About Me

My photo
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.

Monday, December 27, 2021

A Vulnerable Tough Guy

After finishing
Hell and Gone I wrote to the author, Sam Wiebe, and he promptly replied. Our exchange is below. Sam, thanks for your candid response.



I enjoyed Hell and Gone. A link to my review is below.

Dave Wakefield continues to grow as a character.

After Cut Him Down we exchanged emails. I expressed my concerns over the level of violence in Wakefield’s life and hoped he would use more brains than brawn in the future.

Your response set out your reasons for depicting violence vividly and Wakefield’s participation in vicious confrontations.

You stated:

Speaking generally, I want the violence in the Wakeland novels to be visceral and uncomfortable. I don't want to trivialize violence. What happens has consequences for both the perpetrator and recipient.


To sum up, I think violence is an intrinsic part of the detective novel, and I take great pains to make the violence in the books realistic, and to show its consequences.

In Hell and Gone you succeeded. There is violence in the book described with an intensity that is searing in its impact. The injuries and deaths are very real. 

Unlike previous books I noted Wakefield is less a participant in the violence. He uses his mind more than his fists.

At the same time the consquences of violence have built up inside Wakefield’s mind. I appreciated him showing vulnerability to the violence he has experienced. It is a rare sleuth willing to embark on personal counseling to deal with the dark images of past violence.

I read the Q & A provided by your publisher after completing the book and my review and the first part of this letter. I was caught by the last question and answer:

Where did the title come from, and what does it

mean to you?

Hell and Gone fits into what Wakeland goes through

in the novel. It also fits the journey of the book.

In 2017-18 I hit a low point. I served on a jury for a murder trial which dragged on for several months. Soon after that, my father died. To help my mother keep her house, I had to take a third job. Professionally, I’ve had to fight harder than ever. New agent. New publisher. I think the journey has made me a better writer. Definitely a more appreciative one.

After reading your answer I wondered if the vulnerability I saw in Wakefield also reflects a personal vulnerability from the emotional events you dealt with in your life. 

In times of my own vulnerability I have found opportunities for maturing I reflected upon my life. 

I am glad Dave and Sonia have committed to their relationship. It is my hope that they may have a child. Too few tough guys in crime fiction are parents. I think Dave is ready to be a father. Might that be a possibility?

I hope your personal trials have eased.

If you are able to reply and are willing I will post your response to this letter.

All the best for 2022.



Bill, thank you so much for the thoughtful review. It means a lot to when someone engages this deeply with the book. 


Dave Wakeland (and I notice you wrote "Wakefield" a couple of times--copyediting is never totally done, is it?) is definitely a work in progress as a person--an educable brute--and the series reflects this. In Invisible Dead he's in his late twenties, and in Hell and Gone he's mid thirties. Empathy is a big part of growth, and frankly something I think is in short supply right now. He's fumbling towards it.


As to my personal trials:


I hesitated to include so much personal detail in that Q and A answer, but I thought it was fair for readers who'd been waiting for a third book since 2018. 


A lot changed in my life--the loss of my father really hurt, and the wilderness year of acquiring a new agent and publisher was tough. Canadian publishing is not good with homegrown mystery series, and the most successful (like Louise Penny's Gamache series) found foreign success before domestic. But Harbour/D&M has been great, and the audiobook comes out from Blackstone with the US release in March 2022.


Vancouver has changed in that time, too. Covid brought out some ugly truths to the forefront, namely a very overt anti Asian racism.


All of which is to say that these changes are reflected in Hell and Gone, and will be reflected in future novels as well. I'm committed to the series, and I'm so grateful people have responded to this one with enthusiasm. 


Regarding fatherhood, it would be hard to fit a child into an East Van one bedroom apartment--but I'm not ruling it out...




Sam Wiebe


Drat the proof reading fail. I will do better next time Sam.


Wiebe, Sam - (2015) - Last of the Independents and The Unhanged Arthur Award; (2016) - Invisible Dead and Sam Wiebe on His Sleuths; (2018) - Cut You Down and Sam Wiebe on Dave Wakeland; (2021) - Hell and Gone

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe

(36. - 1108.) Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe - A jolt of adrenaline rushed through me as I followed Dave Wakeland listening to fireworks and then realizing they were gunshots and then watching from his office window as four masked figures emerge from an office building across the street with a hockey bag and then shoot down commuters at a bus stop. Most of the deceased are Chinese.

As with Wakeland I was confused and in shock. It’s 5:15 on a quiet Vancouver morning.  Wanton, even casual killing, is not Canadian. How was this possible?

Wakeland rouses himself to help the survivors and then checks the other building where there are four more bodies in a money counting room. Shaken, confused, on the edge of shock, he reflexively tells the police he did not see anything.

Wakeland does not want to investigate the killings. He wants to be left alone. He is struggling with nightmarish images when he closes his eyes. No one believes he saw nothing and that he is not investigating. He is a tough guy whose speciality is finding people.

The lead police investigator, Superintendent Borden, is convinced Wakefield is withholding information.

His girlfriend, Officer Sonia Drego, is sure he no longer trusts her.

Deputy Chief Constable MacLeish expresses his disbelief personally and tells him to butt out. 

Terry Rhodes, leader of the Exiles Motorcyle Club, summons him for a meeting. Rhodes is intimidating:

But I’d also seen what lay behind it. A predatory business sense that sized a person up, decided value and acted without hesitation. All threats neutralized, all desires gratified, all opportunities seized by the throat. I’d once likened meeting with Rhodes to human chess, played on a minefield.

Rhodes, concerned over blowback for something not done by his members, directs Wakefield to find the killers.

His partner, Jeff Chen, has some connections with Roy Long, a Chinese leader with many other connections and the owner of the building in which the shooting occurred.

And then one of the killers tracks him down.

Wakefield gives up on non-involvement and dives into the case.

Wakefield and Chen have some advantages. Wakefield has street connections with people willing to confide in him rather than the police. Chen has extensive Chinese connections who will only share information within their community.

The “why” for the killings is elusive. The police, the motorcycle gangs and the Chinese leaders are disconcerted. They are accustomed to knowing “why”.

The pace builds as Wakefield, Chen and their staff gain information.

Wakefield is determined to find out “why”.

He has strong personal integrity. He expresses his personal creed:

“I’m a very simple guy. I do one thing well - better than anyone. I don’t compromise, and I don’t let myself owe.”

I would say he does another “thing” well. He has empathy. He relates to people including people he dislikes. He cares. 

There was one more twist in the plot than I thought necessary. It is but a minor flaw.

Hell and Gone is an excellent book. Between Wiebe and A.J. Devlin the mean streets of Vancouver have a pair of outstanding sleuths in Wakefield and Jed “Hammerhead” Ounstead. I expect Hell and Gone to be in contention for awards in 2022.


Wiebe, Sam - (2015) - Last of the Independents and The Unhanged Arthur Award; (2016) - Invisible Dead and Sam Wiebe on His Sleuths; (2018) - Cut You Down and Sam Wiebe on Dave Wakeland

Friday, December 17, 2021

The Quick Adiós (Times Six) by Tom Corcoran

(39. - 1111.) The Quick Adiós (Times Six) by Tom Corcoran - Alex Rutledge has a tremendous knowledge of cameras and is a talented photographer. The Key West Police Department occasionally calls upon him to take crime scene photos. Inevitably he gets caught up in the action.

Key Westers like Alex prize a laidback casual lifestyle. Yet Key West is as vulnerable to violence as the rest of the world. Vicious murders do happen in paradise. 

Alex has developed a reputation for resolving murders. His keen observations of location, design and atmosphere detect anomalies instantly.

While we think of police as trained observers they are amateurs compared to a professional photographer. 

Add a naturally inquisitive personality and Alex is a worthy descendant of the long line of fictional sleuths following Sherlockian principles of observation and deduction.

Called by his girlfriend, Detective Beth Watkins, to the scene of a multiple murder he is rudely dismissed before he can reach the location. Normally candid sources are evasive.

A Florida businessman, Justin Beeson, hires Alex to prepare a photographic portfolio of a building he is trying to sell near Sarasota. It is the type of commercial project that pays the bills for Alex. Yet the work seems somewhat contrived.

In Key West Alex establishes a unique business relationship. A pair of homeless men, Wiley Fecko and Dubbie Tanner resolve to move off the streets. Tanner actually has significant financial resources.

Because Tanner has some personal experience as an investigator they are able register with the State of Florida as private investigators. Their company name is Southernmost Aristocratic Investigations. Alex refers to them as the Aristocrats. Local law enforcement derisively calls them the Bumsnoops.

They prove resourceful and adept. From years of life on the streets of Key West they are also excellent observers. They have connections with the homeless whose lifestyle makes them very aware of everyone around them.

Their computer skills are sufficient to enable them to dig out online information. 

The Aristocrats are the most interesting characters in the book. 

The combined skills of Alex and the Aristocrats find information that has eluded the combined police forces of Key West, Monroe County and Saratoga. The trio are adept at pulling out details.

With one of the victims being a former girlfriend, Alex is reflective. He has had a series of relatively short term relationships. He wants his future to be with Beth. While they are clearly compatible I sense a restlessness within Alex.

The book is at its best in Key West. Even with my experience of the city limited to a cruise ship stop I could see the city in the book. Key Westers are proud of their quirkiness in the book. I value books where the setting is vivid and real. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson

(38. - 1110.) Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson - I have loved the Walt Longmire series through almost all 13 books I have read. I equally enjoyed the first 5 seasons of the T.V. series, Longmire. I found Depth of Winter disappointing.

Walt takes off for Mexico where the villain, Tomás Bidarte, has kidnapped his daughter, Cady, and taken her to the wilds of northern Mexico. 

Bidarte had managed to survive a shootout in A Serpent’s Tooth. He has been on a campaign of revenge against Walt which has culminated with Cady’s kidnapping.

Walt, unwilling to wait for international co-operation between American and Mexican law enforcement, is on a one man mission to rescue Cady or die in the effort.

With the aid of a rambunctious U.S. Buck Guzmán from the Border Patrol, he slips across the border. Not surprisingly it is not difficult to sneak into Mexico.

He allies himself with a Mexican physician who has a local defence force keeping the drug gangs away from their area.

Nearby Bidarte has established a fiefdom based on drugs and violence. Mexican authorities have abandoned the area to drug lords.

The book proceeds as you would expect. The only law is the law of the gun. Walt retains his stubborn integrity.

The imagination comes with how the violent episodes play out. Some are very creative.

For the same reasons I did not like the 6th and final season of the T.V. series I did not enjoy Depth of Winter. The story line is almost cartoonish. The implauibilities are really impossibilities. The violence is constant. The clever Walt is absent though his wit is intact. The avenging lone Western lawman is iconic in American lore but no longer draws me.

I am reminded of how the Elvis Cole books by Robert Crais shifted from a focus on a bright sleuth to violence filled conclusions with little humour. I stopped reading the series in frustration.

As well, Depth of Winter had but cameo appearances from the regular characters such as Henry Standing Bear and Vic Moretti. It suffered from their absence.

There have been past books in the series which saw Walt venturing out alone on a quest but the series would then return to interesting stories in Absaroka County. Depth of Winter is Walt’s most violent solo venture. I will read the next book in the hope it is back to actual crime fiction rather than a body per page thriller. Walt deserves to be solving mysteries with his intelligence and but a touch of brawn.


Johnson, Craig – (2007) - The Cold Dish(Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - Death Without Company; (2008) - Kindness Goes Unpunished (Third Best Fiction of 2008); (2009) - Another Man’s Moccasins; (2011) - The Dark Horse; (2011) - Junkyard Dogs; (2012) - Hell is Empty; (2013) As the Crow Flies; (2013) - Longmire T.V. Series; (2014) - A Serpent's Tooth; (2015) - Radio in Indigenous Mystery Series; (2015) - Any Other Day;  (2015) - Where is the Walt Longmire Series Headed; (2016) - Musings on the 5th Season of Longmire; (2017) - Dry Bones and Is the Largest T-Rex in Saskatchewan?; (2018) - An Obvious Fact; (2019) - The Western Star; Hardcover

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Camino Winds by John Grisham

(37. - 1109.) Camino Winds by John Grisham - Hurricane Leo is looming over Camino Island as Bruce Cable, the charming owner of Bay Books, is entertaining author, Mercer Mann, and her companion, Thomas at lunch. They had a brief fling when she was recruited by the FBI to spy on Cable, the prime suspect in the theft of F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts in Camino Island.

For supper Bruce hosts a dinner party for Mercer and Thomas at his Italianate home with beautiful tableware and dinnerware and flower arrangements. A fabulous meal with excellent wines, is prepared by a Louisiana chef. Literary residents of the island fill out the table.

That night “Leo finally made his move” towards the island. 

By morning there is a mandatory evacuation order which in Florida fashion is discretionary for no one can be forced to leave. Bruce and one young employee, Nick Sutton, stay behind. Store stock is moved to the second storey and first editions taken to his home.

By evening winds have already reached 100 mph roaring and howling about the island. And then it got worse …..

I have never had a desire to experience a hurricane and Camino Winds re-inforced the wisdom of obeying evacuation orders.

Of the island’s literary folk who stayed behind Nelson Kerr is sadly (I hate when lawyers get killed) a casualty. A whistleblower from San Francisco, he has been living a quiet life after leaving the practice of law and is writing international thrillers.

Examining the body Bruce, Nick and another author, Bob Cable, can see Nelson was hit multiple times in the head. There is but one fallen tree branch at hand. Who would have wanted to kill the reclusive author?

In a nifty sequence Nick, an experienced crime fiction reader, lays out his deductions on the crime. The State Police investigator is unimpressed. Nick in turn is unimpressed by the investigator. With mutual disdain they each carry on.

Nelson’s sister and executrix, Polly McCann, arrives from California. Uncertain and grieving, she leans on Bruce for advice.

Reading about a cleanup from a disaster is as depressing as cleaning up. Grisham is not excessive in dealing with the aftermath but the story was not moving at his usual pace until Bruce and Polly decide to pursue the killer.

The plot accelerates as a pair of intersecting plans are made to flush out an informant and the facts worth killing a man. With Bruce leading the way there is abundant adventure and intrigue.

On Camino Island, which plays a lesser role in the second half of the book, six months have passed since the hurricane and life for the locals is returning to its easy rhythms. 

Bruce and Noelle have a lovely sunset wedding on the beach. The almost 50 year olds don casually elegant wear for the ceremony:

Noelle was stunning in a white pantsuit with the cuffs rolled halfway up to the knees. Bruce, true to form, wore a brand-new white seersucker suit with shorts instead of pants. No shoes for either.

As always with a Grisham book the pages flow and suddenly 50 to 75 to 100 pages have been read.

I liked Camino Island better. More of the plot was about books. Camino Winds explores the risks in a writer’s life but it is not as unique. I was glad to read more of life on Camino Island.


Grisham, John – (2000) - The Brethren; (2001) - A Painted House; (2002) - The Summons; (2003) - The King of Torts; (2004) - The Last Juror; (2005) - The Runaway Jury; (2005) - The Broker; (2008) - The Appeal; (2009) - The Associate; (2011) - The Confession; (2011) - The Litigators; (2012) - "G" is for John Grisham - Part I and Part II; (2013) - The Racketeer; (2013) - Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Analyzing Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Sycamore Row; (2014) - Gray Mountain and Gray Mountain and Real Life Legal Aid; (2015) - Rogue Lawyer and Sebastian Rudd; (2016) - The Whistler; (2017) - Camino Island; (2017) - The Rooster Bar and Law Students and Integrity; (2019) - The Reckoning; (2019) - Cullen Post in The Guardians and The Guardians; (2020) - A Time for Mercy and Practising Law in Rural Mississippi and Rural Saskatchewan and Writing a Credible Trial

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Vernon Jordan Jr. Takes a Great Cover Photo

I was drawn to the book Vernon Can Read! by the superb photo of Vernon Jordan Jr. upon the cover. Fair or not, covers matter. I was aware of Jordan as a prominent Black American but no more. Had it not been for the cover I doubt I would have picked up the book.

For approximately 15 years the book sat upon a TBR shelf in our home office. I would look at it and think I should read it but another book would catch my attention. Finally, this fall as I was looking for a work of non-fiction to read I pulled it from the shelf and started to read. Once I started I was caught up in his life and swiftly read the book.

As for the cover photo it proved to be a perfect representation of Jordan.

Throughout his life he dressed elegantly. The photo shows a man with flair and style. As a teenager he spoke of dressing meticulously. I love the combination of blues and textures and designs in shirt, tie and suit jacket.

Robin Givhan in a tribute to Jordan in the Washington Post after his death 

Over the years, it was impossible to miss Jordan in a crowd. Often that was because he was the only Black person in it. But he was noticeably well-dressed. His suits were attentively tailored and he had a love for Turnbull & Asser shirts, Charvet ties and fedoras. His style was full of European élan, Adam Clayton Powell flair, Wall Street pinstripes and Sunday morning going-to-church polish. His aesthetic drew upon the collage of influences that make this country exceptional but that connect us on common ground. Years ago, after writing about his style — a story for which he did not return my messages — Jordan called to express his gratitude after it was published.

His pose is of a thoughtful man. Well educated and well spoken he reflected on the great issues of American life for over 60 years. He had a natural gravitas. 

He gave the commencement address at DePauw University on 3 occasions.

He loved speeches. He studied and refined the language of formal addresses.. As a young man in university he heard in Atlanta an early version of Martin Luther King’s speech “I Have a Dream”.

Jordan won an oratorical university competition as a freshman speaking on “The Negro in America”.

The photo shows a serious man. He dealt with the major issues, especially civil rights, of America. He met with every President from LBJ to Obama. I am not sure about “the Donald”. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were personal friends before they were President. He was awarded over 60 honorary doctoral degrees.

He exudes class, confidence and reserve. He was never an impulsive man. He consulted others, starting with his mother, before every major career decision.

What the photo does not depict is his innate restlessness to move forward and upward and face new challenges.

Jordan wears a wedding ring. He was married to Shirley for almost 30 years before her death from M.S. and was subsequently married to Ann for over 30 years.

His photo is the epitome of the successful business executive and lawyer he was in his life. I have always believed professionals should dress professionally. Casual clothing is best worn away from the office.

Sometimes you wonder if your children are listening to you when something special happens. When my younger son was graduating from law school I wrote to a friend and classmate, a Major in the Canadian Army, congratulating him on his graduation. He replied that Michael had spoken often of me and the importance of looking and acting professionally. He said Michael had convinced him that the uniform of a lawyer is a suit and tie.

It is one of the great cover photos of all time.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction on Hold

It is with regret that I advise the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction has been put on indefinite hold.  All year I have been waiting for a press release about the 2021 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. As there has been no release from the University of Alabama School of Law I called the University a few days ago to ask about the Prize this year. A representative of the University advised me of the decision to put the Award on hold. 

As set out in an earlier post on the blog the origins of the Prize were set out by the University in 2010:

To honor the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, The University of Alabama School of Law and the American Bar Association Journal partnered to create The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The Prize, authorized by Harper Lee, author and former Alabama law student, was announced in conjunction with Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks on the book at Alabama in October 2010. The Prize honors Lee for the role model she created for the legal profession and for the extraordinary cultural phenomenon that her novel has become.

The University further stated with regard to the Award in 2012:

In the spirit of Atticus Finch, the prize is awarded annually to a published work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers or the legal system in society.

The work must be:


• a published book-length work of fiction

• published originally in 2012

• readily available to readers via commercial sources (retail or online bookstores

such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or iTunes)

• an electronically-published work with an ISBN may be submitted but unpublished manuscripts may not.

The ABA Journal for several years invited readers to vote on their choice for the best book on the shortlist. Their choice would then count in the vote by the panel of judges. 

From 2013 on I read the 3 books chosen each year for the short list and would provide me thoughts on whether I agreed with the book chosen to win the Prize.

I was excited to see an annual Prize for best legal fiction. It was a highlight of my reading year to read and write about the books on the short list. I added my posts on the Prize to my page on Legal Mysteries which now contains reviews of 104 books.

The winners of the Prize are:

2011 John Grisham, The Confession

2012 Michael Connelly, The Fifth Witness

2013 Paul Goldstein, Havana Requiem

2014 John Grisham, Sycamore Row

2015 Deborah Johnson, The Secret of Magic

2016 Attica Locke, Pleasantville

2017 James Grippando, Gone Again

2018 C.E. Tobisman, Proof

2019 Sharon Bala, The Boat People

2020 Victor Methos, The Hallows

Of the books my personal favourite is The Boat People by Sharon Bala. Beyond being an excellent book on the legal travails facing Sri Lankan refugees it was written by a Canadian and is set in Canada.

I had some unease about the Prize in 2020 when the ABA Journal did not participate in the Prize. My concern proved founded this year.

I am concerned the Prize will not be back for it never gained as much attention as I felt the Prize deserved. I am not sure why. Legal fiction remains popular. There were strong entries every year. 

I do wish there had been greater promotion by the School of Law. There might have been 1-2 press releases a year. Awards need to be sold like every other venture seeking public recognition.

I hope the Award will return. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains an American classic. The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction honoured her, the legal profession and fine writers.