from the Pompidou in Paris and khaki hiking shorts. Her legs were slim and brown. Her gun, a little silver automatic, was in plain view in an open holster on her right hip; her handcuffs were at her spine; the outline of her State Police sergeant’s badge, hanging on a necklace, was visible between her breasts under the shirt. On her feet were bright red slippers, threaded with little silver spangles and bangles.

 From these two paragraphs it is clear that Tate and Brown are not your conventional plain clothes officers. Not for them the generic blazer, dress shirt, basic pants and comfortable walking shoes.

If they were undercover officers they might be designed to blend into certain communities but as regular plain clothes police they would stand out in any police station.

Their outsize personalities are reflected in their appearances. They are not a cautious pair of methodical officers.

They are later aptly described as “goofy beatnik cops”.

Still each is respectfully regarded within police services because each has killed in the line of duty. Tate has killed three and Brown has killed one.

They have earned a special status that allows their eccentricities to be overlooked by more conventional police brothers and sisters. In a striking phraseTate and Brown have “wiped shadows off the wall”.

Uniquely dressed and genuinely tough, Tate and Brown are a memorable duo. I will long remember them.


  1. Fantastic post Bill, and I am honoured by the feeling that I have inspired your reading habits. Love your pictures and your exposition - you express it very well. It seems I have competition!

  2. Moira: Thanks for the comment. There is no competition only inspiration from reading your blog.

  3. I finally got back to this post, Bill. Sorry it took so long. I have also paid more attention to descriptions of clothing in books since I have been reading Moira's blog. Now, if clothing isn't described, I wonder what is wrong with the author. Just kidding, but really, some description does help set the story and the characterization.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Never worry about when to comment. I am glad to hear at any time.

      It is interesting that Moira has raised our consciousness of clothes.

      Reading mystery review blogs has enriched my reading in ways I had not expected.

      I do not think you have to kid. An author who does not use clothing to help set up the character is making it harder for the reader to appreciate the character.