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.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Dressing to Impress in There's a Murder Afoot

Clothes have been featured in all the Gemma Doyle mysteries by Vicki Delany.

A few years ago, after reading By Book or By Crook by Vicki, writing under the name of Eva Gates in her Lighthouse Library series, I wrote a post about the vivid descriptions of women’s clothes and the minimal detail concerning male apparel.

I was glad, whether because of  a conscious change by the author or the simply plot requiring more description of what the men were wearing there are more particulars of men in clothes in There’s a Murder Afoot.

During her investigation Gemma advises her friend, Grant, to dress “rich” to impress at an art gallery for the rich, not the super-rich. They sell paintings “in the style of the old masters”.  He does his best:

…. and today he looked the part of a well-off art collector in a brown sheepskin bomber jacket with checked white-and-brown scarf over a good gray woolen sweater and dark jeans rolled up at the cuffs. Sturdy brown leather boots were on his feet.

As his “meek little wife” Gemma decides upon: 

…. slumming it in jeans and a navy-blue blazer. I’d need some high-end accessories though, if I wanted to look the part.

While Grant thinks she looks fine Gemma thinks “What do men know?”. On clothing women feel free to be sexist. A quick stop at Harrod’s completes her ensemble:

I had a new pair of leather gloves (one hundred quid) on my hands, high-heeled leather ankle boots (five hundred quid) on my feet, and a Burberry bag (seven hundred quid) over my shoulder ….. Pippa and her office would be getting the bill.

There are consequences to fashion statements:

I couldn’t have been walking in my new boots more than ten minutes, and my feet were screaming in pain. I don’t normally wear such high heels, and I was worried I’d topple over.

The owner of Gallery Lambert does dress rich:

Mr. Julian Lambert was a short, slightly built man in an Armani suit, gold cufflinks, and Italian loafers. His hair was expertly cut, his hands manicured, and he smelled of cologne. His accent was English and middle-class.

Believing Mr. Lambert has access to illicit paintings, even forgeries, Gemma wants him to think of Grant as a collector not averse to paintings not for public sale. Their pretences are convincing and Julian is willing to see what might be available in the dimmer corners of the art world.

I hope more authors will choose to dress their male characters with style.


  1. You know, Bill, I hadn't thought about it, but you have a point. There are a lot more descriptions of women's clothes than of men's in crime fiction. It's an interesting point, and a good question as to why. Hmm....It's good too see that Delany has done a solid job of balancing the scales here. Makes me think I ought to look at my own writing and see how it measures up...

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate the emphasis will be on descriptions of women's clothes but I believe there are lots of opportunities, as shown by Vicki, to effectively use descriptions of men's clothes to further plots.

  2. Bill, while clothes say a lot about male and female characters, I tend to overlook what lead or secondary characters are wearing in most of the novels I read. I need to pay more attention to such details in fiction.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I have learned through Moira on how clothes can be used to set up scenes and be a part of the plot.

  3. Well this is the post, and the book, for me! Fascinating details, thanks for pointing them up, and I must read the book. I read an earlier one of her books in previous years, thanks wholly to your recommendation.
    And I agree totally - let's have more stylish men both in real life (like, I know, yourself) and books!

    1. Moira: Thanks for the kind words. I have enjoyed dressing in good quality clothes for work since I first bought a made-to-measure suit 46 years ago. Over the past 25 years I have come to embrace colour. I am contemplating getting a bright red sports jacket made for me!

  4. Ha, I think you're trying to steal some of Moira's thunder here!

    1. Col: Thanks for the comment. I consider Moira to be my inspiration on recognizing clothes in books.