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, December 31, 2022

Bill's Best of 2022 Fiction

I continue to assemble my Best of lists at the end of the calendar year. This post has Bill’s Best of 2022 Fiction. My next post will have Bill’s Best of 2022 Non-Fiction and a personal category of Bill’s Most Interesting of 2022. The lists do include books published earlier than 2022.

For the best of 2022 fiction:

1.) Going to Beautiful by Anthony Bidulka - I have long been a fan of Tony’s books. I especially enjoyed each book in the Russell Quant series. In 2004 his first in the series, Amuse Bouche, was my Most Interesting book of the year. The next year Flight of Aquavit was my choice for 2nd best Fiction. For 2022 Going to Beautiful is my favourite work of fiction. Anthony is the first Saskatchewan writer to be Bill’s No. 1 fiction read of the year. 

In the letter forming my review I described the book as his “masterpiece”. It is a great book that evokes rural Saskatchewan emotionally and physically while providing an intriguing mystery.

I then had the good fortune to be able to attend his book launch in Saskatoon. It is the only time a pair of socks has become a vivid memory for me. As set out in my post, a link is below, the heel came off one of Tony’s shoes so he strode upon the stage in striking pink socks. More memorable was seeing Tony and his mother, Johanna, at the signing table after the launch.

The book has gained major attention through the year. Well done Tony!

2.) Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby - The story of ex-cons, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, avenging the deaths of their gay sons, Isiah and Derek, was riveting. Both fathers had deep regrets over their treatment of their sons who were gay.

I set out in my review:

Each man lives with the burden of not accepting their sons as gay and letting that disdain govern the relationship. They desperately wish they had given up their prejudices.

Ike weeps alone:

Tears for his son. Tears for his wife. Tears for the little girl they had to raise. Tears for who they were and what they all had lost. Each drop felt like it was slicing his face open like a razorblade.

There is graphic violence. Yet it is not an oxymoron to say the violence was thoughtful.

3.) Mindful of Murder by Susan Juby - Another Canadian book was my choice for 3rd best Fiction of 2022. Helen Thorpe was my favourite new sleuth. She is a skilled butler who effectively uses her training to solve the mystery of the death of her former employer, Edna Todd, What was thought to be suicide was murder.

The setting at a New Age retreat centre on an island just off Vancouver Island was fascinating.

There are excellent secondary characters.

Her butler friends, Murray and Gavin, are suave clever butlers. All three butlers reminded me of the wonderful butlers Sharon and I have had on Oceania ships. A link to a post on butlers is below together with a link to an exchange with the author.

Jenson Riley and Wayfarer are amazing as the instructors of the Arranging Your Inner Flower and Devi Dance courses. I would not have imagined you could gain so much inner knowledge from flowers and dance.

It is a skilled writer who can make a sleuth in an unlikely profession for crime investigation into a memorable character.

If you have not read any of the above, good reading awaits you.


Stellar Book Launch for Going to Beautiful

Butlers in Fiction and Real Life and Exchange with Susan

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Season One of Three Pines

Watching the series, Three Pines, on Amazon Prime brought instant comparisons with the mental images of the village and characters of the books by Louise Penny.

Seeing Alfred Molina as Armand Gamache, even before he spoke, I thought this man is Gamache. In the movie, Still Life, Nathaniel Parker portrayed Gamache. Parker never felt right as set out in my review of the movie. (A link is below)

While Parker’s English accent is explained by studying at Cambridge it never felt right. Molina equally speaks of being a student at Cambridge but lacks the English accent.

Molina is a solid man in late middle age with a presence about him befitting the Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Quebec.

Guy Beauvoir is the striving young detective of the books.

Agent Yvette Nichol is a somewhat young agent, inexperienced, even bungling. In the books she is malicious. Sarah Booth who portrays Nichol described the new Nichol as awkward and eager” in an interview on the movieweb.com website. 

Unlike the books Isobel Lacoste is indigenous. One of the changes for the T.V. series is the significant presence of indigenous people and a contemporary indigenous subplot. 

There is a shortage of flaws about the four detectives. Only Beauvoir continues to struggle with alcohol.

Among the villagers Clare Coulter as Ruth Zardo is the very image of the eccentric poet spouting obscenities as she carries Rosa, her duck, everywhere. The visual image of the duck sharing her bathtub was unforgettable.

Gabri is a little slimmer and Olivier a touch shorter than my mental images.

Myrna is not as hefty as in the books.

The village houses and shops are what I visualized from the books.

I was startled by the Church. In my mind it was a modest wooden structure. On T.V., it is a large brick church with a soaring spire. While large for the village of the 21st Century many towns and villages have large churches from 100 years ago.

The three majestic pines dominating the centre of the village in the books are more modest in the series.

Through the 8 episodes there is a continuing story of the search for a missing indigenous woman, Blue Two Rivers. It is a departure from the books.

When I wrote my review of the movie 9 years ago I thought it would have been better in a mini-series. Now it is in a mini-series. It works better in this format yet I have some “buts”.    

A murder is solved every two episodes. The first three murders are drawn from the books. I thought the investigations would have been better done over 3 episodes. 

I did not find the Indian Residential School story fitted well. It was tacked on to the murder and missing persons investigations.

The resolution for Two Rivers was very predictable.

The subtleties and complications in village relationships are barely developed. Unlike the books we see little direct contact between the residents of Three Pines. Unless they are interacting with one of the detectives we learn little of their lives.

Molina is riveting as Gamache. He is engaging, thoughtful, humorous and forthright. You want him to be the man investigating the death of a loved one.

Molina moves the series from average to very good. It was too much to ask that it rival the brilliance of the books. At the same time, my wife Sharon, who has listened to several Gamache books and listened to the series with me, thought it was excellent. I expect I am too demanding. Reading the books can be a disadvantage to drama in the T.V. series when you can tell some of the T.V. plots come from the books. 

I am hopeful a second season can be stronger. As of the end of December of 2022 when I am writing this post Amazon has not announced if there will be a second season. Should there be another year I will try harder to let the T.V. series stand on its own and not compare it continuously to the books.


Penny, Louise – (2005) - Still Life; (2006) - Dead Cold (Tied for 3rd Best fiction of 2006); (2007) - The Cruelest Month; (2009) - The Murder Stone (Tied for 4th Best fiction of 2009); (2010) - The Brutal Telling; (2011) - Bury Your Dead (Best Fiction of 2011); (2011) - A Trick of the Light; (2012) - The Beautiful Mystery (Part I) and The Beautiful Mystery (Part II); (2013) - "P" is for Louise Penny - Movie Producer and Review of the Movie of Still Life; (2013) - How the Light Gets In; (2014) - The Long Way Home; (2014) - The Armand Gamache Series after 10 Mysteries - Part I and Part II; (2015) - The Nature of the Beast (Part I) and The Nature of the Beast (Part II); (2016) - A Great Reckoning The Academy and Comparisons and The Map; (2016) - Louise Penny and Michael Whitehead Holding Hands; (2017) - Glass Houses - Happiness and Unhappiness and Getting the Law Wrong; (2019) - Kingdom of the Blind and Irreconcilable Dispositions; (2019) - A Better Man; (2020) - All the Devils are Here and Relationship Restaurants in Fiction and Real Life and Reading of the Marais Simultaneously; (2021) - The Madness of Crowds and Responding to Evil and Considering "People"; (2021) - Three Pines - The Amazon Prime Series

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo

(33. - 1138.) Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo - Ann Woodward was born in 1915 as Angeline Luceic Crowell and grew up in poverty in Kansas. Her prospects were grim but she was blessed with great beauty and great determination to succeed. She renamed herself Ann Eden. Given a chance to model she seized the opportunity to move to New York City.

William “Billy” Woodward Jr., born in 1920, grew up as the privileged heir to a banking fortune. He was indulged and pampered by his mother, Elsie, and older sisters. His distant father, William Woodward Sr., was pre-occupied with race horses and banking.

Truman Streckfus Persons was born in the Deep South in 1924 and spent his early years in Monroville, Alabama. He was disliked because he was short, effeminate and smart. His mother, Lillie Mae, was another beautiful woman.

Ann and Lillie Mae sought to use their beauty to marry up into wealth and security. Ann had the better approach in establishing herself and determining who had real wealth before taking a spouse. Lillie Mae married young at 16 wrongly assuming her husband, Arch, had money because his family was well-to-do.

Shock, frustration and anger dominated Elsie as she contemplated the marriage of Billy to Ann, a nightclub dancer who performed wearing a bunny costume.

It is no surprise that the marriage does not go well. Ann might have made it work had Billy been interested. Their marriage was volatile with frequent emotional confrontations and occasional physical violence. They should have divorced but neither was ready to end the marriage.

Lillie Mae made her way to New York City with determination to rival Ann. She becomes Nina and finds a well-to-do admirer in Joseph Garcia Capone. They marry and she summons Truman from Alabama.

Becoming Truman Capote, the young southerner survives his teenage years and finds success as a writer in his early 20’s. He adopts a lifestyle of night-time writing with pencils in bed and sleeping to noon. He is openly homosexual in the 1940’s.

By 1955 Ann is fed up with the facade that is her marriage and Billy is talking about divorcing her.

In late October of 1955 the Woodward’s were at their weekend home in Long Island. There is tension about because of a neighbourhood prowler

After returning from a party Ann is roused from sleep, grabs the shotgun by her bed and goes to the door of her bedroom. She shoots a naked Billy who has left his bedroom. How dark it was is uncertain.

Ann testifies before a grand jury which refuses to indict her. She is forced into exile.

I was a touch surprised that the sub-title included the phrase “the murder of the century” when Ann was never charged. 

Truman was fascinated by the killing and bitter about Ann making derogatory remarks to him when they encountered each other in Europe in 1956. He never forgot and never forgave.

From 1959 through 1966 he was preoccupied with the killings of the Cutter family in Kansas. He gained fame from the resulting book In Cold Blood.

For his next book Capote dreams of writing Answered Prayers, a novel on New York society in which a socialite murders her husband. He expects it to be his magnum opus rivaling Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. He never completes the book.

Truman was well known for his non-fiction not always being factual. Montillo quotes him from a Cosmopolitan magazine article:

“I just call it making something come alive’. In other words, a form of art. Art and truth are not necessarily compatible bedfellows.”

Truman cultivated beautiful wealthy socialites. He referred to them as his swans and had pet names for his flock.

In 1975 Truman sold a story, La Côte Basque 1965, to Esquire magazine. It is a very thinly disguised version of Ann shooting Billy. 

Shortly before publication a “frenzied” Ann committed suicide. Truman had murdered with words but felt no remorse. 

Had he limited his bile to Ann I expect little would have changed in his world but his venom included the swans who had unwisely confided in him. Their responses shock him.

The book is most alive when discussing Truman. Celebrity gossip is eternally fascinating. I wished there had been more. I raced through the final chapters of the book.

Cruelty to vulnerable women is of no consequence to Truman. Had he the generosity to forgive slights he might not have had a twisted soul.

He could not understand why they would not want their secrets revealed when his life was open. He never understood the distinction between private and published gossip. 

Deliberate Cruelty is a good book. Montillo is clearly a gifted researcher reflecting her work as a research librarian. She writes narrative well, moving the stories of Ann, Billy and Truman steadily forward. Life was interesting, even dramatic around them. I would have been glad had she provided her opinions on the events and personalities of the characters.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Maxine Clarke 10 Years Gone


The lovely image from the top of Maxine's blog, Petrona

Yesterday, I was reminded by Margot Kinberg through her blog that our friend and fellow blogger, Maxine Clarke, has been gone for 10 years. Margot posted a lovely letter to Maxine (here is a link - https://margot-kin-berg.com/2022/12/17/ten-years-have-got-behind-you/). It expressed my thoughts.

Maxine's memory has endured. For a time fellow bloggers posted at Petrona Remembered reviews of books they thought Maxine would enjoy.

More lasting has been the Petrona Award established in her memory. It honours the best in translated Scandinavian fiction. I expect it will continue for many years.

Reading Margot's post sent me back to the post I did after Maxine died. I decided to re-post it below.

I miss Maxine. I am glad I had a chance to connect with her through blogging.

Rest in peace dear Maxine.


I have given eulogies, written reflections, presided at prayer services, prepared obituaries and expressed my sympathy in letters. Each time it was for someone I knew physically. Tonight I think about a virtual friend, Maxine Clarke, sadly gone.

I wish I could have met her but do not regret not having spent time in her physical presence. She was a friend from the internet. The web has provided new opportunities to make friends around the world.

As I ventured into this new world I soon encountered Maxine. Her formidable knowledge of crime fiction was a touch intimidating for the depth and breadth of her reading was striking.

She was generous in acknowledging fellow bloggers. When she read and reviewed the books of Gail Bowen and Anthony Bidulka from Saskatchewan she always included a reference to my blog and kindly acknowledged she was reading them because of me.

My most direct contact and enduring memories of Maxine come from her comments on my blog. After coming to understand her great learning of crime fiction it was with pride I would see a comment from Maxine on one of my posts.

Many comments are quite general in nature. Maxine was never perfunctory. She had considered the post and reached a conclusion and expressed her opinion clearly. I looked forward to Maxine’s comments.

Her last comment on my blog on Taken by Robert Crais reflected her style:

I agree with your views on this book, Bill. It is certainly a page-turner but there is little character or charm that characterises some of the Elvis books. I thought it went off a bit once Joe went out into the desert. Somewhat of a book for those in love with weapons!

Her knowledge of the genre is readily apparent in her comment to a post I wrote about the first twenty years of Harry Bosch:

This is a great post, Bill. It is fascinating to read your views on the evolution of Bosch. I think this series did go through a bit of a "low" a few years ago, around the time of "Void Moon". It was still pretty good, but not quite up to its own standard. I think that at that time, Connelly was trying to make Bosch a more rounded man via his romances, but those have failed and I think his solution of the daughter as a main character works really well. I know quite a few men who are pretty tough in their professional lives but change completely where their children are concerned.

I agree with you about Bosch as the classic "driven" detective. As Margot has mentioned, in the earlier books (immediately after The Black Echo but before he broke off with The Poet) I think that Bosch found out, or tried to, about his parents. The father theme came out much later also, in The Lincoln Lawyer. As a result of that experience, he became even more alone and isolated professionally, locked into his long-running feud with Irvin Irving. I think your point about Bosch now playing the bureaucracy, instead of simply head-butting with it, is a very astute one. I hadn't picked that up but it rings true.

In crime fiction there is usually some element that I find lets a book down. Usually it is the resolution of the crime plot, which is often forced and unconvincing. Another common failing is the "dramatic ending" with shootouts, hero/heroine in peril (having not called for back up), etc. Connelly avoids both these pitfalls, I think - he does not usually go for the "over the top" elements. I agree that his villains can be weak as characters but personally I don't like reading too much from the "sick mind of the villain" point of view, so I am glad he does not go in for that. One book where I think Connelly did very well on the balance between horrible crimes and not being gratuitious is The Scarecrow.

Overall, Connelly is my favourite crime fiction author and has been for years. He has not let his readers down with fame, but continues to deliver exciting and "different" books, while, as you point out, developing characters very well over a series.

Not many people are mourned round the world. The posts expressing the grief of the crime fiction bloggers span the globe.

I respected Maxine’s knowledge, appreciated her skills with words, admired most of her opinions and am saddened by her death. My virtual world is diminished by her loss.

My sympathy to her husband and family.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

At Issue with Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh

Authors twist reality for dramatic reasons. I get irritated, even frustrated, when fictional lawyers drift far from the reality of the practice of law and the conduct of trials. Steve Cavanagh in Th1rt3en turned a brilliant premise into a blood filled thriller. As my concerns will involve spoilers, proceed no further if spoilers are a concern.

I start with his lawyer, Eddie Flynn, being asked to be second chair on a huge murder trial a few days before the trial. Movie star, Bobby Solomon, is charged with murdering his wife and security head. The actual killer is a juror. Flynn accepts and then does no other legal work but the case until resolution of the trial.

A lawyer cannot be adequately prepared in less than a week. Reading a file is far different from preparing for a trial. It adds drama to be the last minute addition but not credibility.

I appreciate that George Levy, as set out in Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo by C. Joseph Greaves, took on the lead role in the defence of Lucky Luciano in 1936 on 4 days notice. I thought Levy’s decision was ill advised.

Flynn is portrayed as a busy sole practitioner akin to Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, in Michael Connelly books.

Haller, as with any litigator, is constantly juggling cases and court appearances. It is possible Flynn could have a week or longer available without a trial on short notice. What is completely unbelievable is that he would not have many cases requiring attention as well as the new case. There would be phone calls, emails and documents to be addressed. Flynn has nary a demand upon his time beyond the Solomon case.

I think of examples from real life and fiction to illustrate reality. 

Defense Lawyer by James Patterson and Benjamin Wallace is a biography of famed New York City defense lawyer Barry Slotnick. In the book Slotnick deals with multiple clients all the time. 

In a post on the book earlier this year I quoted:

On a mid-winter day in January of 1986 there was an eclectic mix of people in his reception area - a couple of Chinese gangsters, a Russian mobster, two Hasidic men, Bernhard Goetz (the subway vigilante) and John Gotti’s driver (his employer was in a conference at the office.

John Grisham has written several books about lawyers in fictional Ford County in Mississippi. Jake Brigance is the lead lawyer in several books. He is in an eternal struggle to make ends meet in his general practice. He pleads with the trial judge in a Time for Mercy not to appoint him because of the low fees from the state and the time impact on his practice.

Reality disappears when, on the morning of the trial, the lead counsel for Solomon and his team, Rudy Carp, quit the case because the movie studio is his client and has decided he is to no longer to represent Solomon and it will cease paying for Solomon’s representation.

While dramatic I could not see a judge permitting their withdrawal. Carp has to be representing Solomon, not the studio, to be his counsel. The studio can pay but Solomon is the client. If there is a fee issue for the work of the trial Carp will have to sort it out with the studio and Solomon. I would have been shocked if the lawyers did not have a contract with the studio requiring payment for the trial even if the studio was no longer interesting in paying for Solomon. Carp would still have to represent Solomon. Only if there is some major ethical issue could Carp back out. There was no such issue here. The prejudice to Solomon by the late application to withdraw is overwhelming. 

If Carp managed to withdraw I could see Flynn taking over representing Solomon but not going to trial the same day. It would be irresponsible not to get a continuance to allow proper representation of the accused.

I appreciate Solomon’s career is adversely affected by every delay but being convicted because your lawyer is inadequately prepared is worse.

Reinforcing the need for adjournment, Flynn is developing a new defence relating to an unidentified serial killer and identifying other lines of attack upon the prosecution’s case. It would be reckless to go to trial without sorting out the defence. Rescuing Solomon’s reputation will only happen with a not guilty verdict.

There could have been just as much drama in properly preparing the defence with the serial killer still on the jury. 

There was already lots of good courtroom drama in the plot. 

What was subtler was that the case was never as strong as Cavanagh puts forward.  The identification of the accused was suspect. The issues over the security camera amplified the identification problem. The hiding of the murder weapon was clumsy. The theory on how the murders were committed was wrong. Flynn exposes the problems. 

Would reasonable doubt have been created by these problems is less certain because, during the trial, the defence was proposing an unknown killer? Cavanagh did have right the challenge for the defence of providing a credible background for the argument that an unknown killer entered the home to murder. 

Ultimately the body count defies belief. I usually do not go into actual numbers but I have never read legal fiction with this many bodies. I can understand multiple murders committed by Kane before the time period covered by the book. He was a serial killer but he kills 12 people, including Bloom and Tozer, during the time covered in the book. Another 4 people are killed as part of the resolution of the story. 

Flynn is a good action hero and a good lawyer. I wish his legal skills had resolved the plot. A Hollywood movie awaits.


Cavanagh, Steve - (2022) - Th1rt3en

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh

(32. - 1137.) Th1rt3en by Steve Cavanagh – Cavanagh challenged my reading preferences or prejudices depending on perspective. I am not fond of serial killers. Who is? Deaths are in abundance. Major violence is self-evident. They are abhorrent creatures. Yet they can be compelling. 

Joshua Kane is a brilliant man. Unfortunately, he is a wicked man. Killing is a game he has mastered. A master of disguise he is incredibly patient and well studied in the disposition of bodies. I was reminded of several villains created by Jeffery Deaver in the Lincoln Rhymes series.


New York City defence lawyer, Eddie Flynn, is clever in court and confident to the point of cockiness. He is asked by Rudy Carp to be second chair on the trial team for star actor Bobby Solomon in another Trial of the Century. Solomon has been charged with killing his wife, Ariella Bloom, and the head of their security, Carl Tozer.


Providing Flynn with the evidence and arguments no longer involves multiple binders of documents. Flynn is provided with all the material on a laptop. A member of Solomon’s security team accompanies the computer.


On the morning jury selection is to begin, Carp withdraws from the case as Solomon’s movie studio has decided not to pay Carp’s fees for a trial.


The prosecutor is Art Pryor. He is a roving prosecutor called in by D.A.’s to conduct high profile murder cases. He is talented with an ego that fills the courtroom.


Flynn takes up the challenge of representing Solomon on his own with the aid of jury consultant, Arnold Novoselic.


Kane killed Bloom and Tozer and is determined to be one of the jurors deciding Solomon’s case. He is inventive and ruthless. How he got a summons, answered the written questions and responded to the oral questioning of the lawyers reflect his twisted talents.


Flynn is still building his defence as the trial gets underway with Flynn’s good friend, Harry Ford, the presiding judge. While fond of Flynn he will not favour Flynn during the trial.


Tossed into the plot is a feud between Flynn and New York detectives. It was a distraction which detracted from the plot.


The trial was gripping. The evidence is laid out briskly. Flynn challenges the State’s witnesses seeking to create doubts in the mind of the jury. While mounting attacks on the prosecution evidence Flynn faces the challenge of not having an alternative to Solomon. Claiming there was an “unknown killer” is difficult in front of a jury. “Unknown” leaves juries with the impression there is no alternative.


Flynn has no idea there is a rogue juror out to sway the jury in favour of conviction.


Through the book Kane explains his actions. He is on a mission. Cavanagh’s venture into the mind of a serial killer is effective.


In the background, the FBI is searching for a serial killer they have named “Dollar Bill”.


There is a lot of action for a legal thriller. I would have appreciated less blood.


Cavanagh further reminded me of Deaver with an unnecessary twist at the end of the book.


While the plot strained credibility, as will be further discussed in my next post, Cavanagh drives the story and the pages turn easily. There is barely a pause. I read a good portion of the trip during a pair of 3 hour flights as Sharon and I made our way home from our November cruise.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Searcher by Tana French

(30. - 1135.) The Searcher by Tana French - Life in western Ireland is not Chicago. Former Chicago police detective Cal Hooper is glad. Worn out from the turmoil of current policing in America he is seeking a new start. An old cottage needing lots of work occupies his body. His mind is less settled. A failed marriage lingers on. 

His neighbours live modest lives connected to the land. All of them have spent their lives there. Generations of relationships tie them together. Unexpectedly to Cal, he eases into the community comfortably. They appreciate his approach.


After a working life of constant awareness and dealing with people problems:


        It’s occurred to him that he might have an

unexpected talent for letting things be.


Yet Cal’s sensitivity to what is going on around him remains high. His innate curiosity drives him.


He carefully builds a relationship with a poor 13 year old, Trey Reddy, who has a personal reason for looking up the former detective. Cal searched for missing people in Chicago. Trey’s brother, Brendan, is missing. Trey wants Cal to search for Brendan. Cal refuses. The teenager is devastated and angry.


Cal spent years as a detective living with the dread that “something bad” was coming his way. The feeling had gone away when he arrived at the farm. Now it is back.


The investigative instinct cannot be denied and Cal changes his mind.


While a big man who was a successful city detective, Cal is also a subtle man. When trying to disarm those who consider themselves sophisticated he is adept at “rednecking up”. He finds in Ireland, as he did in Chicago, that:


Acting like a hick can be all kinds of useful.            


Still he is a “blow-in” and some wonder if he will last the winter.


Yet he is misguided in thinking he can discreetly ask questions about the missing boy. His “conversations” are recognized as interrogations.


In a poteen filled night at the local pub he is obliquely, yet clearly, warned against continuing his inquiries.


Cal’s intense commitment to investigations as a detective was a major cause of the breakup of his marriage. A warning, whether indirect or blunt, is not going to deter him.


French’s lyrical descriptions of the west Irish countryside, its people and their speech drew me into their world. From afar the image of Ireland is of a land of soft greens and misty landscapes. French equally evokes the Ireland of mountains and rocky fields.


She has an amazing feel for the nuances of conversation in a rural community where relationships are honed over decades and grudges can be eternal. The “blow-in” is repeatedly told life is “grand”. He learns the Irish are not a soft people.


I was reminded of the memorable characters of Three Pines in the books by Louise Penny. Most of them have spent decades in the village.


French writes brilliantly of good intentions gone astray.




The Searcher is the second book I have read in the last year in which the sleuth was an American detective who, after losing a wife, moved to rural Europe to start a new life. Murder in Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri was a good book. The Searcher is a great book.