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, July 18, 2020

The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley

(24. - 1049.) The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley - Pain. Acute and chronic. The lacerations  of failing relationships. Grace and Miles Markell are specialists in such pain, At the beautiful Harmony Resort on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico they host two week retreats for well-to-do couples on the abyss of separation. Yet they are living a failing personal relationship.

Shell and Colin are a mature Canadian couple with perfect hair. They are abruptly defined as the alcoholic and the workaholic. 

Ben and Johana have come from California. He is a busy district attorney. She is a social worker who has not left their home for weeks. 

All the couples are bitter. There is clearly an abundance of motive for violence.

Since I deal with family law every day at the office the stories and emotions are very familiar.

Johanna likes to speak of herself as one of the “helpers”. Grace says she is also a “helper” and asks Johanna if “that means you don’t get to go to therapy”.

Ben is absorbed in wanting to return to the intimacy they had early in their relationship.

Grace is deceptive in telling Johanna that she has a happy marriage. When Johanna is unresponsive to her questions Grace asks her to a group anger management meeting.

Colin is absorbed in business. He has secreted cell phones so he can keep calling even though known cell phones are confiscated on arrival to avoid distractions.

Disaster looms ever closer as the relationships keep disintegrating. The closed therapeutic world created by Miles and Grace is toxic at its core. When will words turn to physical violence?

Leaving the resort is not an option. A category 4 hurricaine is about to strike.

It is unusual crime fiction for my reading in that the plot is concentrated on relationships.

Stapeley generates increasing tension and plausibly reveals the secrets of her characters. There are layers of venom in the relationships.

The resolution was clever. Yet for much of the book the men are bad and the women are good. I have rarely found in marital strife all the blame falls on one gender. Still I expect the target audience for the book was not men. A male reader is likely to be discouraged in the reading of The Last Resort


  1. That's a very interesting point, Bill. When a relatoinship is failing, it is, as you say, rarely just one person's doing. Usually it's the interactions. I prefer it when stories reflect that reality. Still, it sounds like a solid premise for a story. And I do like a resolution that gets me thinking, and that focus on relationships is interesting.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I think a few tweaks would have made it a better book. The premise was instriguing.

  2. Although this is a mystery, it is not the type I usually read. It sounds like it could be a good read, though. The author's other books seemed to be aimed at women, without the mystery element.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Sometimes I reach out from what I usually read because of challenges or shortlists for Awards. I would not have read The Last Resort if it had not been on the Arthur Ellis Shortlist for Best Novel in 2020. I would be interested in your reaction if you read it.

  3. Bill, I think a lot of books are built around relationships, maybe not quite to the same extent s this one though.

    1. Col: Thanks for the comment. I agree many books are built around relationships. In this book there is an intense focus on marital relationships.