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 28, 2015

Village of the Ghost Bears by Stan Jones

13. - 810.) Village of the Ghost Bears by Stan Jones – State Trooper Nathan Active has a romantic week planned with the beautiful Grace Palmer. Bush pilot, Cowboy Decker, drops them off at One-Way Lake a short distance inland from the northwest coast of Alaska. It is late fall and they will spend the week while fishing, hunting caribou and berry picking and getting to know each other better.

Grace, still wary of men, is hesitant about a full physical relationship with Active. He is prepared to be patient.

As Active explores the edge of the lake Active is startled to come upon a body in the water. No visual identification is possible as the face has been eaten way by pike in the lake. In a play on the name of the lake they call the dead man “No Way” and send out a signal for Decker to return.

Their camping getaway is abruptly ended when Cowboy returns, not for the body, but to pick up Active and Grace as there has been a major fire in the Rec Centre in Chukchi and 7-8 residents have been killed including the local Police Chief, Jim Silver.

The fire investigator from Anchorage is still sifting through the remains of the Rec Centre when Active gets back to Chukchi. The investigator has not been able to find a clear cause for the deadly fire. He suspects arson but it was an older building.

With the Chief dead the State Troopers take over the overall investigation. All are shaken by the possibility that someone in their small community would commit mass murder.

There is little evidence for the Troopers. The fire was intense. It took place during the night. No one saw anything unusual.

They look for persons with a grudge against any of the deceased. In particular, was someone out to get revenge on Silver. There are certainly grievances but none are so serious as to incite murder.

The frustration of the community with the lack of progress rises daily.

Active loves Grace but she continues to hesitate. She is still scarred from her abusive upbringing and self-destructive years in Anchorage. She resides in her family home as she deals with the memories of her father.

After seeing Grace and Active together, Pauline Generous, the grandmother of his former girlfriend Lucy, with the directness of a senior leaves Active stumbling for words when she asks Active:

            “You gonna make her sad too, like with Lucy?”

Active wants to move ahead within the Troopers and is advised he can expect a transfer to Anchorage. The reaction of his mother, Martha Active Johnson, when he tells her is poignant:

“No, You can’t go …….. You can’t go away again,” she said. “It’s bad when I let them take you when you’re baby, it’s bad when you come visit me when you’re little boy, and ….. no, you can’t go again.”

Grace is not sure whether she wants to go back to Anchorage.

Returning to the investigation, the illegal trade in polar bear gall bladders becomes a factor. (Koreans use the gall bladders in traditional medicine and they are worth thousands of dollars.)

The investigation winds its way through the life of a community straddling traditional Inupiat life on the land and ocean with new residents from distant places and a contemporary lifestyle.

The plot made me realize how close Siberia is to northwest Alaska. They are but 90 km apart at their closest.

Village of the Ghost Bears is another great Alaska story by Jones.  I appreciate an author who can integrate local people and geography and history into the plot. I think it is the best book in the series. Whenever I want to go visit the locale of a book I know I have a good book in my hands.

My sole regret is that the ending had one twist too many. Jones had come up with a credible solution when he added a further twist. As with some Jeffery Deaver books it was unnecessary and reduced the impact of the solution. 

Jones has developed a fine series on the northwest edge of America.
Jones, Stan – (2009) - White Sky, Black Ice; (2010) - Shaman Pass; (2012) - "J" is for Stan Jones; (2013) - Frozen Sun; (2013) - Q & A with Stan Jones on Nathan Active and Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte - Part I and Part II


  1. I like this series very much too, Bill. And I couldn't agree more about Jones' skill at evoking that community and setting. I like the inter-relationships among the different people in the community too. The story sounds like a good read as well (although I do agree with you that there's such a thing as one too many twists). Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Reading a mystery is enhanced when the author is able to bring you fully into the community in which the book is set.

  2. I have not read the first one in this series yet. It sounds like a great series so I hope to get to it soon.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. It is a good series that deserves to be better known.

  3. This sounds fascinating, and I love the title and the cover. I once paid a (short) visit to Alaska - much farther south than the setting of this book - and it has lived in my memory ever since as a truly haunting place.

  4. Moira: Thanks for the comment. You know the west coast of North America far better than myself. I have not been to Alaska. Some year I want to get to the Yukon and Alaska.