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.

Monday, July 4, 2016

9th Canadian Reading Challenge Roundup (Part II)

In my last post I listed the 16 books I had read for the 9th Canadian Book Challenge. Rather than the calendar year each year’s Challenge goes from Canada Day (July 1) to the following Canada Day. All 16 books I read this year were crime fiction.

Of the settings of the 16 books what struck me was how few were set just in Canada:

1.) Only 5 of the 16 books took place in Canada (one each in Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Yukon);

2.) There were 3 books with settings inside and outside Canada (Saskatchewan and the South Pacific, Cuba and Northern Ontario, Quebec and the United States); and,

3.) Most surprising was that 8 of the books were set outside Canada (4 in England, two in the United States, one in France and one in Croatia).

These personal stats reflect an issue I raised in recent posts on the number of cross-border Canadian mysteries and the “encouragement” of publishers for authors to set their books outside Canada.

For the 8th Canadian Book Challenge my reading had 13 of 18 books set in Canada. I am hoping this past year’s stats are an aberration.

My favourite Canadian read of the year was The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Flavia de Luce captured me as she has enthralled legions around the world. An 11 year old girl living in rural England in the 1950’s is an unlikely sleuth but Bradley has created a wonderful character in Flavia. She is a bright engaging girl. Her love of chemistry and fascination with poisons adds to her allure. The mystery was well done and the importance of a postage stamp to the plot an unusual intrigue. I was not as excited about the next in the series, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, but it would have been very difficult to equal The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I have the 3rd in the series to read and will be interested to see how the series develops with Flavia.

Second was What’s Left Behind by Gail Bowen. The 16th Joanne Kilbourn mystery sees Joanne involved in a bruising municipal referendum on development (I do not think Gail was prescient in anticipating a nation changing referendum in the United Kingdom) and the murder of a young woman farmer. While not the focus of the book I will not forget What’s Left Behind for its involvement in heritage poultry. The victim’s prized poultry were also killed. I had never heard of “Blue Andalusians, scarlet-combed Langshans, Swedish Flower , Ridley Bronze turkeys and pink-billed Aylesbury ducks” before reading the book.

Third was Another Margaret by Janice MacDonald. The concept of the book was challenging. Miranda “Randy” Craig is a Master’s student at the University of Alberta researching a reclusive Albertan author who has written a quartet of well regarded books when a new book appears decades later. The unique aspect of the book is that MacDonald created detailed plot lines for the books being researched by Randy. MacDonald actually plotted out 6 books in the writing of Another Margaret.

I admired MacDonald’s witty insights into academic life. While working on invitations to a reunion of grad students Randy remarks:

Who knew there that many English majors in the world? You’d think there would be far fewer apostrophe problems on signage.

At the other end of the spectrum I was disappointed with the books by Anthony Bidulka and Louise Penny.

I found I could not suspend disbelief with regard to Anthony’s book that had over 100 people secretly on a South Pacific island. It is a hard premise in the 21st Century to have so many people marooned on a desert isle.

I equally struggled with Louise Penny’s premise of a giant supergun lying hidden in the woods a short distance from Three Pines. Inspector Armand Gamache is not the sleuth for a doomsday thriller.

It was a good year of Canadian reading and I have started reading for the 10th Challenge.


  1. I'm not at all surprised, Bill, that you chose the Bradley and the Bowen as your best Canadian reads of the year. I think both authors are really talented; of course, I'm biased, being a fan of both, but still... You make an interesting point about pressure to set a book at least partly outside Canada. I wonder if that's true; it certainly could be.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Of my top three this year two were new authors to me.

  3. Regrettably, as I'm a big fan of Canadian crime writing, I've just checked and I only read one Canadian crime novel from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, KILL ALL THE JUDGES by William Deverell. It was very good, but yikes, I need to re-up on my Canadian reading. I did watch a TV dramatisation of a Louise Penny book too, if that counts... In April 2015 I did try a couple of new-to-me Canadian authors, debutants Paul Hardisty (THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING, set in Yemen), and Craig Shreve (ONE NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI, set in the titular state and partially in Canada). Yikes, need to up my Canadian reading quotas. Have enjoyed the likes of Linwood Barclay, Rick Mofina, Chevy Stevens, Lou Allin, Mark Zuehlke and others in the past.

    1. Craig: Thanks for the comment. You have read numerous excellent Canadian authors. If you have not read Gail Bowen or Anthony Bidulka let me make a pitch for two of my favourite Saskatchewan mystery authors.

  4. Oops, a reminder for me to read more Canadian authors. I have a new Linwood Barclay book here to crack open. I must read about Flavia, haven't yet. And must read more by Gail Bowen, especially in the summer.
    And I must get back to R.J. Harlick, too. So much to read, so little time, and I find as I get older that I'm reading more slowly, annoying.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. I empathise. I am trying to do some catching up but I still have at least 8 books I got this year I have not read.

  5. I did read a recent book by Linwood Barclay in the last week: Broken Promises. A lot of fun. I laughed throughout.

    He always manages to put an everyman into the middle of a crime and make it funny. This book set off a trilogy set in one town, Promise Falls. It was a mini-vacation to read it.

    The book piles and the TBR lists just keep growing.