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.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Zenith Bookstore Mystery Box

Late last year I wrote a post about buying books in the pandemic. As always I strove to buy paper books from bookstores, usually independent stores. I made more purchases online as I limited shopping in bookstores. A regular commenter on the blog, Kathy D., spoke of how she missed going to bookstores. She had briefly shopped in an Amazon store on one occasion. She said if readers were looking for an independent bookstore she would recommend Zenith in Duluth, Minnesota. She said good friends had moved to Duluth, bought a building and opened the bookstore.

Intrigued, I looked up the store. I found it a fascinating store with a clever design for the exterior. I re-post the photo of the outside of the store.

Among its attractions I found you could buy a mystery box of books for $50 plus taxes in which you can provide some interests and store staff would select books to send you. Books would be a mix of new and used books.

I was interested in getting a mystery box and contacted the store. They advised they could ship to Canada and would be glad to send me books.

As I considered getting a mystery box they advised me that it would cost $53 to ship the books to Canada by mail. I hesitated for some time. I have never bought books where the shipping cost more than the books. It is striking and, inexplicable to me, how Zenith could ship the books in the U.S. for $2.99 but $53 was needed to send them to Canada.

As well I would have to take into consideration the exchange rate which fluctuates constantly but always has the American dollar worth more than the Canadian dollar.

Eventually I decided to get the box and sent a request for mysteries written by Minnesota authors and legal fiction.

Zenith promptly prepared a box and sent it into the mail on May 1.

I was beginning to despair that the American and Canadian postal services would ever get the box from Duluth to Melfort when it arrived on Friday, June 18. Even though it has nothing to do with Father’s Day it made today a good day going through the books.

They were, in the order packed into the box:

1.) The Oldest Sin by Ellen Hart which is a Sophie Greenway mystery published in 1996. I have not read any in the series;

2.) The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens published in 2017;

3.) Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon published in 2017. Ms. Rendon is a member of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation;

4.) Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger published in 1998. The title sounded familiar and I certainly know of the author but I cannot recall reading it. If I did read the book it was over 20 years ago;

5.) Motion to Suppress by Peri O’Shaughnessy published in 1995. Once again I am aware of Ms. O’Shaughnessy but, if I read any of her books, it would have been before I started recording and writing my personal reviews at the start of 2000. I know I have seen the title but have no memory of reading the book; and,

6.) The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter published in 2002. I saw the book in bookstores for several years and actually bought a paperback copy at one point but never read the book. I no longer have that copy. Thus it was meant for me to read this book.

There are five paperbacks and one hardcover, The Emperor of Ocean Park. Of the books the first four are mysteries by Minnesota authors and the last two are legal fiction. 

I am looking forward to reading the books and curious to find out how well the staff at Zenith were able to choose books for me, someone they have never met or talked to about books. I am used to discussing books with clerks and getting recommendations but I am not used to people picking books for me. Letting servers pick meals has worked well for Sharon and I in restaurants. I shall see how it fares with books. I shall send my reviews of the books from the Zenith collection to the store.

I regret that I expect it will be the last mystery box I order from Zenith. The time for delivery is not really an issue. I am confident I will find the books good reading. What is a challenge is that the combined cost of the books, postage and exchange pushed the total cost of the box to $140 in Canadian dollars. I do not regret the cost. I knew the total before I ordered them. As much as I love books it is more than I would pay again for a mystery box.


Will You Buy a Book From a Bookstore That is New to You?


  1. Thanks, Bill, for sharing your experience. I hope you'll enjoy the books. But I must say I agree with you about the cost of shipping. That's prohibitive, and honestly not something I would want to incur. Still, if I ever get to that part of the US, I'll visit Zenith books.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I equally would like to visit Zenith. I am sure we would we well welcomed.

  2. That is a lovely store and I am intrigued by the mystery box. It looks like you got some good books. I have read Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger (in the last two or three years) and it is very good. Definitely a thriller. I have also read The Emperor of Ocean Park but that was years ago (2005ish) and I just remember that it was good, but not much else.

    That is a lot to pay for a mystery box but you did get a good choice of books.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the omment. I am optimistic about the books and appreciate your thoughts on Iron Lake and The Emperor of Ocean Park.

  3. Oh - too bad this turned out to be so expensive - it appeals to me on many levels.

    The mailing of packages to and from the USA has puzzled and angered me for years. American bloggers almost always restrict their giveaways to the US because of the perceived - or perhaps real- cost of mailing to Canada. Comparing the prices of Canadian and American stamps for letters for both inter-country and intra-country, I suspect that to mail a parcel from the US to Canada, even though pricey by comparison to mailing within the USA, is still cheaper than mailing a parcel from Canada to the US. (Books, I believe, are eligible for Media Mail rates.)

    And yet. Canadians generally do that willingly. Why? Well, one reason might be that it's usually cheaper to mail to the States than to mail somewhere else in Canada. Outrageous, yes? Canada Post. GRRR. Don't get me started.

    ANYWAY - if I lived in the States, or if this bookstore was in Canada, I'd definitely be getting these mystery boxes!!

  4. Debbie: Thanks for the comment. I cannot recall the last time I mailed anything to the U.S. but I expect it would be expensive. I find Canada Post more reliable with parcels than letters. This parcel was an exception. I appreciate that we have a huge country but the cost of Canada Post for parcels feels excessive.

  5. Yikes. The shipping costs are high. I ordered a few things from Zenith, but I am in the U.S., and the postage was reasonable.
    I love the Allen Eskens book, "Nothing So Dangerous," and another in that series is "The Life We Bury."
    Perri O'Shaughnessy (two sisters) write about a woman lawyer. I like the series.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. Hard to understand how the post offices of our respective countries determine charges.