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.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Bounty by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton

(12. - 1084.) The Bounty by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton - A dynamic opening sees a “master thief” slipping into the Vatican whose security services have been alerted. They are aided by a lovely FBI special agent, Kate O’Hare, and the suave Nick Fox, a “world-class thief. (Kate is a hard driving agent while Nick has shifted sides to assist the agency in challenging investigations.) The combined forces are still unable to prevent the theft of a 75 year old map and the escape of the thief.


The map is a modern treasure map created at the end of WW II by members of Die Bruderschaft (the Brotherhood),”a group of Nazi officals and sympathsizers” as a guide to tons of hidden Nazi gold. The Brotherhood has a new generation of members. Nazis and now Neo-Nazis have served thriller writers well for almost 90 years.


The map was stolen by Quentin Fox, the father of Nick. Quentin was an art dealer who had a secret second career as a CIA operative. It is nice to have a clever 62 year old man swiftly scaling walls, creating diversions and escaping from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica by an SAS parachute.


Quentin and Nick become a dynamic duo pursuing the gold.


Kate goes rogue, ignoring her superiors, as she seeks to capture the pair. In her past she has caught Nick three times.


In a clever twist Kate’s father, Jake, joins the trio. Few thrillers have heroes joined by their fathers.


Deciphering the map is intriguing. The quartet careens around Europe. The action is non-stop. 


It is movie ready. Script writers need hardly do more than recite the existing dialogue. The spectacular settings for scenes are beautiful and dramatic.


It is an excellent classic contemporary American thriller. The story moves smoothly. Bodies accumulate in 8 different countries. I am finding it harder to enjoy thrillers where the good guys casually solve each problem by killing a few more bad guys. I was reminded of the Indiana Jones series.


Readers who enjoy current movies based on comic heroes will love The Bounty.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Imperium by Robert Harris

As I have not finished as many books as usual recently I am dipping into unposted reviews from years before I started the blog. Robert Harris has been an inconsistent author for me. Imperium was one of his good ones.

****

12. - 422.) Imperium by Robert Harris – Harris returns to Roman times. In the last century B.C. Cicero sets out to become one of the two ruling consul of the Roman Republic. The novel is written by his slave, Tiro, who has invented shorthand to take down the torrent of words spoken by Cicero as a lawyer and as a politician. Born into a modest provincial farm family Cicero lacks the 1,000,000 in sesterces to become a senator. He overcomes the problem by marrying the wealthy Terentia. He rises through the senatorial ranks despite lacking a prominent family or great wealth or a successful army command. He succeeds through his wits and golden tongue. Harris portrays a lively Rome. The checks on individual power are being eroded. Cicero must navigate between the ambitions of Ptolemy the Great, Crassus and Caesar. The tension is continuous. The integrity of elections and verdicts are damaged by bribery. Cicero is justly remembered as one of the world’s great orators. He was equally adept at politics arranging coalitions and maintaining relationships. Overall I was sad as I knew of the pending loss of the republic. The Sunday Times description of “masterful” is apt. Harris is among the best historical fiction writers of this generation. I believed I was in Rome. Only as I read reviews did I realize Harris had written a thriller in which the hero killed no one. Hardcover. (Mar. 22/08)

****

Harris, Robert - (2002) - Archangel; (2004) – Pompeii; (2008) - Imperium; (2012) - "H" is for Robert Harris; (2014) - An Officer and a Spy; (2016) - Conclave and The Conclaves of Malachi Martin, Walter Murphy and Robert Harris; (2020) - The Second Sleep; Hardcover or paperback (See also in non-fiction)

Monday, April 5, 2021

Actual Cross Examination of Hitler

I rarely repeat a post. Tonight I decided to put up again a post of a review of the biography of an unfortunately little known German lawyer who cross-examined Hitler. I am adding to the post excerpts of the actual cross-examination. The post also appears in The Advocate, a journal published by the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association. The BBC production Hans Litten vs. Adolf Hiter: To Stop a Tyrant is focused the trial.

****

Crossing Hitler by Benjamin Carter Hett – Hans Litten was a radical Berlin defence lawyer. In 1932, acting as a private prosecutor, he joined the government prosecution of SA storm troopers charged with attacking Communists at the Eden Dance Palace. Litten convinced the Court to summon Adolph Hitler to testify about the SA. Litten carefully crafted questions that challenged Hitler to reconcile the Nazi Party’s public proclamations of pursuing power only by legal means with the SA taking violent actions in the streets of Germany. Litten’s probing questions provoked Hitler into a profound rage. While Hitler escapes perjury charges he fully recognizes the danger Litten has been to his political goals. Most remarkably, Litten is only 29 years old. The title cleverly has a double meaning.


While the book features the questioning of Hitler it is mainly a biography of the complex Litten. He is the privileged son of an East Prussian Jewish law professor and an aristocratic mother. A rebel with a sour relationship with his father, he becomes a lawyer. In his career, as much from spite at his conventional father as from his idealism, he specializes in defending Communists. Litten is a true lone wolf who fits within no political party or religion. He is simultaneously drawn to his Jewish and Christian heritages.


With his large round glasses and portly frame he looks like a pure academic rather than a fierce fighter. Yet he is a fearless defence counsel who uses every strategy possible including deliberately provocative actions that upset the judicial establishment. His sole concerns are his clients. He is not interested in going along with accepted behavior.


Hitler never forgets Litten. Upon the Nazis rise to power Litten is immediately imprisoned. The unceasing efforts of his mother, Irmgard, to secure his release are moving. Using every connection inside and outside Germany she advocates for her son.


When, after 5 years in prison, Litten gives up and commits suicide I was reminded of the observation of Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, in Man’s Search for Meaning that in the camps to lose faith in the future was to die.


It is a well written book that is free from academic convolutions.

****

Excerpts from Litten’s cross from the Cross-Examination Blog (Here is a link to the blog which has many other interesting cross-examinations http://wwwcrossx.blogspot.com/):


Q You didn't discipline or expel Goebbels, but instead made him Reich Propaganda Director. Mustn't Goebbels' example rouse the idea in the Party that the program of legality hasn't gotten very far.

A [Hitler begins to stutter and search for an answer] The whole Party stands on the basis of legality and Goebbels likewise on this basis. He is in Berlin and can be called here at any time...

Q Herr witness, is it correct that on the occasion of the so-called SA revolt last year you were accompanied on your tour of Berlin restaurants by armed SS men [for purposes of protection against the SA]?

A [Again outraged]. This is complete lunacy! In all the taverns I was greeted with stormy enthusiasm [Much laughter and merriment in the spectators gallery by Hitler's unintended pun of "stormy enthusiasm" from the storm troopers.] ....

Q I have just learned that this pamphlet is sanctioned by the Party, that it is sold at all Goebbels' meetings and that it is available in all Party bookstores ...

A [Hitler yells with a bright red face] Herr Advocate how can you that is a call to illegality? That is a statement that can be proven by nothing!



Q How is it possible that the Party publisher took over this text, which stands in clear contradiction to the party line?


At this point, Hitler was saved by the judge, who overruled the question and refused to allow any further inquiry.


Q Did you promise Reich Chancellor Bruning to dissolve the SA in the event of your joining the administration….show[ing] that you yourself saw the SA as something illegal.


A [Hitler now is extraordinarily excited] I insist that Bruning has not offered me any participation in his government…Dissolving the SA would mean for me the end of the Party…


Q In your opinion, what is the spirit of the Free Corps [another Nazi subgroup]?


A The Free Corps spirit lived in those who believed that a change in the fate of the German nation could be brought about through….physical strength….


Q Do you also include the notorious crimes and killings that were committed by the Free Corps as a part of this spirit?


A [Hitler now is outraged]. I refuse to acknowledge that that kind of thing happened. The Free Crops committed no killings. They defended Germany.