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.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Key Lime Crime by Lucy Burdette

(1. - 1116.) The Key Lime Crime by Lucy Burdette - My last post was a review of An Appetite for Murder, the first in the Hayley Snow series which I purchased at Key West Books. While at the store I asked Paul about a second book in the series and he recommended The Key Lime Crime. It is a few books later in the series rather than the second book. Readers who intend to read the series in sequence should not read this review as they will get information they would probably prefer to acquire through reading the series.

The Key Lime Crime sees Hayley now a veteran food critic for Key Zest magazine and  married to KWPD detective Nathan Bransford. They are living with Miss. Gloria on her houseboat until renovations are completed on their own houseboat.

It is the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the busiest week of the year in Key West with tens of thousands of tourists flooding the island. One of them is Nathan’s mother, Mrs.Bransford, making an unexpected visit to the newlyweds.

The bubbly outgoing Hayley is more than a little intimidated when Mrs.Bransford. arrives. Mrs..Bransford is an austere, tall, slim, perfectly coiffed, well dressed woman indifferent to food. Hayley welcomes Mrs. Bransford by thanking her for “reproducing” Nathan. A couple of days later she asks Hayley to call her Helen. The gesture gives Hayley fleeting relief.

Helen’s visit gets off to a very dramatic start.

At the local library, promoter extraordinaire David Sloan, has a gathering to display entries vying for his Key Lime Key to the City Award. In a city obsessed with key lime pie it is a significant award. 

For a pie with few ingredients the variety of pies is impressive.

Sloan is outraged when Claudette Parker, from the newly opened Au Citron Vert, opens her box to display a key lime pastry. He immediately and loudly disqualifies her as her entry is not a pie. She responds by throwing a pie in his face.

Later that evening on a Conch Train tour of the residential Christmas lights the observant Miss Gloria sees a kitten and Helen notices a drunk Santa Claus figure upon a porch. Each wants to know more. Returning to the house they find the kitten in the bushes and the Santa Claus is actually the body of Claudette. Once again Hayley is caught up in murder.

Nathan sternly directs Helen and Hayley not to investigate. Hayley is willing to listen but Helen, sensing danger for her son, ignores Nathan. Hayley is quite willing to help Helen.

Assigned to write about the pie contest Hayley has a ready cover for asking questions of contestants, librarians and Claudette’s colleagues.

The intrepid trio (Miss Gloria makes it three) are all inquisitive. They eat (Helen barely tastes) a lot of key lime pies.

Anger over the library kerfuffle hardly seems a reason for murder but other motives are in short supply.

As the dynamic trio gather information Hayley and Helen assess each other.

It may be an Inappropriate and in poor taste comment but Burdette makes reading about murder fun. To endure a mystery series needs a memorable sleuth and Hayley is a great character. I know a sleuth resonates when I wish I could visit with them. For Hayley it would be a long chat while sampling key lime pies.


Burdette, Lucy - (2022) - An Appetite for Murder

Monday, January 24, 2022

An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette

(40. - 1112.) An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette - Hayley Catherine Snow has fallen in love with Key West but life is complicated. Her ex, Chad, is mean and has swiftly replaced her with Kristen. (I am always sad when a divorce lawyer, actually any lawyer, acts badly.) She has no job and is running low on money. Hayley and her cat, Evinrude, are staying in a tiny bedroom on the houseboat of her friend, Connie, in exchange for some work in Connie’s cleaning business.

Hayley desperately wants to become the food critic for Key Zest, a new magazine. Food is her passion though she also enjoys passionate personal relationships. At the same time she is procrastinating. A deadline looms for submitting draft reviews. She struggles to find the focus to write. She is uncertain over which reviews to send to Key Zest. She agonizes over the wording. Dithering reflects her personal college motto:

“When in doubt, wait it out.”

She recognizes that:

It hadn’t worked well then it wouldn’t now either.

Hayley is excited when a freelance article on key lime pie in Key West is accepted by the Key West Citizen newspaper. Her joy is destroyed when Kristen is murdered by poisoned key lime pie.

With the police very suspicious of her, she starts asking questions about Kristen.

Possibly the greatest rationale for her innocence is her respect for food. She abhors the very thought of a key lime pie with additives which would produce “a disgusting green color”.  It is a distinction too subtle to even mention to the KWPD.

Uneasy with the police focus upon her, Hayley starts querying almost everyone seeking information that might confirm she was at home at the time of the murder or implicate another.

Hayley is bright and breezy to the edge of bubbly. Her heart is upon her sleeve. She has a hard time not blurting out what is on her mind and a habit of rambling on. At the same time she is analytical though prone to overthinking leading to mental paralysis (see above). She is the opposite of an angst ridden noir detective. Having her get around on a scooter was perfect. She felt real to me.

The characters are lively and Key West is vividly portrayed. From the buildings to the roosters wandering the streets to the restaurants to the weather I was drawn to wanting to return to see and experience Hayley’s Key West.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Going to Beautiful by Anthony Bidulka

(2. - 1117.) Going to Beautiful by Anthony Bidulka -

Dear Anthony,

I worked my way through the opening pages of Going To Beautiful where big egos and big successes have put Jake Hardy and Eddie Kravets atop the food and fashion worlds of the Centre of the Universe - Toronto.

I found it interesting how each had benefited from the 21st Century’s celebrity making machinery of reality television. Eddie won the first season of a show featuring a group of designers meeting “increasingly bizarre design challenges”. Jake reached the heights through successful personal journey cookbooks and “a cable cooking show - Jake Hardy Does TV Cooking”. What will the historians of a generation into the future make of our passion for “reality” television?

I admired Jake and Eddie, happily married for 30 years with a thriving son, Connor. Jake knows they have a “magic world”. 

I appreciated how crushed Jake was after Eddie was found dead at the base of their apartment building. I understood how questions of “why” flooded through his mind.

Reading of Eddie’s death by falling from  their building, I thought of the death of Chris Hyndman of the Steven and Chris daytime talk show, through a fall from the condo in Toronto he shared with his husband, Steven Sabados. From the intensity of the opening of the book I had the feeling you and Herb might have known Steven and Chris.

As I read through the “I’m dead. Now What?” plan of Eddie, I could not help thinking of you and Herb.

But it was when Jake and his 78 years young transgender friend, Sebastienne “Baz” Venkata Santhosh Kumar Sengupta flew from Toronto to Saskatoon to search out Eddie’s roots in Beautiful, Saskatchewan that the book came alive for me.

In your earlier books characters headed out from Saskatchewan. It was so clever of you to have Jake and Baz see Saskatchewan through Toronto eyes.

Having them come in mid-January truly introduced them to our winter weather and the vastness of our province. They arrived on a nice sunny -20C morning. By mid-afternoon they are in a blizzard. The hospitality to the storm-stayed visitors from the East is a tradition I have always valued in Saskatchewan. The next morning they experience the crystalline winter magic of countryside Saskatchewan.

This is the book I longed for you to write when Russell Quant was carrying on in the big city of Saskatoon and then roaming the world with but quick visits to the family farm. I knew you had a great story to tell set in the farms and small towns of rural Saskatchewan. You capture the landscapes, the people, the communities, the quirks, the moods - the very spirit - of the Saskatchewan in which I have spent my life.

The Ukrainian Saskatchewanian accents of Beautiful residents were perfect.

The joy of potluck meals is infectious. In our Cathrolic parish in Melfort the ladies also gather with joy to assemble and set out the food.

I could see your mother in Shirley presiding over a seemingly chaotic kitchen of helpers readying a huge meal of Ukrainian dishes.

If Jake thought a Ukrainian “stiff one” was 2 ounces of rye whiskey and Coke he was severely underestimating the pour unless his hosts had refilled the rye bottle with some homebrewed liquor. My experiences from Ukrainian weddings are that the punch is the most potent drink in the hall.

The confusion over a snowmobile poker rally was hilarious.

The Convent on the hill reminded me of the Ursuline Convent at Bruno which hosted a boarding school attended by my wife, Sharon, and my sister, Ann Marie, 50 years ago. I expect the Convent at Prudhomme was actually your inspiration.

I enjoyed the vignettes of real life Saskatoon but loved Beautiful.

I wondered if there actually was a place named Beautiful in Saskatchewan. We have so many memorable names. Love is a short drive north of Melfort. Floral is a few miles from the fictional Beautiful. I was not able to find a Beautiful in Saskatchewan.

At the same time you recognized the fragility and decline of most small towns in Sasktachewan. 

The closing of the grocery store in Beautiful when it's 92 year old owner fell ill reminded me of the closing in 2015 of Prytula’s General Store in Tway after 100 years when its 87 year old owner, Victor, died. It was an amazing store and Victor loved to talk about the store and his life.

As with the characters of Go To Beautiful, middle aged to elderly, you and I have lived through the fading of the lifestyle in which we grew up. I have regrets that the small town Saskatchewan of my youth and early adult years could not endure but recognize there is still lots of life in the countryside. There is a new generation of immigrants choosing rural Saskatchewan. The neighbours on each side of my home in Melfort are Filipino. My doctor is from South Africa. The lovely young woman who helps with our house is from the Ukraine.  I am confident, as I think you are, that these newcomers to Saskatchewan will also have good memories of life in the country.

I did not need the mystery element to enjoy Going To Beautiful. The interactions of Jake and Baz with the good folk of Beautiful drove the story. I was reminded of the series of books written by Lillian Beckwith based on the time she spent during the 1950’s living on a farm in the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland. (A link to my review of The Hills is Lonely is below.) I wish publishers could accept the beauty of a book that does not fit a standardized category.

The last book of fiction set in rural Saskatchewan that moved me as much as Going to Beautiful was Cool Water by Dianne Warren. My review of that book (a link is below) was also in the form of a letter. It was written to the young man who gave me the book.

As Going to Beautiful moved forward I wondered how would you address Jake meeting the family of Eddie, the gay son/brother who moved to Toronto and never returned home and never spoke of his family? I was startled, even shaken, by what happened.

I found the section of the book nearing the end a touch bizarre though still absorbing. 

The actual ending was perfect.

In your cover letter forwarding the Advance Reader Copy you spoke of this book as “a very personal novel, with bits and pieces of me spread throughout”. I found the little touches from your life made the story more vivid.

I am so glad to have read Going to Beautiful.

I do not know where your writing career will take you but I consider Going to Beautiful your masterpiece.

All the best.



Hi Bill,

Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful musings and insights as you read Going to Beautiful.

As you have no doubt guessed, if it can be said I have an agenda or goal as a writer, it is to create works that highlight under represented settings and characters in a way that is accessible and entertaining.

Whether it's characters who are middle-age+, LGBTQ+ and/or Ukrainian in a setting that may be rural, urban, Saskatchewan prairie or the bright lights of Toronto, I believe there are good stories to be told, stories that are entertaining, important, relevant and celebrate diversity. I am heartened to learn that so many of the passages reminded you, a fellow prairie boy, of versions of your own experiences. 

You have rightly identified many of the bits and pieces that came from my life. Indeed, Herb and I have completed our own version of the  I’m dead. Now What? plan. Mine includes setting up at least one really extravagant Christmas tree (a beloved hobby), displays of art, and a party atmosphere (after a reasonable amount of crying of course). The book truly encapsulates events and people and places that have woven their way through my life, and in some cases still do. 

Your statement, " I wish publishers could accept the beauty of a book that does not fit a standardized category" is important. Going to Beautiful in many ways defies genre, which can be a difficult thing when it comes to finding a publisher, communicating to booksellers and bookstore owners where to put it on the shelf, which readers to recommend it to. I am so grateful to Stonehouse Publishing for recognizing the book for what it is. I knew I was in the right hands when, during a contract negotiation meeting, they spent the first 20 minutes - 20 minutes! - talking about how much they loved the book. I knew these were the people I wanted to work with.

I wrote much of Going to Beautiful during the pandemic era, but I did not want to write about the pandemic. I wanted to write something that might be a antidote, however fleeting and small, something that, in the end, affirmed the existence of hope and joy and goodness. I needed it. Maybe others will too. 

Bill, although there is no Beautiful, Saskatchewan on a map, it's there. I know you've been there.







Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Judge’s List by John Grisham

(43. - 1115.) The Judge’s List by John Grisham - Lacy Stoltz is drifting along at the Florida Board of Judicial Counduct dealing with routine complaints against 1,000 judges. Some years have passed since she unraveled massive judicial corruption in The Whistler.

As in The Whistler and with most of her cases there is a complainant in the The Judge’s List with a ficitious name. Meeting the complainant “Margie”, Lacy is jolted by her accusation. A judge is accused of committing multiple murders. Lacy swiftly realizes there is substance to the allegation.

In their second meeting Margie provides her real name. Jeri Crosby, a professor of political science at the University of Southern Alabama, states her father, Bryan Burke, a retired professor of law from Stetson University was murdered over 20 years ago.

The police have gotten nowhere and the FBI are not involved.

Crosby has assembled binders of information on the death of her father and four other murders. The method of killing - a blow to the head followed by strangulation with a rope - is the same in all 5 murders. 

Crosby is convinced Judge Ross Bannick is the killer. He has had significant mental health issues and was a former law student of her father who bitterly resented being impaled by Professor Burke through Socratic questioning in first year law. Think of the actor John Houseman, as Harvard Law Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr., questioning first year law students in The Paper Chase.

It is clear Judge Bannick has a list of those who aggrieved him and must be punished but how long is the list?

As Lacy starts her investigation Grisham adds major tension to the book when Crosby anonymously advises the judge he is being investigated by the Board and provides poems she has written as if from the dead. She seeks to spook and torment the judge. She is successful.

Judge Bannick starts his own investigation to determine who is behind the complaint. He prides himself on having committed perfect crimes. Now he is at risk. He oscillates between rage and despair. He decides to find the source.

The pages fly by with the parallel investigations by the hunter and the hunted.

While plausible the ending was the weakest part of the book. Grisham took an easy conclusion. A much more interesting finish was available but not consistent with contemporary popular crime fiction.


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; (2021) - Camino Winds

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

(41. - 1113.) The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly - He had me by the end of the first sentence:

It was supposed to rain for

real and that would have

put a damper on the

annual rain of lead.

It is New Year’s Eve of December 31, 2020 and LAPD Detective, Renée Ballard, is out with the rest of the Department. At midnight it has become traditional for many, too many, gun owners in the city to fire their guns into the sky.

Ballard is with Lisa Moore, a sex crimes detective, who is just doing the minimum. Most officers, stung by the protests and vitriol after the killing of George Floyd, have been content to react when called and are no longer proactive officers. Ballard knows no approach but full commitment. 

Ballard and Moore are waiting for the Midnight Men, a serial rapist duo, to strike as it is a holiday.

Instead, they are called to an autobody shop whose owner has been shot while the “rain of lead” is falling. Ballard takes charge and swiftly establishes it is murder. She does her best to grab the case over the homicide detective unit.

She learns the gun used was the same gun in a 9 year old cold murder case of Harry Bosch. She connects with Harry who is working at home on a different cold case.

As she is moving forward on the murder investigation, a woman, after hours of reflection, reports she has been raped by the Midnight Men.

Ballard takes the initiative as Moore has taken an unauthorized weekend with her boyfriend.

Ballard moves the rape investigation forward with solid detailed police work. It is the attention to a file of a dedicated now generally absent in the ranks of the 2021 LAPD.

I was thinking it is an excellent police procedural with less drama than many in the Bosch series when a startling twist in the plot gave me a jolt. It sent me racing forward.

Bosch and Ballard work together more aggressively as the murder investigation quickens.

I was conflicted over Ballard’s physical confrontations. While dramatic and more believable than many in crime fiction they were Hollywood. Yet Connelly has reasons for her acting independently. 

I was feeling disturbed as the end approached. In Dark Sacred Night I had been disappointed by Ballard and Bosch become vigilantes, blatantly breach rules of police conduct and break the law. In The Dark Hours Connelly crafts a credible ending with recognition that there are consequences for vigilantism.

The book has a feel of transition. Ballard carefully involves the “old” detective, Bosch, in the investigation. He is swiftly becoming history within the LAPD. In the book Bosch is more a mentor than leader. Ballard drives the murder and rape investigations with insight and suggestions from Bosch. She has his drive, relentlessness and stubborn personal integrity.

I saw the book on numerous best of 2021 lists. I considered it for Bill’s Best of 2021 but did not list The Dark Hours. Since making and posting the list I have been wondering if I am holding Connelly to a higher standard because of his brilliance. As set out above there are some Hollywood aspects that bothered me but crime fiction does need drama. The Dark Hours is an excellent book well worth reading. After reflection I am comfortable with not including it in Bill's Best of 2021.


Connelly, Michael – (2000) - Void Moon; (2001) - A Darkness More than Night; (2001) - The Concrete Blonde (Third best fiction of 2001); (2002) - Blood Work (The Best);  (2002) - City of Bones; (2003) - Lost Light; (2004) - The Narrows; (2005) - The Closers (Tied for 3rd best fiction of 2005); (2005) - The Lincoln Lawyer; (2007) - Echo Park; (2007) - The Overlook; (2008) - The Brass Verdict; (2009) – The Scarecrow; (2009) – Nine Dragons; (2011) - The Reversal; (2011) - The Fifth Witness; (2012) - The Drop; (2012) - Black Echo; (2012) - Harry Bosch: The First 20 Years; (2012) - The Black Box; (2014) - The Gods of Guilt; (2014) - The Bloody Flag Move is Sleazy and Unethical; (2015) - The Burning Room; (2015) - Everybody Counts or Nobody Counts; (2016) - The Crossing; (2016) - Lawyers and Police Shifting Sides; (2017) - The Wrong Side of Goodbye and A Famous Holograph Will; (2017) - Bosch - T.V. - Season One and Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch; (2018) - Two Kinds of Truth; (2019) - Dark Sacred Night and A Protest on Connelly's Use of Vigilante Justice; (2020) - The Night Fire; (2020) - Fair Warning; (2021) - The Law of Innocence and Writing a Credible Trial; Hardcover

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Bill's Best of Non-Fiction and Most Interesting of 2021

My annual double dose of Bill’s Best of the year for the categories of Non-Fiction and Most Interesting. The latter is a list of books that were not favourites of the year in Fiction or Non-Fiction but had qualities that made them intriguing to me. 


1.) The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick (2005) - It was startling to read how easy it is to steal great works of art. In 1994 The Scream:

Edvard Munch’s most famous work was snatched from the National Gallery in Oslo by a pair of thieves who took a ladder from a construction site, leaned it against the outer wall, climbed up, smashed a window, grabbed the painting off the wall, slid it down the ladder and drove away.


Charley Hill and the other members of the Art Squad in London are dedicated to recovering stolen art and sometimes, prosecuting the thieves. Hill, an ex-soldier and ex-academic turned cop would have been a great fictional sleuth. He gained a reputation as a “rescue artist” of stolen art.

A combination biography and investigation I was fascinated from the first to last page.

2.) Vernon Can Read! by Vernon Jordan Jr. with Annette Gordon-Reed (2001) - Vernon Jordan Jr. was an extraordinary man. He grew up in the Deep South during segregation to a family committed to education. His mother had great personal aspirations and determination. After starting her work life as a servant she established a very successfuly catering business in Atlanta. She expected nothing less from her sons. Jordan was a leader in the civil rights movement for Black Americans. Later he transitioned into a different path breaking role. He was one of the earliest Black Americans to reach the boardrooms of corporate America and open those doors. Throughout his life he valued looking professional. His cover photo inspired a second post. He is both eloquent and plain spoken in his writing. His life illustrates how much can be accomplished during a lifetime of public and private service.

3.) Flat Out Delicious by Jenn Sharp (Photography by Richard Marjan) - Saskatchewan has deserved a book that looks seriously at food in our province. Best known for farming on a huge scale, grain farms now average thousands of acres, Saskatchewan is diversifying through individuals dedicated to artisanal food ventures. Sharp profiles 167 of them.

In my post I discussed 3 of the ventures with which Sharon and I are familiar. Hodgson Farms at Melfort has pioneered growing cantaloupes in Saskatchewan. Mabel Hill Restaurant and Marketplace at Nipawin is a fine restaurant with gardens next to the restaurant. Chef Michael Brownlee draws upon the produce of the area and forages in the forest for wild mushrooms. Kitako Honey at Naicam sees Steve Hawrishok moving his bee hives during the year to gain honey made from specific flowers such as clover and dandelions. I am confident in the reliability of Sharp’s stories as the three mentioned above were all described accurately.


1.) Germania by Harald Gilbers (translated by Alexandra Roesch) - Berlin in the spring of 1944, despite the massive bombings, carries on with life. Its residents adjust and strive to survive. Former police inspector, Richard Oppenheimer, is Jewish. Because of his marriage to a non-Jew, Lisa, he has not been sent to the death camps. He had been dismissed from the police. Hauptsturmführer Vogler is under increasing pressure to solve gruesome murders of women. Learning of Oppenheimer’s skill as an investigator he summons Oppenheimer to assist him. That a Jew and a Nazi could form an investigative team provides remarkable dynamics.

2.) Indians on Vacation by Thomas King - Blackbird Mavrias and Mimi Bull Shield are on vacation in Prague. Mimi, a woman of strong opinions, is seeking information on her Uncle, Leroy Bull Shield, who joined a travelling Wild West about a century ago and disappeared in Europe. Blackbird and Mimi have the minor adventures that make travel fun such as getting lost on their way to the Kafka Museum. I closed my review:

Few books can keep me smiling while reflecting on cultures, historical injustices, personal demons, randomness on vacation and spousal relationships.

3.) Noble House by James Clavell - It had been years since I read an epic work of historical fiction. Clavell was a wonderful writer of grand sagas. In Noble House he explored the tumultuous lives of Ian Struan Dunross, his family, employees, business associates, friends and especially enemies. Dunross, the tai-pan of a great Hong Kong trading company, thrives in the Wild East of 1960’s Hong Kong. Survival of the fittest is fine with him. Tai-pans are not restrained by Boards of Directors. They personally make deals. They appear at the Stock Exchange to buy and sell shares. Relationships are everything. I closed my review saying after 1,200 pages I was ready for 1,200 more.

4.) Albatross by Terry Fallis - I opened my review:

The perfect book for me. Sports, reading, writing,  fountain pens and a hero who does not quite fit in. 

Adam Coryell is a high school senior in Toronto who loves books and writing with his fountain pens. His writing and Phys. Ed. teacher, Ms. Davenport, has become fascinated by a Swedish professor Gunnarsson, who has developed measurements for the ideal body for multiple sports. Adam is almost off the charts with regard to golf.  She puts a golf club in his hands and the results are amazing. And Adam is a nice guy.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Bill's Best of Fiction for 2021

I will persist in putting together my Best of lists at the end of the calendar year. This post will have Bill’s Best of 2021 Fiction. My next post will have Bill’s Best of 2021 Non-Fiction and a personal category of Bill’s Most Interesting of 2021. The lists do include books published earlier than 2021.

For the best of 2021 fiction:

1.) The Finder by Will Ferguson - I was captivated by the opening set on the southernmost island in Japan where a rare foreign visitor suffers a mysterious death. Hateruma is in the Okinawa chain of islands. On the island are myriad spirits and secret Noro princesses.

The story moves to New Zealand where jaded travel writer, Thomas Rafferty, is caught up in the Christchurch earthquake and the search for the mysterious “Finder” who “finds”, usually by theft, valuable objects and turns a profit on their return to the public world.

Ferguson, a former travel writer, vividly describest the multiple international settings. He never succumbs to Rafferty’s stock phrase of each country he writes about being “a land of contrasts”.

Fascinating characters with rich pasts abound in a great chase.

The Finder was the winner of the Best Canadian Crime Novel in the 2021 Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence.

2.) The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny - Beyond being glad that Armand Gamache is back in Three Pines after his sojourn a year ago to Paris I was caught up in Penny’s exploration through a mystery novel of the concept of “mercy killings” to benefit society.

The concept of determining statistically who is a burden on society to be eliminated is abhorrent to me. The fictional Professor Abigail Robinson would euthanize the unproductive aged and abort the deformed unborn. She has perverted the pandemic slogan “All be well”.

Gamache defends her right to speak at a local university and then must investigate the murder of Robinson’s assistant at a New Year’s celebration attended by the residents of Three Pines and Robinson. Everyone’s a suspect as she aroses strong emotions.

I was so taken by the book I wrote in addition to my review a pair of posts on “Responding to Evil” and “Considering People” in the context of the book. I cannot recall a crime fiction novel that made me think more than The Madness of Crowds.

3.) Dark August by Katie Tallo - The author was a distinguished screenwriter and director for over two decades and a freelance writer. Dark August is her first novel.

I loved Augusta “Gus” Monet. She was my favourite new sleuth of 2021. Orphaned at 8 she was in a boarding school from 10-18. Personally knowing the lonliness that can be in attending a boarding school I connected with Gus.

Returning to Ottawa at 20 to deal with her grandmother’s estate Gus finds in a trunk her personal items from her long lost childhood. In addition, she discovers her mother, an RCMP officer when she died, had been working on a cold case. 

Gus is intrigued. She strives to find more about the case and thereby more about her mother. Delving into the unknown of your family is fraught with excitement and dismay.

I closed my review by stating:

I will definitely read more of Tallo. She has gifts for characters, atmosphere, tension and psychological insight. Most important I will remember Gus. Damaged, not broken, she is especially memorable for her tenacity in clinging to love. 

For the first time in making a Best list all of my favourite novels for the year were Canadian writers.