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, October 29, 2019

Parsi Gara Saris in the Mistry Mysteries

In the two legal mysteries bu Sujata Massey set in the early 1920’s featuring Perveen Mistry, the first fictional woman solicitor in Bombay, wears beautiful saris that have a special draping as she is a Parsi, a member of the Zoroastrian faith.

In The Satapur Moonstone she travels to the princely state of Satapur. Her sister-in-law Gulnaz provides her with some beautiful gara saris suitable for a visit to the palaces of the maharani’s in Satapur. Mistry has lost her best sarees when she left her abusive husband in The Widows of Malabar Hill.

My blogging friend, Moira Redmond, of the fine blog, Clothes in Books, has made me far more aware of the clothes worn by fictional characters.

In The Satapur Moonstone Mistry wears to the evening meal with the maharani’s “a blue silk sari with Chinese embroidery. It was a classic gara that had been part of Gulnaz’s wedding trouseau, the very best sari Perveen had brought”.

At the top of this post is a photo of contemporary blue silk gara sari with embroidery.

In the Aashni & Co. Journal there is the following explanation of the Parsi gara:

The Parsi gara, in a nutshell, is three things. Indian embroidery with a Persian heritage and a Chinese origin. The Parsi embroidery can be traced back to 650AD where Persian women undertook the Indian style of clothing. Parsi men travelled to China and bought yards of silk fabric for their women. The gara was a result of inter-cultural amalgamation where the fabric was China’s and the embroidery was heavily influenced by India’s Hindu and Iran’s Zoroastrian cultures.

The Journal further discusses the techniques involved:

The main stitches that are all intricately entwined are satin stitch, crewel stitch, stem stitch and French knot. Geometric designs are rarely used and most patterns are influenced by scenes and stories of Chinese origin, such as the bridges, pagodas, boatmen and shrines. The colours comprise of two shades. The base fabric is generally darker with ivory thread work or a pastel coloured textile is embroidered with multicoloured threads.

An example of that fine thread work is above.

Later in the book Mistry chooses another lovely sari to wear:

…. A lime-coloured sari embroidered with curling vines and blush colored camellias, one of the most elegant Gulnaz had packed for her.

A photo of lime green gara sari is to the right.

I have never seen in real life such saris. They are spectacular. Such saris indicate the prominence and prosperity of the woman who wears them. I expect they  would be prized for a lifetime.
Massey, Sujata - (2019) - The Widows of Malabar Hill and A First Woman Lawyer to be Admired; (2019) - The Satapur Moonstone

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey - For her second legal mystery Indian solicitor, Perveen Mistry, travels from her Bombay home into the Sahyadri Mountains to the princely state of Satapur.

It is 1922. Mistry, the first woman lawyer in Bombay, has been asked by a senior councilor to the English Governor, Sir David Hobson-Jones - father of her best friend Alice - to meet with the widow, the maharani Mirabai, and the mother, the dowager maharani Putlabai, of the late maharaja of Satapur. The women are locked in a dispute over the education of his son, the maharaja Jiva Rao, who is 10 years old. Mother wants him to go to boarding school in England while Grandmother wants him tutored at home.

Mistry has been retained because, as a woman, she can meet directly with the women who are in seclusion observing purdah after the maharaja’s death.

In the first book of the series, The Widows of Malabar Hill, Mistry was able to resolve an estate and solve a murder because her status as a woman allowed her to meet with women who are in seclusion.

After hours on the train and more hours riding a mail cart she arrives at the remote principality. While the dispute began 6 months earlier the rainy season had effectively cut off communications.

The Prime Minister, Prince Swaroop, is the brother of the late maharajah and the son of the dowager maharani.

Mistry gains some information from the English representative, Colin Sandringham. He is considered a cripple in the Indian Civil Service as he has lost part of a leg.

To reach the palaces of the maharanis Mistry must travel by palanquin and foot. The uncomfortable nature of a swaying palanquin over rough trails seems hardly better than walking.

The maharanis are free with barbed remarks about each other with little regard to the effect upon the children.

Mirabai is convinced her older son was murdered and her younger son is in mortal danger. Mistry, having heard of the recent deaths of husband and older son, has suspicions concerning their deaths.

The maharanis practise a form of purdah that has more accessibility than the rigid Muslim practice of seclusion.

Can Mistry find a solution balancing the contrary opinions of two strong willed women?

She is precisely logical in her analysis of the educational options and in her recommendation.

The drama does not end with her visit to the palaces of the maharanis. Will her status as a representative of the Crown protect her against danger? I am not fond of legal mysteries where the lawyer is put at risk physically. I was pleasantly surprised when Mistry uses her legal skills in a risky situation.

Once again Mistry is involved in a major estate dispute where the surviving women are in conflict. They may have little contact with the world outside the palaces but they are fierce in advancing their positions. Mistry may have found a niche in handling disputed estates.

I did miss that there was little more in The Satapur Moonstone about Mistry’s life. Taking her out of Bombay severly limits the contacts that would expand our knowledge of her past and present personal life. I liked the opening book, The Widows of Malabar Hill, better for its portrayal of Mistry’s life.

I wondered if the title was inspired by one of the earliest mysteries ever written, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. It was first published in 1868. I read it some time ago and thought it has held up well as a mystery 149 years later.

I intend to read the next in the series.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Women of Meskanaw Who Went to War

In reading Bird’s Eye View Rose Joliffe, left the farm at Touchwood in Saskatchewan to volunteer and serve in the air force, first of England and later of Canada, I thought about the women from my home community of Meskanaw who enlisted in World War II. From the approximately 150 people who lived at Meskanaw 9 women joined the military. The faces and names are in the photo above. It is a part of the first Meskanaw history book, Its Story and Its People, published in 1980. A second part to Its Story and Its People was published in 2002. Between the two volumes there is information on almost all of the women.

I knew several of the women well as a boy but not their roles during the war.

Susie Hekelaar (Dalshaug) lived just over 1 ½ miles away from our farm. Her daughter, Audrey, and I were in the same grade. She joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corp and was stationed in Regina, Prince Albert and Saskatoon. Her brother, Harry, was a paratrooper and died in Holland a month before the war ended.

I never knew of the adventurous spirit of Elsie Carpenter (Chapman). She was an outgoing friendly woman who was the mother of another classmate, Vernon. I had not realized until after the first history was published that during the difficult times of the 1930’s her family had trekked hundreds of miles north to a new farm at Meskanaw with Elsie, at 13 years of age, herding the cattle on the journey while riding her horse. During the war she was a member of the RCAF.

The smile on the face of Joy Sinclair (Poncelet) is how I remember her best. She was always active in the community. She left the open lands of Meskanaw to join the WRENs. She was a postal clerk in Ontario. The daughter of a veteran of Vimy she married a Meskanaw soldier, Dan Poncelet.

Margaret Drever (Stewart) grew up on the farm next to our farm. While she had moved away before I grew up I met her a few times. She was a member of the RCAF. She also lost a brother, Roland, who was killed in action in Normandy in 1944. He was the same age as my father.

I did not know the other five women.

Mamie Bedard (Dove) began military training in 1943 and spent most of her service in Dafoe where there was an Allied air training base.

In the second history she spoke of a vivid memory:

I remember clearly VJ Day. My assignment for the day was babysitting a senior officer’s dog (a Great Dane with a snoring problem). That morning, a group of us were waiting at Princess Alice Barracks for the pick-up van and I remember watching two rather rowdy W.O.’s (Warrant Officers) finishing their all night celebrating just outside the police service depot. Any other day, such a display would never have been tolerated and severely punished. The WO officers were never arrested and our service van never did come. I gladly missed my dog watching duties. A group of us caught a bus to Parliament Hill and watched the VJ Day Parade. That sure was a happy day.

Audrey Espeseth (Poncelet) was the only woman whose branch of the military was not listed. She returned after the war to Meskanaw to marry Bill Poncelet.

Dorothy Hazen (Draward) joined the Air Force.

Jean Parsons (Wilton), as a member of the CWAC, was a driving instructor in Woodstock, Ontario.

Dorothy Paquette (Fox) was another who joined the Air Force. She was also stationed in Dafoe. (Note on August 26, 2021 - The Melfort Journal had an obituary that Dorothy died in Quebec at the age of 100. She had lived with her husband in Quebec after the war. She died in Oshawa. Devoted to service she knitted and crocheted into her 90's. She made over 1,500 pink, blue and white newborn hats which she donated to Lakeridge Health.)

They were young women like Rose. They wanted to serve their country and contribute to the war effort. Recognition of their service has been modest but I am sure that was not of concern to them. They did their best.

I am proud of Susie, Elsie, Joy, Margaret, Mamie, Audrey, Dorothy, Jean and Dorothy.
Florence, Elinor - (2019) - Bird's Eye View

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Bird’s Eye View by Elinor Florence

Bird’s Eye View by Elinor Florence - Rose Jolliffe is a bright eager Saskatchewan farm girl working at The Touchwood Times as World War II begins. She is the daughter of an English war bride from World War I who maried the son born to an Orkney emigrant and a Plains Cree. And Rose is ready to leave the farm, the town, the province, the country.

Her bedroom on the farm of the late 1930’s reminds me of the bedroom I shared with my sister on the farm 20 years later:

I awoke to the familiar rustling of poplar leaves. My bedroom lacked the view of brilliant grain fields sweeping away to the southern horizon, but I didn’t mind. In summer I preferred the coolness and the dim light, with the sound of the trees that backed up against the north side of the old farmhouse. They always seemed to whispering secrets.

I have never had a Jock MacTavish, the cantankerous owner / publisher / editor / reporter, of the The Touchwood Times in my 42 years of writing a sports column for a Saskatchewan weekly paper but the content of the Times is familiar with half of the paper being “home print, written by clubs and sports teams and dropped through the slot in the front door”.

As the local boys enlist she longs to join them but the Canadian government will not allow women to volunteer for the military.

Touchwood, as was the case for real life several Saskatchewan towns, had a training base for English and Commonwealth airmen.

Rose falls for a Tazzie. The young Australian is a talented musician.

Two years into the war the Canadian government relents and allows women to sign up. Unwilling to be kept in Canada Rose uses her own money to travel to Halifax and is transported to England where she enlists in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Basic training is hellacious but Rose finds she loves to march. Soon she can easily do ten miles with precise 27 inch steps. After 6 weeks she is a Leading Aircraftwoman.

When the Air Force learns she can take and develop photos Rose, to her intense disappointment, is assigned to train as a darkroom technician rather than being posted to an actual air base. She develops photos for aerial maps.

Her intelligence gains her a promotion and entry to the unit studying aerial photos. Dedicated and diligent she becomes a skilled interpreter of the never ending flow of reconnisance photos.

She sees the war daily in the aerial photos from a perspective I had never appreciated:

The typical night photo looked like a spiderweb on a black plate. Searchlight beams criss-crossed the blackness, bomb bursts showed as blazing stars, and tracer bullets from fighter planes formed arcs. Huge balls of fire called scarecrows, sent up by the enemy to simulate exploding bombers and terrify our air crews dotted the dark sky. Anti-aircraft fire looked like straight white lines, changing to blurry zigzags when the pilots jinked wildly back and forth.

A dispiriting form of wartime romance comes her way.

As she struggles with that relationship her neighbour, Charlie Stewart from Touchwood, who is flying the big Lancaster bombers writes to Rose telling her that his bomber is called Prairie Rose.

I was caught up in the story of young Saskatchewan women and men participating in the great air battles of World War II. Joys are fleeting, sorrows frequent, fear a constant, hope never extinguished.

I became anxious about the fate of the sons and daughters of Touchwood. Which would survive the war and which would not come home. There was a startling credible twist at the end followed by a further twist that was not needed. 

Florence captures the spirit and strong sense of community that has defined rural Saskatchewan for over 100 years. It is my favourite book involving rural Saskatchewan since reading Cool Water by Dianne Warren.

Rose is a woman I admired. She devoted herself to her duties using her clever and imaginative mind. She contributed to the success of the Allies. There is a wonderful mini-series to be made about the “interpreters” of the millions of aerial photos. I thought of The Bletchley Circle, the series about the women who were an integral part of the decoding efforts at Bletchley Park.

I loved Bird’s Eye View.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Maureen's Reply on The Woman Who Married a Bear

In my previous post I wrote a review of The Woman Who Married a Bear by John Straley in the form of a letter to my friend Maureen. She replied and her response is below. (Not all of her essay was included for reasons of editing and spoilers.) I appreciate her personal and thoughtful response.
Hello Bill,

I’m sorry that I took so long to answer your email. I'm making up for it with an overly long message, and I apologize for that too.

I was so pleased that you enjoyed The Woman Who Married a Bear. I wrote a short response to the novel for one of my classes this past winter, and in it I think that I actually answer some of your questions. I’ll write a bit here, but you might get a kick out of my mini-essay as well so I’ll attach it at the end.

So, I think that Straley does a good job in presenting Alaska accurately. Now, my classmates thought he did a better job portraying Sitka and Juneau (where he’s lived and worked) than he did of the north and interior of Alaska. Straley travelled all over the state with his job, but he knows the southeast best. I wonder if because we knew his history that we were a little more critical of his descriptions of landscapes farther north.

You asked me how I integrated with the land and people and culture of the North, the Saskatchewan prairies being so different. It’s odd, but I often tell people that not too far north of where I grew up you come to the boreal forest (say Nipawin, Waskesiu or Candle Lake) and that’s a lot like the Yukon, except without the mountains. The winters in Whitehorse are a little darker, but my Grandfather watched the Whitehorse temperatures those first years I was in the Yukon and he remarked that Whitehorse temperatures were pretty much the same as Prince Albert (my Grandpa Eckdahl’s farm was between Choiceland and Snowden).

I’ll have to think more about the culture and people in the North. Early on we fell in with young people very much like ourselves—fresh from college, outdoorsy—from all over Canada. Whitehorse is somewhat transient, so it has always been easy to be new and to meet people. Taking a view of the larger Yukon society, it’s also been an interesting time in the Yukon as we arrived in the midst of land claims, which I think has been an advantage for Yukon First Nations—that opportunity as opposed to the reservation experience in other parts of the country. It hasn’t been all good, but it’s had definite advantages.

Getting back to Straley’s book, I visited Sitka for the first time this past year, and it’s a much different place from the Yukon and from Fairbanks where I’m living right now. It’s temperate rainforest, connected by plane and ferries, with different vegetation and climate. Alaska is so darn big, but it’s also a number of completely different ecosystems, geographies, people… It’s also America. I was here in the late 90s, and Alaska did not feel so different from the Yukon. I’m not as comfortable here now as I was then.

You wrote, “I appreciate crime fiction writers who can make the setting integral to the story and, subject to your comments, I could not see this story taking place anywhere but Alaska.” I think you got this exactly right. I can’t remember who told me this, but someone said that John Straley wanted to write books about Alaska and chose to write mysteries because that genre would allow him to make the place central. 

I hope some of that helps. I don’t think much of the above is worth putting on your blog, but maybe there is a passage or two from my short paper that you might be interested in using.

I’ll watch for your review on your blog. Let me know if you want anymore Cecil Younger books. By the way, Straley is working on one right now, where Cecil’s teenage daughter Blossom has a significant role and there is, apparently, a Nancy Drew subplot. My daughter Jane is very excited, being a fan of Nancy.

Hope this finds you well,

My essay from last winter. It has spoilers: 

Reading Response:
“A Fur-Bearing Animal Trying to Claw Its Way out of My Stomach”:
John Straley’s The Woman Who Married a Bear
            On the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, 1994, on the recommendation of a clerk at the Babbling Book Bookstore in Haines, Alaska, I picked up a copy of John Straley’s first book The Woman Who Married a Bear. I gobbled it up. While friends fished for salmon and watched eagles, I read, feigning naps to sneak off to the tent. With the temperate rainforest around me, I remember feeling such pleasure—the hopefulness of reading a good first novel and recognizing the privilege of experiencing it in its appropriate and new-t0-me-at-the-time landscape of Southeast Alaska. Over the years I have read the rest of Straley’s Cecil Younger mysteries, making a ceremony of buying them only at the independent bookstores in Skagway or Haines. Returning to the world of Cecil and Sitka once more made me think about all the interesting things that Straley does in this first novel: setting the stage for six Cecil Younger novels to follow (and maybe more), Straley’s grounding in the animals and landscape of the Alaska Panhandle, and his incorporation of the Native characters and mythology, particularly raven and bear.
            Cecil Younger is a great creation, a complicated and likable character, someone interesting enough on which to hinge a series, and someone about whom readers will want to learn more. The novel begins with one of his haikus, and when he breaks out a book by Wendell Berry we know Cecil is a man who might have been an English professor, newspaperman, poet, or any number of devious professions of truth seekers, if he hadn’t stumbled a few steps along the way into the private eye game. He is an alcoholic, not-so-successful private investigator, son of a respected judge—“the sainted Judge Younger”—and brother of a successful law school professor. Cecil knows his community must view him as wearing an aura of “failure.” As a loveable screw-up, Cecil does have the affection of everyone from cops and investigators to bartenders and tramps, and good women, who fall for this smart and sensitive soul with a heart the size of Sitka.  He is kind to his autistic roommate Todd, who in the early part of the novel, takes a bullet meant for Cecil. Normally it is Cecil who is the guy that can’t catch a break, but maybe it is even worse when it is the unfortunate Todd who gets in the line of fire.
            Straley incorporates Native mythology into the novel, both subtly and overtly, and legends of two of the most culturally powerful species, ravens and bears. In the opening scene, Cecil breaks off some bread for a raven with a curious red thread tied around his leg. Cecil ponders, “Maybe someone had tried to snare him” and alludes to Native legend: “Raven the trickster: The missing piece of darkness” (4). When Cecil returns to the park bench where he has left his book, he notes, “It was just a little damp and the corners were frayed where it looked like a raven had been turning pages” (13). Ravens are a good bird for Cecil to note, as he has something like that himself—a mixture of brilliance and disaster, humour and pathos. Later at the prison in Juneau, Cecil sees “a raven hopping outside the fence line with a waxed-paper bag of French fries dripping from his beak. Raven who stole light from the darkness” (64). Indeed, raven, like Cecil, was meant for better things. Finally at the end of the novel Cecil sees an old acquaintance:  “A raven circled from over the landfill and flapped the dense snowy air above me. He landed on the stop sign in the main intersection in town. He had a red thread wrapped around his foot” (225).
            Straley’s incorporation of the Native legend of “The Woman Who Married a Bear” is interesting to examine on a number of levels. The bear as a recurring motif adds unity to the story, but also complicates and compounds the mystery. 

Straley, John - (2019) - The Woman Who Married a Bear

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Woman Who Married a Bear (1992) by John Straley

Dear Maureen,

Thank you for giving me The Woman Who Married a Bear (1992) by John Straley. He is a remarkable writer. It is a rarity in my experience of crime fiction to read a superb work of fiction that happens to feature a crime investigation.

Cecil Younger is a great character. He does not fit the classic mould of a hard boiled P.I. He gets around by hitchhiking, taking cabs and walking. He does not carry a gun. He has but one scar from a 6th grade altercation. He likes to read poetry and writes haikus. I am confident I have not encountered another sleuth who reads the New York Times Review of Books.

At the same time he is a self-indulgent drunk. I am not fond of sleuths caught up in their private demons. Fortunately, Younger is a multi-dimensional character not totally absorbed in himself.

While Younger differs from the usual hard boiled P.I. he has their defining characteristic in that he lives by a strong moral code. 

Some years ago I read and reviewed books by Toronto author, Jill Edmonston, whose sleuth Sasha Jackson was a tough girl P.I. In exchanges Jill provided me with her definition of the hard boiled P.I. 

While working on her MA at Athabasca she had studied women in mysteries focusing on Canadian mysteries. As part of her work she wrote an essay titled “From Spenser to Yeats: Feminism’s Answer to the Hardboiled Sleuth is on the Wagon and Rides a Harley

In that essay she stated:

Toughness and raw, pared-down characters and styles seem to be uniformly present within hardboiled fiction, but those characteristics alone do not identify or define hardboiled fiction.  Many of the genre’s hallmarks have to do with the characters’ attributes and conduct (Blade 69), both of which are, or have in recent years become, malleable and elastic. One feature, however, is stoically present in all hardboiled fiction, whether classic or contemporary.  Eclipsing habits and foibles as hardboiled imperatives is the “moral code” or “code of honour” (Blade 70). The private eye may drink or not, he may have a family or not, but the one inviolable tenet of the prototypical hardboiled detective is the ever present, often unique and occasionally contradictory moral compass.  Chandler stated this moral compass may permit the spoiling of a duchess, but commands respect for a virgin; in doing so Chandler defined by omission the unfailingly amorphous internal value system that guides a hardboiled sleuth in all matters.   

Younger’s  roommate, Todd, is classified by Social Services as “mentally and emotionally challenged”. Straley provides a moving description of Todd that belies the harsh official designation:

…. the woman who used to love me said he had too gentle a heart to live
in the real world.

When Todd, instead of Younger, is shot by mistake Younger is bound by a sense of honour to pursue both the original quest and the shooter of Todd

Younger’s introduction to the reader further illustrates his personality. He is working his way through a nasty hangover and considering the various ways he has dealt with past hangovers. He will sort out what has happened to his credit card after he sees Mrs. Victor at the Pioneer Home.

Mrs. Victor is a striking minor character in a book filled with such characters. Sitting in a wheelchair and smoking she wants Younger to find out why

… her son, Louis Victor, the Indian big-game guide. The Brown Bear Man, was shot with a high-powered rifle by a crazy man. His body had been consumed by the bears near one of his hunting cabins.

I was captured by the “why”. It is my favourite question. Younger was equally caught up by the question.

I found the plot to have the feel of a Shakespearean tragedy brought to the 20th Century. What started as a routine investigation into motive developed into the unraveling of a troubled and complex family. The result is aptly described bu Shakespeare’s phrase from Hamlet “murder most foul”.

The title, taken from an Indian story, draws upon the universal conflicts often consequent upon a stranger entering the family of another culture. I refuse to say inevitable because I do not believe cross-cultural unions are bound for tragedy.

I find it compelling that the Nathan Active mysteries of Stan Jones, another mystery series set in Alaska, also feature a character, Active, in the midst of cross cultures in that he was born Inuit and raised in a white family. He has his struggles but is more successful in working his way through the cultures in his life than the Victor family.

I found a lyrical quality to the descriptiveness in Straley’s writing:

I remember picking each berry. The stains on my fingers and thumb. The sweet bitter taste of the seeds resting in the back of my tongue and my teeth. I held one berry up to the light and looked at the tiny hair coming from each sack. I saw the membrane surrounding the juice as thin as the surface tension on a drop of water. An occasional horsefly would create a small disturbance in the still air and the wind would stir the trees above us, mixing the shadows in a warm broth.

The book further evoked for me a deep connection between the story and the land, history and people of Alaska.

What could be more vivid than:

An almost subsonic groan percolated up from below and the surface of the water broke. Giant ovoid forms heaved up out of the water, abstract at first, ten feet of curve, texture, and confined space. The water boiled with little silvery fish dense on the surface like a trillion dollars in quarters spilling onto a sidewalk. Then, the surface of the water actually bent as the huge bulk continued to rise and the two forms closed together, combining into one, slippery gray-black monument. There was a massive exploding breath and the damp smell of fish and tideflat, a cloud of vapor drifting away. As the form tipped to the side and lay in the water, a narrow rubbery wing lifted out of the sea and slapped the surface: curved and scalloped, knobby and limber. It popped the water and the form lengthened as it tipped to the plane of the horizon, as if it spilled out of itself. Then, an eye, an eye the size of a softball ….

The Woman Who Married a Bear reminds me of Cool Water a book written by Dianne Warren of Regina and set in southwestern Saskatchewan. It was another book in which weather and the land and the past and characters were all vivid and real to me.

I further thought of Cool Water during my reading of The Woman Who Married a Bear as it had been given to me by a friend. It proved a special gift. The Woman Who Married a Bear is also a book I will treasure.

My review of Cool Water (here is a link - https://mysteriesandmore.blogspot.com/2014/12/cool-water-by-dianne-warren.html) was a letter to Cody, the young man who gave me the book. I wanted to get his thoughts on Cool Water. I equally want to engage with you on your reaction to The Woman Who Married a Bear.

Having never visited Alaska I would like to ask how well The Woman Who Married a Bear portrays Alaska in all its facets?

You went from Saskatchewan, a land of farming and broad open spaces and little rain, to the Yukon and currently Alaska where forest in the lower regions of the state dominates the landscape and rain, especially in coastal Alaska, is ever present. If it is not too personal how have you integrated with the land and people and culture of the North?

Are there any aspects of Emma, the widow of Victor who came from San Francisco, and became an Alaskan that resonate with you?

I appreciate crime fiction writers who can make the setting integral to the story and, subject to your comments, I could not see this story taking place anywhere but Alaska.

If you are able to reply and are willing to have your reply posted I would be glad to put it up on my blog.

All the best.

The above review in the form of a letter was written to a friend, Maureen, who loves and teaches English in the Yukon. She grew up in Melfort. As set out in the letter I appreciate her introducing me to John Straley.