About Me

My photo
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, October 30, 2017

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Glass Houses by Louise Penny – Yet again Louise has written a mystery with Armand Gamache that I find both wonderful and irritating. As I have done with recent reviews of her books I shall divide this review into multiple posts.

Glass Houses opens with a new surprise on the status of Gamache. He is neither the Chief Inspector of most of the series nor the Commandant of the Surete Academy as he was in the last book, A Great Reckoning. He has been chosen to the head of the Surete – the Chief Superintendent.

In that position he is deeply concerned about the never ending war on drugs, more specifically, the increase of opioid trafficking in Quebec. He fears the war has been lost but wants to undertake a dramatic blow against the traffickers.

As he plots his strategy one of the most enigmatic characters in contemporary crime fiction appears at a Halloween party and then the next day on the village green in Three Pines. Gamache describes the figure as it first presented itself at the party:

One guest wore heavy black robes down to the floor, and a black mask. Gloves, boots. A hood was pulled up over his head.

On the green it stands unmoving and unspeaking and unresponsive to any questions. Its presence is unsettling to the villagers who want it removed but the figure has done nothing but stand there. Gamache tells his fellow villagers they cannot arrest a person for standing in a public place. Gone at night it appears each morning.

The figure is a malign presence. For most it represents Death come to pluck someone from Three Pines.

Regular visitors to the village startle Gamache and the residents with their thoughts that it is a cobrador, a figure from Spanish culture.

The current cobrador del frac is a form of debt collector. Dressed in a top hat and tails they silently follow a debtor day after day, all day long, until the debt is paid. Their presence shames the debtor into paying what is owed.

Yet they advise him that there is a more ancient cobrador whose costume is the same as that worn by the figure still standing in the village. The medieval cobrador appears to “follow people who had done something terrible …. for which they had not been held accountable”. The original cobrador acts as a public conscience. But for whom has it come within this quiet village? Every villager could recall personal misdeeds for which the cobrador could have come.

Tension builds and builds and then there is a murder in the local church with the body found by Madame Gamache. The cobrador is clearly involved. The victim is dressed in the robes of the cobrador.

The investigators of the Surete swarm to Three Pines for another murder investigation.

Of the villagers only the “demented” poet, Ruth Zardo, plays a major role in Glass Houses. Through the series she has been a form of conscience in the village. With her insight into the human psyche and wicked tongue she can recognize the presence of conscience.

Through the book winds the testimony of Gamache at the trial of the alleged murderer half a year later. In an unusual form of twist for Louise we know neither the name of the cobrador nor the person charged with murder as the plot proceeds. I did not identify either of them until they are revealed by Penny.

The brooding presence of the cobrador commands the plot. I shall not forget the cobrador. 

(My next post involves what frustrates me about the book.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Back Cruising in the Mediterranean

I have been away from blogging for the past week. I spent a few of those days getting ready to go on holidays. I try to get organized in advance but those last days before departure are inevitably busy. The last few days Sharon and I have been sailing in the Mediterranean on the Marina, a ship with the Oceania Cruise Line.

We have been on the Marina and her identical twin sister, the Riviera, for several voyages and enjoy each of them.

Yesterday was Marseille. We took a tour to Aix-en-Provence and enjoyed a walking tour and then a chance to experience market day. We returned to the ship with two jars of jam from a vendor who generously provided a series of samples. We purchased a local specialty, apricot and lavender, and the best tasting jam, raspberry.

Monte Carlo was today's stop. Sharon and I decided we would make it a sea day and did not leave the ship. Between breakfast, a walk, lunch, a walk, afternoon tea with scones, team trivia accompanied by chips and peanuts, late afternoon canapes, supper, a walk and some hours of reading the day went well. Evening team trivia and the show are still to come.

We will be on the ship for almost 3 more weeks so I know blogging will be slower.

I am using my lounge chair time for reading. I am almost half way through Louise Penny's new book, Glass Houses. I shall have a fair bit to say about the book.

How many more books get read is hard to say as we enjoy the sun and shores of the Mediterranean.

On my way to trivia. Hardest question this afternoon is what were Kleenex tissues used for when they were invented in 1915. There is a clue in the year. They were filters for gas masks.

Good night to all.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sweetheart Deal by Claire Matturro

(34. – 921.) Sweetheart Deal by Claire Matturro (2007) – Lilly Belle Rose Cleary, the sassy acerbic germ phobic vegetarian medical malpractice attorney from Sarasota, returns to her hometown of Bugfest, Georgia when she is called by her respectable brother Dan because their mother, Willette, is in the local hospital heavily sedated after being arrested for killing a repo man, Ray Glenn, who had come to her home to with regard a deep freeze.

It is murky why he was there about a deep freeze. She had needed a new refrigerator. Dan had made the purchase for her as Willette had not been out of her house for years.

She would not allow anyone, including family, into her home. Dan would occasionally speak to her on the phone but never in person. Some days he would talk to her through the locked front door. Her grandson, Bobby, now a teenager had never actually spoken directly to his grandmother.

Lilly Belle has had little use for her mother since she kicked her and her bad brother, Delvon, out of the house when they were teenagers.

As for Bugfest she left town with Delvon the night of her graduation from high school.

Two decades have passed since graduation but Lilly Belle remains resentful of the life she endured in Bugfest as a teenager. She has returned not so much for the sake of Willette but to help Dan cope with the situation.

As Lilly Belle tries to find out what happened Dan and his wife, Patti Lea, set out to clean Willette’s house. It is a daunting task. It is one vast hoard of papers and used tissues. It is dark and filthy and disgusting. It is a striking irony that Lilly Belle, obsessed with cleanliness, is called upon to help with the house. It takes a major effort of will for Lilly Belle to even enter the home.

As Lilly Belle investigates she learns there is a major local controversy over a plan to enlarge a local lake to create a new recreational area which will have a major resort and lots of new expensive homes. Several land owners are opposed but are facing the county using the doctrine of eminent domain to take their properties so the development can proceed.

Adding to Lilly Belle’s upset with her mother was her mother’s sale of the country home and 40 acres in the vicinity of the lake of Lily Belle’s grandmother. The buyer, Lonnie, was the high school heartthrob of her youth though he never dated Lilly Belle. Eventually Lily Belle comes across the sale documents in which Willette sold the property, not through a contract for sale but by a contract for deed. That form of sale is a form of vendor financing where the title stays in the name of the vendor until the full purchase price is paid. Among the many questions for Lilly Belle is whether the purchase price was fully paid.

Aiding Lilly Belle is her high school classmate, the brassy Shalonda, now married to the Sheriff, Demetrious. In a reflection of the new South Demetrious is African American.

Lilly Belle and Shalonda were a dynamic duo in high school and are just as formidable twenty years later.

Competing with the murder for attention in Bugfest is the rapidly approaching Mule Day, the social event of the summer. Sheriff Demetrious owns a leading contestant, in BB (Big Beauty).

The story rollicks along with Lilly Belle whirling her way through the sedate country life of Bugfest.

Matturro has a talent for comic writing. Readers will be smiling at the antics of the residents of Bugfest and Lilly Belle’s discomfort at being back in town. Physical discomfort comes in a scene where Lilly Belle hides a tape recorder in her bra. Among the challenges of the hidden recorder is turning it and off.

I enjoyed Sweetheart Deal but not as much as earlier books in the series. My next post discusses the reasons.
Matturro, Claire – (2008) - Skinny-Dipping; (2008) - Wildcat Wine; (2009) - Bone Valley Hardcover

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Skinny-Dipping by Claire Matturro

I just finished reading Sweetheart Deal by Claire Matturo and decided to put up a post about the four book series featuring Lilly Belle Rose Cleary. In looking at my reviews I see I have not posted my review of the opening book. Tonight I will put up my review of Skinny-Dipping and follow it in a couple of days with Sweetheart Deal.
10. - 420.) Skinny-Dipping by Claire Matturro – Lilly Rose (Lillian Belle Rosemary only to her family) Cleary is the funniest lawyer since Paul Levine’s Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. Tall and slim and approaching her mid-30’s Lilly is a medical malpractice defender in Sarasota. She is gearing up to defend Dr. Trusdale, who screwed up a knee replacement, when the doctor is found dead after partially smoking a marijuana cigarette laced with oleander (Florida apparenly has lots of backyard toxins). When investigating detective, Sam Santuri, finds out about two undetected malpractice judgments in the doctor’s past Lilly shifts forthwith from aggressive defence to immediate settlement. Her next case involving a veggie baby looks far more difficult. As she searches for a defence she must deal with being choked by a mugger behind her office and then being shot at by her car (her new doctor client by her side). The book flows effortlessly as Lilly deals with her larger than life partners and an active sex life. Lilly demonstrates that being obsessive compulsive is a useful trait in a trial lawyer. Within 2 pages I knew the book was written by a practising lawyer. It was unintentional but a fascinating contrast to have read Grisham’s The Power Broker immediately before this legal thriller. Grisham and Matturro each have the gifts of interesting lawyers and drawing the reader through their books. With a financial theme in the solution I was reminded of Sara Paretsky’s books. Lilly could be the niece of V.I. Warshawski. Hardcover. (Feb. 29/08) 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

My First 1000 Posts!

Almost 7 years I put up my first post. I am proud to have reached 1,000 posts with tonight’s post.

I think most bloggers are conscious of stats. We put up lists of favourite books and authors. Our sites record the number of page views and how many visitors we have had and their origins. While few bloggers are mathematicians we enjoy  numbers. I am no exception. I like knowing stats about my blog. 

My primary goal with this blog was to highlight the mysteries set in the province of Saskatchewan. I have been able to put up reviews of 41 Saskatchewan mysteries. The Saskatchewan “B’s” (Gail Bowen, Anthony Bidulka and Nelson Brunanski) have provided most of those mysteries.

I have had the good fortune to visit with Gail and Anthony and exchange emails about their fine mysteries.

An unexpected writing opportunity with regard to Saskatchewan mysteries has come from writing the blog. David Carpenter, on the recommendation of Gail Bowen, contacted me a couple of years ago about writing an essay on Saskatchewan mysteries for the third volume in the Literary History of Saskatchewan series. It was an interesting experience to write an academic, though not scholarly as there were no footnotes and detailed bibliography, study of Saskatchewan mysteries. I look forward to putting up a post on a publication date when that information is available.

I expect there are other bloggers who list legal mysteries but I have not encountered any to date. I continue to enjoy reading about lawyers in fiction. On my page concerning legal mysteries and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction I have reviews of 74 legal mysteries.

I have written several reviews of non-fiction books involving real life lawyers. My favourites are Tough Crimes and More Tough Crimes. Each featured stories by Canadian lawyers about memorable criminal cases in which they participated. I have a bias in favour of these books as I know some of the lawyers who contributed to the books.

My most interesting blogging experiences were the Crime Fiction Alphabet memes hosted by Kerrie Smith at her excellent blog, Mysteries in Paradise. For half a year each week I would put up a post based on that week’s letter of the alphabet. One year I wrote about 26 different authors spanning the alphabet. “X” for that year introduced me to the wonderful author, Qiu Xiaolong, and his sleuth, Inspector Chen, of the Shanghai Police.

As with most activities the people you meet are a highlight. For me that has meant virtually meeting bloggers from around the world. Margot at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, Jose Ignacio at The Game’s Afoot, Moira at Clothes in Books, Tracy K. at Bitter Tea & Mystery, Kerrie, Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, Prashant at Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema, Norman at Crime Scraps Review and John at Pretty Sinister Books have all enlivened my days with their comments.

I have appreciated Kathy D. who is an indefatigable and lively commentator.

Sadness is inevitable in the world and I regret Maxine Clarke of the Petrona blog has now been gone 5 years next month. I have been glad to help keep her memory alive by contributing to the Petrona Remembered blog.

One of the unexpected changes in my blogging live has been to put up my posts on two different Facebook pages – my personal page and Petrona’s Crime and Mystery Friends. When I started blogging Facebook was not a part of my life. Now I spend time on Facebook every day.

At 65 I continue to enjoy reading and writing about mysteries and am ready to start on my next 1,000 posts.

Thanks to everyone who has read one or more of the 454,874 page views Blogger advises have taken place at Mysteries and More From Saskatchewan.