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.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Ghost Light by Stan Jones and Patricia Watts

(34. - 1106.) Ghost Light by Stan Jones and Patricia Watts - An elderly woman with dementia, muttering about a whale headed dog monster, brings a piece of human jawbone to Nathan Active, Chief of Police in Chukchi on the North Slope of Alaska. After briefly recoiling, Active regains his composure and starts searching for the rest of the body.

Since her mind failed Tommie Leokuk has taken to roaming about the village at night. In a small community where everyone knows everyone her family thought it less harmful to let her wander rather than have her enduring the agitation that possessed her when she was locked in a bedroom.

Active is recovering from being shot in the leg in Tundra Kill. It is uncertain if his leg will ever be free of pain. His mind is more troubled from the shooting than his leg. His wife, Grace, is worried.

At home life is going well with Grace, his stepdaughter Nita and new son, Charlie. Having a family forces him to think about more than his work and personal demons.

Other bits of the body are brought in by Tommie.

Eventually, through some imaginative police work the body, a young woman, is found.

The investigation takes Active to the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope. At the oil fields workers spend 4 weeks in camp and 2 weeks at home. It is a well paid but isolated life which makes it difficult to involve yourself in a home community. For many years work in the North was dominated by men. Now increasing numbers of women are working in the camps. There are more complications from relationships in and out of camp.

In Ghost Light Active must explore a series of tangled personal relationships involving the murdered young woman. Police work is a challenge when two suspects tell contradictory stories with phone text evidence pointing to each of them equally. Who is the liar? Add a third plausible suspect and there is an excellent mystery.

For readers who live in urban environments the distances of life in Alaska strain comprehension. To question witnesses and suspects Active flies for hours to and from Prudhoe Bay, Nome and Anchorage. 

The villagers of Chukchi continue the process of an uneasy adjustment to the economic benefits of large industrial ventures in the North. Going to camp is now far more complicated. Camp can be the traditional place to hunt, fish and gather berries or camp can be the modern place to fix, maintain and operate the equipment extracting oil from the land. Jones and Watts skilfully explore the complexities of evolving life in the North. Modern electronics abound while almost every household has guns and fishing gear.

Beyond the mystery investigation, Active continues to experience his Inupiat heritage. The grandmothers of the North are seers of the soul. Can Nathan, who is reluctant to bare emotions, draw upon their age old wisdom?


Jones, Stan – (2009) - White Sky, Black Ice; (2010) - Shaman Pass; (2012) - "J" is for Stan Jones; (2013) - Frozen Sun; (2013) - Q & A with Stan Jones on Nathan Active and Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte - Part I and Part II; (2015) - Village of the Ghost Bears; (2015) - Radio in Indigenous Mystery Series; (2016) - Tundra Kill and An Exchange with Stan Jones on Sarah Palin and Helen Mercer and Governor Sarah Palin and Red Parkas; (2020) - The Big Empty (co-written with Patricia Watts) Hardcover


  1. I do like this series, Bill. For me, it really depicts Alaskan life, both of the Indigenous people who live there, and for others who've moved there. You're right about the vast distances. It takes some re-thinking to imagine what it's like to take a bush plane and travel for hours just to meet with someone, especially in situations like interviewing a witness. And you make some really interesting points about the impact of modern technology, too. Glad you enjoyed the novel.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The North Slope is as different as life can be from urban America.