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, April 30, 2018

Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe

Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe – The security and investigation firm of Wakeland & Chen is doing well in Vancouver. Jeff Chen has gained significant security contracts. Dave Wakeland, with little interest in security, is restless. Private investigations are his strength and his passion. When local university instructor, Dana Essex, steps into his office looking to hire an investigator to find a former student he is ready and willing to take on the case.

Tabitha Sorenson was a resentful, ready to rebel daughter, of a B.C. suburban family.

Dave describes meeting her mother in the middle of the day at home:

Tabitha’s mother looked to be around fifty, a soft featured woman in full makeup and heels. Her professionally cheerful smile would have been the envy of any realty office. The smile diminished when I mentioned her daughter.

Tabitha was determined not to be conventional. Early in university she adopted the political views of the radical left. Later she was drawn into the position of student events coordinator on the student council. While a modestly sized university the council had control of some millions of dollars. With little oversight a financial scandal was inevitable. While authorities doubt Sorenson personally took money she has disappeared. Essex has regretted that she did not pursue a romantic relationship with Sorenson. If Wakeland can find her then Essex will see if Sorenson is interested.

Wakeland is hooked and sets out to find Sorenson with the aid of his half sister Kay, formerly River.

They soon determine that while Sorenson never took any of the missing millions she likely borrowed millions of the student council funds and used them to generate hundreds of thousands dollars. Sorenson is far more clever than anyone around her had realized.

There are few, if any, legitimate businesses in which millions of dollars can be invested for a few months and bring such a substantial return. In B.C. there is a vast illegal trade in marijuana that is always looking for funds. Can it be that a teenager from the burbs has successfully manipulated both student council members and drug dealers?

A Wakeland investigation is not a subtle affair. In the grand tradition of tough guy P.I.s such as Travis McGee and Spenser he pokes around and sees what happens.

The Hayes brothers are up and comers in the B.C. illicit drug world. They have been establishing their reputations and building their gang.

In downtown Vancouver Anthony Qiu, officially a restaurant owner, is fronting various shady enterprises for a local crime lord

Drug dealers and members of organized crime do not like being poked.

Dave is provocative in his approach and confrontations are inevitable.

Dave is certainly bright enough and witty enough for other investigative techniques. He explains his disinterest in the Nobel Award for Literature:

“Why would you trust a book award given out by the guy who invented dynamite,” I said, “when none of the books involve people dynamiting things?”

I do not see it a spoiler to say Dave and Kay find Tabitha. To say what happened next would be a spoiler. It was a startling, even brilliant plot shift, that I never saw coming. It is a rare day I gasp aloud when reading a book.

Dave’s personal and professional relationship with his ex-lover, Sonia, who is a Vancouver police officer is complex and compelling.

Sam’s skill as a writer has improved from book to book:

            Well, hearts break. They break and break. Hers was no

Cut You Down is superb noir crime fiction and I think it will be a contender for awards in 2019. I know I will be considering it for my personal Best of Bill Awards at the end of the year.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

On an Oceania Cruise

Blogging has been going slowly partly because Sharon and I are back on the Oceania ship, Marina, for back to back cruises. We left Miami on Sunday and are headed up the East coast of America. Yesterday we were in Charleston, South Carolina. Tomorrow we will be in New York City. We will then work our way around to the Maritimes and go up the St. Lawrence to Montreal where the first cruise will end.

I have not planned as much reading as past cruises as I never got as much reading done as planned.

Yesterday I finished Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe which is the second in the Dave Wakeland series. It was a fine book and I am working on posts though I keep getting distracted.

This morning it was Team Trivia at 10:00. Our team, Buzzards Too, had a credible second place finish.

Soon it was time for lunch which was extended when Sharon and I had a very pleasant conversation with a couple, Deena and Gerry, from England. We both have sons named Jonathan who are lawyers.

This afternoon I was reading in the library but got too comfortable and dozed off. 

When I came back to the stateroom I turned on the T.V. and Sharon and I got involved in watching Molly's Game starring Jessica Chastain. I thought it reasonably credible but was still surprised when I learned it was based on the real life story of skier, Molly Bloom.

It was interesting to subsequently learn of the real life Hollywood actors who played poker at the games she organized.

After the movie I spent some time on the net with members of the law office in Saskatchewan.

Then it was time for supper at the Grand dining room. I enjoyed herb crusted roast chicken (a feature of the restaurant's Jacque Pepin signature recipes).

When we were done it was time for evening trivia. Second again.

Back to the state room with just enough time to write this post before retiring.

Will post about crime fiction as best I can on the cruise. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018 Shortlists for the Arthur Ellis Awards for Canadian Crime Fiction

If it is later April it is time for the Shortlists for the Arthur Ellis Awards to be announced. Annually the Crime Writers of Canada hold a series of events across Canada to announce the Shortlists.

In contrast to most years I have read one of the books on the shortlist for Best Crime Novel. I am excited to see Gail Bowen's excellent book, The Winners' Circle, on the shortlist. 

As I did not get through last year's shortlist I am not sure if I will follow a personal tradition of reading and reviewing and ranking the books on the shortlist for Best Novel. 

The Winners’ Circle, by Gail Bowen, publisher McClelland & Stewart
The Party, by Robyn Harding, publisher Gallery/Scout Press
The White Angel, by John MacLachlan, publisher Gray Douglas and McIntyre
Sleeping in the Ground, by Peter Robinson, publisher McClelland & Stewart
The Forgotten Girl, by Rio Youers, publisher St. Martin’s Press
BEST FIRST CRIME NOVEL sponsored by Rakuten Kobo
Puzzle of Pieces, by Sally Hill Brouard, publisher FriesenPress
Full Curl, by Dave Butler, publisher Dundurn Press
Ragged Lake, by Ron Corbett, publisher ECW Press
Flush, by Sky Curtis, publisher Inanna Publications
Our Little Secret, by Roz Nay, publisher Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
BEST CRIME NOVELLA – The Lou Allin Memorial Award
Snake Oil, by M.H. Callway, published in 13 Claws by Carrick Publishing
How Lon Pruitt Was Found Murdered in an Open Field with No Footprints Around,
by Mike Culpepper, published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, by Dell
Blood & Belonging, by Vicki Delany, publisher Orca Book Publishers
Dead Clown Blues, by R. Daniel Lester, publisher Shotgun Honey
Money Maker, by Jas R. Petrin, published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, by Dell
The Outlier, by Catherine Astolfo, published in 13 Claws by Carrick Publishing
There be Dragons, by Jane Petersen Burfield, published in 13 Claws by Carrick Publishing
Jerusalem Syndrome, by Hilary Davidson, published in Passport to Murder Bouchercon Anthology 2017
by Down & Out Books
The Ranchero’s Daughter, by Sylvia Maultash Warsh, published in 13 Claws by Carrick Publishing
The Sin Eaters, by Melissa Yi, published in Montreal Noir by Akashic Noir
Murder in Plain English, by Michael Arntfield and Marcel Danesi, publisher Prometheus Books
The Whisky King, by Trevor Cole, publisher HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Blood, Sweat and Fear, by Eve Lazarus, publisher Arsenal Pulp Press
The Dog Lover Unit, by Rachel Rose, publisher St. Martin's Press
Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence, by Alex Roslin, publisher Sugar Hill Books
Missing, by Kelley Armstrong, publisher Penguin Random House Doubleday Canada
Chase - Get Ready to Run, by Linwood Barclay, publisher Penguin Random House Puffin Canada
The Disappearance, by Gillian Chan, publisher Annick Press Ltd.
Thistlewood, by Donna Chubaty, publisher Grasmere Publishing
The Lives of Desperate Girls, by MacKenzie Common,
publisher Penguin Random House Penguin Teen Canada
Amqui, by Éric Forbes, publisher Héliotrope Noir
La vie rêvée de Frank Bélair, by Maxime Houde, publisher Éditions Alire Inc.
Les clefs du silence, by Jean Lemieux, publisher Québec Amérique
La mort en bleu pastel, by Maryse Rouy, publisher Éditions Druide
Les Tricoteuses, by Marie Saur, publisher Héliotrope Noir
BEST UNPUBLISHED MANUSCRIPT sponsored by Dundurn Press
The Alibi Network by Raimey Gallant
Finn Slew by Ken MacQueen
Destruction in Paradise by Dianne Scott
Dig, Dug, Dead by Sylvia Teaves

Condemned by Kevin Thornton

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin

Reading is going slowly so I looked back to an older unposted review by an author I appreciated. I am sad she is gone. I would like to have read more books involving Adelia. 
24. - 434.) The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin – Salerno doctor of death, Adelia, is called upon by former lover, Bishop Rowley, to investigate the poisoning of Rosamund, lover of King Henry II. Adelia, in her guise as Mansur’s helper, has become Henry’s secret investigator. The estranged Queen Eleanor is suspected. If she orchestrated the killing civil war is a certainty. A shadowy assassin is involved.  To my surprise Adelia has a baby from the liason with Rowley. While not a family it is a rare event in mystery fiction for the hero(ine) to have a child. As Rowley, Adelia, Mansur, Glytha and baby Allie travel to the tower, surrounded by a maze, in which Rosamund lived they encounter a fierce English winter storm (it sounded like a classic Canadian prairie blizzard). Initially they are storm stayed at Godstow Abbey. The murder of a young gentleman on the bridge to the Abbey is another puzzle. An early criminalist, Adelia, seeks to examine crime scenes and bodies before the evidence around them is compromised by other investigators and the curious. The bitter weather, in an era, when winter travel was precarious and dangerous is as much a challenge as the minimal clues. Adelia, following the approach of countless mystery detectives exemplified by Spenser, pokes around until the murderer reacts. The history is interesting. The plot flows well. They are not too many bodies. The characters are not stereotypes (not every bad guy is ugly with a miserable personality). The suspense builds through the book.The solution is credible. Hardcover or paperback. (June 11/08)