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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Sunset at 20:47 by Peter Kingsmill

Sunset at 20:47 by Peter Kingsmill - Frank Anderson, “a big craggy faced man” is a contractor at Spirit River on Awan Lake not far from Ottawa in Ontario. He has “away-back-when Metis roots”, owns a good size working boat and a pontoon barge to haul equipment and supplies, is adept with machinery and boats and tools. He can fix and build and is an independent soul who is at ease with his life.

His shop and home are in the same building. His living area reflects a man who appreciates the well designed and well made but is focused on comfort:

Pine walls and open-rafter ceilings, broad clear-coated hardwood plank
floors, warm scatter rugs, a couple of paintings on the walls, a cozy small kitchen, and off to the side what was obviously a bedroom, except it was really just another space, not a closed room.. There was a long built-in desk and bookcases along one wall with a computer at one end …. the main piece of furniture was a gigantic old plank table with a variety of twice-as-old wooden chairs. The table was full of newspapers, magazines and engine parts (except at the kitchen end where there was typically a coffee cup and the plate left over from Anderson’s breakfast).

He fits easily with the coffee crowd most mornings at “his usual table in the back” at the Zoo with other working folk.

Anita Antoine is missing. At 23 she likes to party but she has been gone two nights and has made no contact with her friends or mother. The community is uneasy but not worried.

Anderson and his friend, Arnold Jamieson, who owns the gas station with Marion are members of the Protected Shorelines Committee (the “PSP”). There is some tension between the cottage owners and the year round residents.

That evening Marjorie Webster, pretty and forty-ish, who lives on a nearby island comes to Anderson’s home because “everyone comes to you when they have a lake problem”. Out kayaking she thinks she has found a body in the lake.

Sgt. John MacLeod, a big middle aged officer, organizes a water search. A body is found but, to their relief, it is an elderly man who disappeared the previous year not Anita.

At times there is excessive detail in the book. Half a paragraph can be taken up with describing the starting of Anderson’s boat and preparing to take Marjorie home. Kingsmill loves to describe how things are done and work.

The PSP is concerned about “a huge threat from on of North America’s biggest mining corporations - Robertson Mines - and its plans for a massive expansion of its ore refining capacity here that will almost certainly have a huge impact on our lake”.

They decide to invite a prominent activist and expert on water, Dr. Sebastian Horowitz, to address a public meeting anticipating he will bring major media attention to the issue.

Anderson finds himself interested in Marjorie. She does contract work as a traditional, rather than digital, graphic artist. Her sister Wendy is doing financially well in PR.

Anderson and Marjorie are interested in each other but, unlike most fiction, not in a rush. At 50 he has had a single significant relationship which was a marriage that was soon a divorce. They have an affection that builds.

The search for Anita is proving difficult with little information on the night she disappeared.

Strange events are happening near the Robertson Mines facility.

The story does shift rather abruptly from a mystery with environmental issues to a differently themed mystery. It would have been better had those issues remained the focus of the book

There was no subtlety to the bad guys and barely a flaw in the good people.

It was interesting reading about a working life on a resort lake and the story flowed well.

Few thrillers have a dramatic air and water combination. That part of the ending was well done.

I enjoyed the book

Friday, April 26, 2019

Conclusions on Maestra by L.S. Hilton

In my last post I discussed the plot of Maestra by L.S. Hilton and the lead character, Judith Rashleigh. I found it hard to provide thoughts on the book without giving spoilers. In this post, be warned, there will be spoilers.

I admired the writing. Hilton has created a memorable character succeeding in living life on her own terms.

Judith credibly evolves from an assistant in an art auction house seeking to rise up from the lower classes to a woman ready to commit murder to gain financial independence.

Most of the subsequent killings were gratuitous though Hilton subtly showed the evolution of a mind not merely enurred to killing but enjoying the experience.

I struggled with the increasing and ever more unnecessary violence. I understood the first murder as her only means to millions instantly. Yet I thought she had the intelligence and determination to leverage the 10,000 euros provided her by the billionaire, Steve, for being a summer companion into a successful career as an art dealer.

Judith becomes wicked as she comes to enjoy killing people and frequently indulging her sexual desires. She made me feel uncomfortable. If Hilton had written her as a him I would have felt equally uncomfortable.

Judith’s intense sexuality was explored in clinical detail. Was it gratuitous?

I was reminded of the challenges the American Supreme Court went through in the 1950’s and 1960’s as it sought to define obscenity in literature and films. Was there any artistic merit amidst the sexual scenes? Maestra turns that consideration upside down by mixing learned artistic discourse and explicit sex.

We live in a world where extremely detailed descriptions of violence and sex are a part of mainstream literature.

I thought it would have been a very good book without explicit sex. Yet I doubt it would have gained fame. Judith’s pleasure in sex does make her character more vivid.

In the end there was too much violence and sex for me and not enough skulduggery in the world of high value artworks. I acknowledge being intrigued that there are two more books continuing Judith. I would be interested in reading them if the violence and sex quotients were lower. I am ambiguous about finding out. Maybe a reader of the post can tell me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Maestra by L.S. Hilton

Maestra by L.S. Hilton - Judy, now Judith, Rashleigh is 27 and enduring work in a prominent London auction house when she is enticed by an old friend Leanne, using the name of Mercedes, into some part-time work at the Gstaad Club, a champagne bar. The work involves looking sexy and enticing the clientele, predominantly middle aged men, to buy over-priced champagne. The hostesses receive 10% of the cost of the champagne.

Judith has an extensive academic knowledge of art which is reflected in the book. At the same time she is very interested in sex, group or individual. Her sexual adventures are recounted in exacting detail.

British Pictures is one of two leading auction houses. The name of the other cannot be mentioned. Do staff at Sotheby’s and Christie’s really avoid saying the other’s name?

Her curiosity is piqued over the authenticity of a 18th Century British equestrian painting which she had concluded was a “school of” rather than an original Stubbs but was now considered authentic by her superior.

Judith is doing her best from prestigious university to accent to clothes to acquaintances to gain status but it is a tough slog.

A club client, James, provides money so that he, Judith and Leanne (Mercedes) can be together for a weekend on the Riviera. Retail therapy lifts her spirits. She purchases:

A tan braided leather weekend bag and matching tote from a little shop in
Marylebone that could pass for a Bottega Veneta, a black Eres side-tie
bikini, Tom Ford sunglasses, a Vuitton Sprouse scarf in turquoise and

Unexpected circumstances give her enough money to head to Italy where she re-encounters a hedge fund yacht owner, Steve, and joins him cruising down the Italian peninsula. He is a huge exception in the book being disinterested in any form of sexual encounter.

Judith has climbed up the ladder of social status from serving the wealthy champagne to being the friend of a fabulously rich men.

They drift along the Italian coast spending time with other rich men and their friends. Steve barely sees the beautiful landmarks, never goes swimming, barely enjoys the amazing food and is content with Judith being a beautiful, usually silent, companion. His focus is his Blackberry and the “dancing enchantments of the markets”.

With summer ending Judith performs a bit of commercial espionage for Steve and leverages his appreciation into some money to start an independent career in the art world.

But a chance encounter in Rome with an English art dealer takes the story in a direction I never expected and the pace accelerates.

She seizes an opportunity to steal money and live in the style to which she has long aspired.

Judith is not completely amoral. She sometimes feels the need to justify her ruthless actions. She does whatever necessary to move herself further up the slope of status.

At the same time she has no real need for emotional contact. She has but a twinge of regret over her infrequent contact with her mother. Her sexual connections are physical exercises in pleasure. There is no desire for intimacy.

I thought of Lisbeth Salander from the Stieg Larsson books but Lisbeth is not a killer.

I wondered whether there would be consequences for Judith. Would this be a conventional thriller? There were bloody surprises as the book wound to the end.

J.D. and Marian at Sleuth of Baker Street left me with the impression it was a book either loved or loathed. It will take another post with spoilers to provide my conclusion.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

2019 Shortlists for the Arthur Ellis Awards for Canadian Crime Fiction

In what has become a Canadian crime fiction tradition the shortlists for the 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards by the Crime Writers of Canada were announced last night at a series of four events held across Canada.

2019 Shortlists

Crime Writers of Canada presents the 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards Shortlists for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing

The winners will be announced across Canada on
Thursday 23 May, 2019


Ron Corbett, Cape Diamond, ECW Press
Anne Emery, Though the Heavens Fall, ECW Press
Lisa Gabriele, The Winters, Doubleday Canada
Louise Penny, Kingdom of the Blind, Minotaur Books
Loreth Anne White, The Girl in the Moss, Montlake Romance

Sponsored by Rakuten Kobo

A.J. Devlin, Cobra Clutch, NeWest Press
Helen C. Escott, Operation Wormwood, Flanker Press
Beverley McLachlin, Full Disclosure, Simon & Schuster Canada
Bill Prentice, Why Was Rachel Murdered?, Echo Road
Nathan Ripley, Find You in the Dark, Simon & Schuster Canada

The Lou Allin Memorial Award

Melodie Campbell, The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife, Orca Book Publishers
Vicki Delany, Blue Water Hues, Orca Book Publishers
John Lawrence Reynolds, Murder Among the Pines, Orca Book Publishers

Sponsored by Mystery Weekly Magazine

Melodie Campbell, A Ship Called Pandora, Mystery Weekly Magazine
Therese Greenwood, The Power Man, Baby It's Cold Outside, Coffin Hop Press
Twist Phelan, Game, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
Linda L. Richards, Terminal City, Vancouver Noir, Akashic Books
Sam Wiebe, Wonderful Life, Vancouver Noir, Akashic Books


Jean-Philippe Bernié, Un dernier baiser avant de te tuer, Libre Expression
Hervé Gagnon, Adolphus - Une enquête de Joseph Laflamme, Libre Expression
André Jacques, Ces femmes aux yeux cernés, Éditions Druide
Guillaume Morissette, Deux coups de pied de trop, Guy Saint-Jean Éditeur
Johanne Seymour, Rinzen la beauté intérieure, Expression noir


Linwood Barclay, Escape, Puffin Canada
Michelle Barker, The House of One Thousand Eyes, Annick Press
Kevin Sands, Call of the Wraith, Aladdin
Tim Wynne-Jones, The Ruinous Sweep, Candlewick Press
E.R. Yatscoff, The Rumrunner's Boy, TG & R Books


Patrick Brode, Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away With Murder, Biblioasis
Thomas Giacomaro and Natasha Stoynoff, The King of Con: How a Smooth-Talking Jersey Boy Made and Lost Billions, 
Baffled the FBI, Eluded the Mob, and Lived to Tell the Crooked Tale, BenBella Books, Inc
Nate Hendley, The Boy on the Bicycle: A Forgotten Case of Wrongful Conviction in Toronto, Five Rivers Publishing
Eve Lazarus, Murder by Milkshake: An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer, Arsenal Pulp Press
Sarah Weinman, The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World, Alfred A. Knopf Canada

Sponsored by Dundurn Press

Jim Bottomley, Hypnotizing Lions
Don Macdonald, Omand’s Creek
Liv McFarlane, The Scarlet Cross
Heather McLeod, One for the Raven
Darrow Woods, The Book of Answers

On the best novel I am currently reading Kingdom of the Blind but I am not familiar with the other authors on that shortlist.

I will be looking forward to hearing the winners next month.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bony Blithe Award Shortlist

It is a busy time for Canadian crime fiction awards.

The shortlist for the Bony Blithe Award is:

Ian Bradley - The Grave's a Fine and Private Place
Vicki Delaney -  A Scandal in Scarlet
Elizabeth J. Duncan - The Marmalade Murders
Mike Martin - Darkest Before the Dawn
Auralee Wallace - Haunted Hayride with Murder

On the website it states:

     The Bloody Words Light Mystery Award is an annual juried
     literary prize for a "book that makes us smile".

It further states that light mysteries "include everything from laugh-out-loud to gentle humour to good old fashioned stories with little violence or gore".

More information is available at http://bonyblithe.com/submission-rules/

The winner will be announced at the Bloody Words Mini-Con on May 24 in Toronto.

Tomorrow evening is the series of presentations of the shortlists for the Arthur Ellis Awards. I will have a post on those shortlists.

Friday, April 12, 2019

I.Q. by Joe Ide

I.Q. by Joe Ide - Isaiah Quintabe is “unlicenced and undaground”. He is a black P.I. for working folk in East Long Beach who have little money and serious problems. He earns enough to live simply and comfortably. At 25 he is “six feet tall, rail thin, no chain, no stud in his ears, a watch the color of an aluminum frying pan, and if he was inked up it was nowhere she could see”.

Occasionally he has a more prominent client. A successful R & B singer has had his camera, containing an embarrassing sex tape, stolen and a ransom note received. IQ solves the mystery by realizing that the language of the note is of a Biblical nature. The camera has been taken by the singer’s religious mother.

He has a pet chicken, Alejandro, (a payment from a grateful client) wandering around the house.

Making a living as a P.I. in a tough neighbourhood where money is scarce is a constant challenge. Needing paying clients he accepts a job from Juanelle Dodson, a local entrepreneur, recently out of jail who lives by the principle:

“It’s a hustler’s world, son,” Dodson said, “and if you ain’t doing the
hustlin’? Somebody’s hustlin you.”

He adds:

“The gangsta thing ain’t a technique, it’s an attitude. You either make
something your bitch or you gonna be the bitch.”

Rapper, Black the Knife (Calvin Wright), is bunkered down in his palatial home after a failed attempt on his life by a huge pit bull which entered the house through a doggie door. The pit bull is terrifying. He is almost twice the size of a normal pit bull.
Cal, paranoid and high on a selection of drugs, wants Isaiah to find the assassin. Isaiah approaches the task with a disciplined mind that is precisely logical. His deductions are unaffected by emotion and the reactions of those around him.

All of Cal’s entourage and his manager, Bobby Grimes, ratchet up the pressure on IQ. Cal has a contractual deadline to produce new songs and nothing is happening with him in his house. Millions of dollars are at stake.

At the same time the plot includes his first investigation 8 years earlier into the death of his beloved brother, Marcus. He displays a doggedness verging on obsession. At the same time it is his intelligence which guides his investigation.

There is a startling observation in the book on drug use. Dodson is looking to get out of the drug trade of 2005 because crack sales are on the decline. Business has dropped as young people see physically decrepit adult addicts. They do not like the look of the chronic users. Dodson advises Isaiah that people will not take drugs that leave them "uncool".

The main investigation dragged for awhile. I would have preferred an additional case rather than the prolonged rapper investigation.

Contemporary urban life in poor black neighbourhoods is a foreign land for someone who resides in rural Western Canada. Reading about their lives was interesting and sad and often frightening.

I.Q. or Isaiah is a great character. A loner with integrity will always appeal to me. I want to read more of his adventures. In his rise from a working class background to using his keen intelligence to educate himself and his unwavering integrity I was reminded of Maisie Dobbs.

I can see why the book won Anthony, Macavity and Shamus Awards. I thank Marian and J.D. at Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore for recommending the book to me.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Highway of Heroes

In Poppy by Jay Black there is a wrenching telling of the repatriation home of Poppy’s son, David, who was killed by IED while serving in Afghanistan in the Canadian Army.

As was the case in real life Poppy is flown to Ontario to be present at the return of his son. Any parent will feel their heart clench at the thought of a child killed and now coming home. He joins three other families who have lost a family member.

Canada had soldiers participating in the war in Afghanistan for several years. They fought as part of the coalition battling the Taliban. Inevitably there were casualties. 158 men and women soldiers were killed and over 1,800 wounded.

My son, Michael, attended law school with one of those veterans. The war affected his classmate years later.

The transport planes carrying the deceased arrive at the air force base in Trenton. On arrival:

A lone piper’s lament cut through the howling wind as eight members of
the Army honour guard split from the formation to serve as pallbearers …. David’s casket, last of the four, left the pallbearers’ white-gloved hands to enter the final hearse. An Army Sergeant led the eight in a short march away from the vehicle as Lieutenant Rich drew Poppy’s attention with a gentle hand against his upper arm. She took a step toward the hearse but waited for him to join her as he held his place with the mourners.

After he lays a rose upon this son’s casket the hearse is closed and the families begin a special Canadian journey.

The hearses travel in a convoy down Highway 401, the busiest highway in Canada, from the base to Toronto. From Toronto the deceased are taken to their homes in Canada.

The 401 is a divided highway with overpasses spanning the highway.

Starting in 2002 a tradition developed. Residents in the communities knowing when the convoys are coming started lining the overpasses.

It is a powerful experience for Poppy:

He lowered his head to look up through the glass as they neared the first
of what would be dozens of overpasses hung with Canadian flags, big and
small. Uniformed members of the Ontario Provincial Police saluted as the
motorcade approached. Poppy’s chest swelled with pride at their
honouring of David’s sacrifice, and that of those who died with him.

For the almost 200 km there are Canadians on every overpass.

In a country where patriotism can be muted it was a powerful public expression of pride in our military.

I have read no other nation has such a public journey for its fallen.

The photo at the top of the post is dominated by a group of firefighters from Port Hope. The second photo shows another overpass filled with Canadians.

Here is a link to videos on the motorcades of deceased soldiers traveling down the Highway of Heroes, the new name of the 401 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3IutxvltBM and

Saturday, April 6, 2019

How Canada Dealt with the Humboldt Bronco Bus Crash

It is a year today since the Humboldt bus crash. As with most Canadians Sharon and I know and will always remember exactly where we were at the time of the crash. We were in our room at the Temple Gardens Spa in Moose Jaw. I was watching a game on SportsNet when the program was interrupted to tell of the crash. The news just got worse and worse all night.

Over the past year there have been few days when the crash and its aftermath did not come up in some way.

At my law office I had consultations with two different people. Neither had family involved in the crash. Each was dealing with an issue related to the crash.

What has struck me is how well so many people, personally and professionally, have dealt with the consequences. It is a difficult concept to say there is anything “well” about a tragedy. Yet I consider a host of actions and reactions to have been done “well”.

First responders and medical staff whether on duty or not responded to the accident scene and hospitals to attend to the injured and take care of the deceased.

A young woman lawyer from our office went to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon that weekend to volunteer to help the families of the injured and dead.

The televised memorial service from the Elgar Petersen arena in Humboldt two days later was a powerful event of public grief that was respectful and moving.

Our Prime Minister and our Premier attended as the leaders of our nation and our province not as partisan politicians. They expressed sorrow and offered sympathy. They spoke from the perspective of fathers.

As a sports columnist for 41 years I have observed and taken part in media coverage. At times media can be intrusive and inflammatory. In coverage of the crash and aftermath all forms of media were informative and provided thoughtful opinions.

The Go Fund campaign was dominated not by huge corporate contributions but by thousands of small donations as it reached over $15 million.

Canadians from coast to coast to coast, were inspired by a message and photo of a hockey stick received by former Humboldt Bronco (now Winnipeg Jets) broadcaster Brian Munz:

Leaving it out on the porch tonight. The boys might need it …. Wherever
they are.

Wanting to personally remember the team, put out hundreds of thousands Canadians put hockey sticks out by their doors and left the porch light on for the Broncos.

When a terrible mistake was made in misidentifying two players so that for two days it was thought one player was dead and another alive when it was the reverse the families involved did not let anger overwhelm them.

The focus was on the hurt and the dead not the driver and the facts of the crash.

After a time of national grieving it was time to deal with the actions of the driver who caused the accident by running a stop sign in his semi.

I was not involved in the criminal charges but I know well the Crown prosecutors, the lead defence counsel and the Provincial Court Judge who dealt with the case. The criminal proceedings were held in buildings but two blocks from my office. I admire all of the lawyers and judge for how they dealt with the case.

Out of the potential charges in the Criminal Code I thought dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm were the proper charges. In driving through the stop sign Mr. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was criminally dangerous but there was an absence of aggravating factors such as alcohol to justify higher charges.

I wondered what Mr. Sidhu would do in response to the charges. I could see no defence. When he pled guilty to all the charges our nation, including myself, felt a collective sense of relief that there would be no trial and he had accepted responsibility for his actions.

At the sentencing hearing the victim impact statements of survivors and family members reflected their anguish and pain and struggles to understand. Some were unforgiving. Others forgave the driver. All were raw and direct.

When it came his time Mr. Sidhu expressed his remorse with sincerity. It is not often I see someone in court take responsibility so directly and simply. There was no effort to shift responsibility or provide excuses.

As with, I expect, every other criminal lawyer in Canada I thought about the proper sentence. A penitentiary term was certain. I felt he would be sentenced to 10 years.

When I heard Crown counsel, Tom Healey and Tyla Olenchuk, were submitting he should get 10 years I felt they had made a submission that fitted the law and facts.

I was glad it was Mark Brayford and Professor Glen Luther that had the challenge of defence submissions. I had been grateful I was not asked to defend Mr. Sidhu. I am not sure if I could have represented him.

They made a good decision when, after providing cases where accused had received sentences of 1.5 - 4 years, they did not make a direct submission on the length of sentence. They had raised issue with a term of 10 years but not provoked anyone over a lesser sentence.

Judge Inez Cardinal in a carefully prepared decision sentenced Mr. Sidhu to a term of 8 years. It was an appropriate sentence.

Late this afternoon Sharon and I watched the one year memorial service. It was again touching. Now that I am a grandparent the words from grandparents of the deceased on their loss resonated with me.

Surviving player, Tyler Smith, has a tattoo on the left side of his chest below the clavicle fractured in the accident and above his heart of 16 flying blackbirds in honour of the 16 who died in the crash. He said on TSN the tattoo keeps them with him every day.

There is one specific legacy that will be doing “well” long into the future. One of the deceased, Logan Boulet, had signed an organ donor card. He lived long enough for his organs to save six people. His example, now known as the “Logan Boulet Effect”, has inspired thousands of Canadians to sign up for organ donation.

Led by his family and in support of the “Logan Boulet Effect” tomorrow, April 7, will be Green Shirt Day. Canadians are invited to commit organ donation. Particulars of the day including how to register can be found at https://greenshirtday.ca/.

I have registered to be an organ donor.