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, January 19, 2019

Exchange with Janice Macdonald on Eye of the Beholder

After reading The Eye of the Beholder by Janice MacDonald I exchanged emails with the author. I greatly appreciate the depth of her responses.
Dear Janice

I appreciate Turnstone Press providing me with a copy of The Eye of the Beholder.

I enjoyed the book and thought it the best of the Randy Craig mysteries I have read.

If you are able to reply to this letter and willing to have your reply posted I will put it up when I post this letter. I have already done a pair of posts on the book. 

Hi Bill,

Nice to hear from you, and thank you for your thoughtful reading and reviews of my Randy Craig books.

As I read the wonderfully descriptive opening section of the book on Puerto Vallarta I could visualize the city I have visited. The preciseness of the murder location led me to look it up on Google maps and I included a screen shot of the site in my second post. Did you use Google maps to help you in writing the scenes in The Eye of the Beholder? More specifically did you ever Google the murder spot?

I didn’t google any of the sites in Vallarta, but my husband was dragged along on two or three “murder days” during our last couple of visits (we go once a year for a fortnight) wherein I took photos of places I knew would be part of things, and checked how long it would take to get from one place to another. 

I have a couple of photos of the spit, where I mostly saw little kids with old men fishing, but once, a few visits ago, I caught sight of a lone woman, which had a lot to do with the start of this particular plot. (see below) My husband thinks that posting some photos I’ve taken during our murder walks would be a good idea, so thank you for that!

I am glad Randy and Steve have wed.

Me too. 

The image of Randy bringing 17 liquor board boxes of boxes to the condo she will share with Steve was neither startling nor unusual to me. There are a lot of books in our house. In the home office where I am writing this letter there are approximately 800 books. I enjoy the custom made light golden wood book cases in which they rest every day I am in this room. In the rest of the house I estimate there are another 700 books. The phrasing in The Eye of the Beholder led me to believe you have a lot of books in your home. I would be interested in knowing how many books would be in your home.

Well, we have downsized from a five-bedroom, two storey house with finished basement to a two bedroom condo and two-thirds of everything we owned had to go. We went from 25 bookcases to nine… we had even had a bookcase in the downstairs powder room of our old house. So, I figure we only have about 1800 books now. I spent many years after graduating as a book reviewer for the Edmonton Journal, which helped to build up the collection, but any English major is just programmed to buy books, I think. You can’t walk through a bookstore without buying at least one book, and one-click shopping on Amazon is criminally easy. I used to joke that we had insulated our house to R40 with books. Please don’t ask me how many books are living on my kindle!

A significant majority of my books are crime fiction. I have some shelves of history, especially World War II history. My largest collection of biographies involve the lives of lawyers and judges. Over the years I have purchased at least 75 books about real life lawyers and judges. I would be equally interested in a breakdown of your book collection.

I did my MA thesis on detective fiction, and then had a review column called “If Words Could Kill” for several years. Nowadays, there are fewer mysteries on the shelves than there were. I read a lot of Canadian writers, support Alberta writers, look out for newly released books that sound good from Guardian and NYT reviews, and pick and choose amid thrillers and psychological mysteries. I tend now to pass books along to a friend, who shares them with her mother. That way I don’t feel quite so guilty about overspending my budget. I am planning to spend more time at the library this year, because there really isn’t any more room in here.

I thought Randy and Steve’s enjoyment in a winter snowshoe walk through the bush near Edmonton a great illustration of how Canadians enjoy being outdoors in our cold winters.

The snowshoes were a nice touch. Few people in the world outside Canadians use snowshoes. When I was a boy on the farm I often used the bulky wooden laced snowshoes of my father. He was a trapper in the winter and found snowshoes better in the bush than skis. I never found them easy to use and you certainly learn a new way of walking with them. My younger son now has them mounted on the wall of his law office in Calgary.

Are you a snowshoer? If so, do you like the new metal snowshoes? They certainly look more practical though I admit a nostalgia for the traditional snowshoes of Canada.

I have an old pair of gut snowshoes, but no longer use them. We had plastic ones for the girls when they were little shaped in that old tear drop style, too. Nowadays, my husband and I use the aluminium and plastic ones, though we’ve not had enough snow the last couple of years to warrant them. I no longer ski, but I do like to get out in the winter air and do something, so snowshoeing has made for some fun outings. The newer shaped snowshoes make me feel as if I’m cutting a slightly more elegant figure, though I might be fooling myself.

You integrated visual artwork so well in so many ways into the plot.

I was caught by the interest of Randy and Steve, especially Randy, in the paintings of Maria Pace-Wynters:

I loved her series of paintings dealing with dress forms and corsets, but couldn’t imagine Steve being keen to look at dressmakers’ dummies on his wall every evening.

I agree with her conclusion that such paintings as the one beside this paragraph  would not be a painting a guy would be “keen” to look at every day. (I don’t think this one is available any longer)

In the book they chose a painting of blue poppies, perhaps like the one at the top of this post. I enjoyed the paintings of the blue poppies but liked the vivid red poppies of Pace-Wynters more.

Might you have one or more of the paintings of Pace-Wyneters? If you have any of her work were you, as Randy, smitten by the blue poppies?

I actually DON’T own any of her blue poppies, though I do have prints of her red poppies in my office at work, and my husband has a lovely print of “Hopes and Dreams” in his office. We have a print of her magpie, two of her koi pond prints, a small Christmas cactus print, and a few others. We have one original poppy, and I get her calendar every year. I am quite smitten with her peonies, but don’t have any of that series. I do actually have a print of the dressmakers’ dummies, which I love.

I also do own John Wright’s “Sunflowers” and one of Larry Reese’s magical paintings of a grain elevator, and a water colour by Veronica Rangel from Puerto Vallarta, all of which are mentioned in the novel. We have a small Jane Ash Poitras oil painting that I am very fond of, too, though I didn’t mention that, because my kids would have teased me mercilessly. (They say they were instructed as children to grab the Jane Ash Poitras and my purse if the house ever caught on fire. I probably said that once.)

You spoke in your acknowledgements that The Eye of the Beholder might be the swan song of Randy Craig. I hope not for I can see many opportunities for Randy and Steve to solve crimes together in creative ways. Should it be the final Randy Craig mystery thank you for writing them. You have provided fine reading with the series.

All the best.
Bill Selnes

You are very kind. In much the same way that Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane had to move along when romance got in the way of mystery, I think this may indeed be the end of the line for Randy Craig. However, I don’t think it is the end for my writing, and I hope you will review whatever else gets published in the coming years.



  1. What an interesting exchange! Thank you both for sharing your thoughts. I was especially interested in the comments about the relationship between Randy and Steve. It's always tricky to decide how romances are going to pan out, and it's interesting to learn about how authors handle that issue. And I'm glad that Randy and Steve married, too.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Marriage was right for Randy and Steve.

  2. Bill, thank you for this interview with Janice Macdonald and both your thoughts on her book "The Eye of the Beholder". I was delighted to read your exchange on books though it's never easy to dispose of books for lack of space. I buy fewer books, no more than a dozen a year, so I can read the ones I already have.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I give away quite a few books a year. I am glad to see you back commenting and blogging.