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, April 30, 2022

Who is S.A. Cosby?

As I started Razorblade Tears I decided not to learn anything about the author until I finished the book.

Initials preserve anonymity. As I read I asked myself - Is S.A. a man or a woman? Is S.A. white or Black? Is S.A. LGBTQ?

Through the book I debated these questions in my head but resolutely would not find out the answers until done.

Is S.A. a man or a woman?

Until recently I would have assumed a woman by the use of initials for I had read numerous women writers who concealed their gender on covers by initials. It is no longer, if it ever was, a valid assumption. A very recent example of a male author using initials is Canadian author, J.T. Simens, who is Jeremy Siemens.

Another assumption leading me to think Cosby was a man is the level of violence. I have found few women have a high body count in their crime fiction. In a quick run through of the 1,125 books I have read over the past 22 years I found only 3 women authors with books have a high violence quotient -  Cara Black, Janet Evanovich writing with Steve Hamilton (The Bounty) and Mo Hayder.

With the leading characters being men my first thought is that the author is male. It is not strong reasoning but I think of authors usually featuring their own gender.

In reading I felt S.A. was a man. Cosby created vivid characters in Ike and Buddy Lee. They were very convincing men. I could not provide good reasons but I thought Cosby was male.

Is S.A. white or Black?

S.A. knows the languages of white and Black Americans.

Whether it was Ike or Buddy Lee their voices felt authentic to me.

As I was reading I realized I thought Cosby was white. Once more it was feeling rather than specifics.


On orientation I initially thought LGBTQ as S.A. so vividly describes the turmoil of gay men with fathers who resent they are gay. On further reflection I thought straight as S.A. understands Ike and Buddy Lee’s homophobia. Yet additional reflection left me more uncertain. 

I have terrible gaydar.. I am continually surprised by who is straight and who is LGBTQ.

I never developed a conclusion on orientation for Cosby.

After completing the book I looked to the author photo and the short bio on the cover and a New York Times article on Cosby.

S. (Shawn) A. Cosby is a man. Shawn is Black. His wife is Kimberly Redmond Cosby.


Cosby, S.A. - (2022) - Razorblade Tears

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

(10. - 1125.) Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby - I bought Razorblade Tears because J. Kingston Pierce in the Rap Sheet blog advised that it had been on the largest number of lists of reviewers and bloggers of their favourite books of 2021. I wanted to find out why so many loved the book. I knew the answer after reading the first 10 pages.

Ex-cons, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, are burying their sons, Isiah and Derek, who were married and the fathers of a daughter, Arianna. Both fathers have deep regrets over how they treated their gay sons when they were boys and when they were men. Neither could accept their son was gay.

Buddy Lee lives alone in a broken down trailer and drinks heavily.

Ike lives in a nice home with his wife, Mya, and now Arianna. He owns and operates Randolph Lawn Maintenance. He is precise and caring with regard to his landscaping equipment.

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.

Isiah and Derek had been shot in front of a liquor store multiple times. The final shots were the double tap to the head of an executioner.

Ike and Buddy Lee have vicious pasts. While tamped down violence simmers within them. They form a dangerous duo when they decide to find who killed their boys.

Each was an bright thug. Their intelligence led them away from crime. Most of their violence in their younger days was calculated.

They can be subtle in their investigation but their patience is frail. I do not favour violent vigilantes but Ike and Buddy Lee are a compelling pair.

Their cause is righteous but what is the cost to their psyches to return to violence. Buddy Lee talks to Derek at the joint grave:

“This is who I am. I can’t change. I don’t want to, really. But for once I’m gonna put this devil inside me to good use.”

Ike has a good marriage and loves Arianna. Buddy Lee still cares for Christine, his ex. That they would risk their lives for a cause, just as it may be, their sons would not have wanted, challenges the reader. They are not cartoon figures bashing villains from page to page. Yet they cannot turn back. They failed as fathers when their sons were alive. They ache with guilt. They cannot rest unless they get justice for their boys. 

Cosby understands hurt. 

The violence is graphic in Razorblade Tears.  As usual in such books fewer bodies would have sufficed. It is far more thoughtful than all but a small minority of contemporary noir. The violence felt right. Ike sums up:

"..... Folks like to talk about revenge like it's a righteous thing but   it's just hate in a nicer suit, ..."

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

2022 Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence Shortlists

This evening the Crime Writers of Canada announced the short lists for this year's Awards of Excellence on video. Congratulations to those listed. In previous years I read the short list for Best Crime Novel. After none of the books on last year's shortlist was set in Canada I have decided this year to read the books in the category of Best Crime Novel Set in Canada. I have already read Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe and enjoyed the book.

The Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence

Best Crime Novel
sponsored by Rakuten Kobo, with a $1000 prize

Linwood Barclay, Find You First, William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Daniel Kalla, Lost Immunity, Simon & Schuster

Dietrich Kalteis, Under the Outlaw Moon, ECW Press

Shari Lapena, Not a Happy Family, Doubleday Canada

Roz Nay, The Hunted, Simon & Schuster


Best Crime First Novel
sponsored by Writers First, with a $500 prize

Ashley Audrain, The Push, Viking Canada

Fiona King Foster, The Captive, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Byron TD Smith, Windfall: A Henry Lysyk Mystery, Shima Kun Press

Katherine Walker, All Is Well, Thistledown Press

David Whitton, Seven Down, Rare Machines an imprint of Dundurn Press


The Whodunit Award for Best Traditional Mystery
sponsored by Jane Doe, with a $500 prize

Candas Jane Dorsey, What’s the Matter with Mary Jane?, ECW Press

Alice Bienia, Three Dog Knight, Cairn Press

Jackie Elliott, Hell's Half Acre, Joffe Books

Catherine Macdonald, So Many Windings, At Bay Press

Vicki Delany, Murder in a Teacup, Kensington Publishing Corp


The Howard Engel Award for Best Crime Novel Set in Canada
sponsored by The Engel Family, with a $500 prize

C. S. Porter, Beneath Her Skin, Vagrant Press / Nimbus Publishing Inc.

Cathy Ace, Corpse with an Iron Will, Four Tails Publishing Inc.

Alice Walsh, Death on Darby’s Island, Vagrant Press / Nimbus Publishing Inc.

Sam Wiebe, Hell and Gone, Harbour Publishing Co. Inc.

Kevin Major, Three for Trinity, Breakwater Books


Best Crime Novella
sponsored by Mystery Magazine, with a $200 prize

Marcelle Dubé, Identity Withheld, Falcon Ridge Publishing

Brenda Gayle, Murder in Abstract (A Charly Hall Mystery, book 6), Bowstring Books

Wayne Ng, Letters From Johnny, Guernica Editions

Elvie Simons, Not So Fast, Dr. Quick, Dell Magazines


Best Crime Short Story
sponsored by Mystery Magazine, with a $300 prize

Pam Barnsley, What can You Do?, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Hilary Davidson, Weed Man, Dell Magazines

Elizabeth Elwood, Number 10 Marlborough Place, Dell Magazines

Charlotte Morganti, All My Darlings, Die Laughing: An Anthology of Humorous Mysteries

Melissa Yi, Dead Man's Hand, Dell Magazines


Best French Crime Book (Fiction and Nonfiction)

Roxanne Bouchard, Le murmure des hakapiks, Libre Expression

Marc-André Chabot, Dis-moi qui doit vivre… Libre Expression

Guillaume Morrissette, Conduite dangereuse, Saint-Jean

Patrick Senécal, Flots, Editions Alire

Richard Ste-Marie, Stigmates, Editions Alire


Best Juvenile or YA Crime Book (Fiction and Nonfiction)
sponsored by Shaftesbury, with a $500 prize

Karen Bass, Blood Donor, Orca Book Publishers

Rachelle Delaney, Alice Fleck's Recipes for Disaster, Puffin Canada

Cherie Dimaline, Hunting By Stars, Penguin Teen

Kevin Sands, The Traitor's Blade, Aladdin (Simon & Schuster)

Jordyn Taylor, Don't Breathe a Word, HarperTeen (HarperCollins Publishers)


The Brass Knuckles Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book
sponsored by Simpson & Wellenreiter LLP, Hamilton, with a $300 prize

Sarah Berman, Don't Call it a Cult, Viking Canada

Aaron Chapman, Vancouver Vice: Crime and Spectacle in the City's West End, Arsenal Pulp Press

Catherine Fogarty, Murder on the Inside: The True Story of the Deadly Riot at Kingston Penitentiary, Biblioasis

Nate Hendley, The Beatle Bandit, Dundurn Press

Lorna Poplak, The Don: The Story of Toronto's Infamous Jail, Dundurn Press


The Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript sponsored by ECW Press, with a $500 prize

Delee Fromm, The Strength to Rise

Pam Isfeld, Captives

Renee Lehnen, Elmington

Katie Mac, Ken's Corner

Mark Thomas, Part Time Crazy


Friday, April 15, 2022

A Close Look at an Alice Munro Story

In my last post I wrote a review of My Best Stories by Margaret Atwood. I described some of the stories. To better try to portray the nature of her stories I want to set out in detail one of the stories in the book.

In Carried Away a letter, dated January 6, 1917, arrives addressed to “The Librarian, Carstairs Public Library, Carstairs, Ontario”.  A soldier, Jack Agnew, wounded and in hospital, is writing to “The Librarian”, a woman he admired but whose name he did not know. He speaks of life, as it was in Carstairs, and books. Louisa, The Librarian, responds with her own letter. More letters follow.

Jack likes non-fiction such as H.G. Wells and Robert Ingersoll. Louisa enjoys the fiction of Thomas Hardy and Willa Cather.

In a world of instant communication the expecation and joy of letters is uncommon. I have been writing letters to my granddaughters after visits since they were babies. It is my hope they will appreciate our relationship in a special way as they grow older.

Jack asks for a photograph. She gets one taken and sends it to him.

My heart caught when he wrote, not morbidly, but matter of factly that he did not think they would ever meet as he would not make it home from the war so:

… I can say anything I want. I guess it’s like being sick with a fever. So I will say I love you. I think of you up on a stool at the Library reaching to put a book away and I come up and put my hands on your waist and lift you down, and you turning around inside my arms as if we agreed about everything.

I wanted so desperately for the relationship Jack and Louisa, two reserved young people, to blossom into a lifetime together.

And then Munro revealed Jack had made a secret engagement with Grace Horne before leaving for war.

The letters cease and the war ends. Louisa learns Jack has survived. She keeps the library open despite the Spanish Flu as she is sure he will come to the library on his return.

Instead, Jack marries Grace, A lonely Louisa goes to bed with a commercial traveler. Jack is decapitated in a work accident. 

There was another poignant moment.

Jack’s employer, Arthur Doud, returns books to the library Jack has never checked out. Grace said Jack went to the library every Saturday night. Louisa says to Arthur she never met Jack and asked Arthur of Jack’s appearance. Munro leaves it to the reader to grasp that Jack was seeing Louisa but she was not seeing him

Arthur starts spending time at the library. He is a good man. Louisa marries him. She wanted to “get into a normal life”.

There is a final twist 30 years later with Arhtur gone when Louisa learns Jack was not the actual victim in the decapitation and meets him.

You will have to read the story to find out what happens to Louisa and Jack at their meeting.

In my next post I will discuss some reflections of the famed Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, who wrote an introduction to My Best Stories.


My Best Stories by Alice Munro

Friday, April 8, 2022

My Best Stories by Alice Munro

(5. - 1120.) My Best Stories by Alice Munro - Realizing I had not read any of the stories by Canada’s only Nobel Prize Winner for Literature I purchased this selection of short stories at the Fair’s Fair bookstore located in Inglewood in Calgary.

There is a richness in the descriptions of people, events and settings that is amazingly vivid. Dialogue fills in the spaces but the power of the stories are in the descriptive details. Much current fiction is heavy on dialogue. The stories of Munro reminded me that most of life is spent in observation and reflection rather than speech.

Munro can provide more insight into a character in a 25 - 40 page story than most authors can in a full length book.

In every story Munro develops the minds of her characters.

The stories appear in the chronological order they were written. They were selected by Munro and span several decades.

Life is hard for her characters. Money is usually tight. Men and women are often harsh. The stories should be depressing with bleakness all around yet they did not depress me.

In The Turkey Season a girl of 14 is hired to be a turkey gutter. It is hard repetitive work with a pair of cynical sisters providing sarcastic commentary. The girl, not physically adept, is living in a world of competent physical workers. She gains confidence from being able to do a good job of gutting a turkey.

In The Moons of Jupiter a woman is filled with parental emotions. The dutiful daughter travels across Canada to be with her father as he contemplates heart surgery. One of her adult daughters, living in the city of her father, chooses not to even see her.

In The Progress of Love a daughter contemplates her mother and grandmother. Her mother’s hatred of her father carries past death as she burns her inheritance of $3,000. Deeply poor on the farm there is no money for the daughter to go to high school.

One story, A Wilderness Station, showed Munro could have been a talented writer of mystery short stories. Starting in 1852 it sees two young brothers, George and Simon Herron, starting a farm in the bush of what is now the rich farmland of southern Ontario. The older, Simon, acquires a bride, Annie - an orphan - from the House of Industry in Toronto. One winter day the brothers go out to chop down trees. George says a falling tree branch killed Simon. On the edge of the frontier there is the barest of inquiries into the death.  During the winter Annie’s mind deteriorates. Eventually she walks to a nearby town asking to be put in the gaol as she has murdered Simon. Her recounting of the killing is implausible. George says it is not true. Eventually she becomes a seamstress for a local official. She sets out another version of Simon’s death. There are subsequent scenes in 1907 and 1959. Munro left me unsettled on what happened in the forest when Simon died. She has no need for the customs of modern crime fiction. The story is written in the form of letters.

Munro, in Save the Reaper, invokes the wistful regret of a parent who has not seen her child and grandchildren for 5 years and then has a visit cut short by the longing of her son-in-law to be with his family. And then the mother learns it was her daughter who wanted to shorten the visit. And then memories come back to the woman of how she treated her mother. The story tugs at the heart of every parent whose children and grandchildren are too far away to be seen except through infrequent trips.

The stories flow beautifully. Nary a word is wasted.

I should have read Munro sooner.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger

(9. - 1124.) Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger (1998) - The Windigo, the mythic cannibal giant of the northern forests with a “heart of ice,” comes to Aurora, Minnesota in the midst of a fierce winter storm. Those who hear the Windigo call their name face great danger. With Cork’s grandmother Ashinaabe, he is well aware of the power of the Windigo.

The Iron Lake Reservation has recently established a casino and money is flowing freely. On and off the reservation everyone wants a share. Power and money collide with personal relationships.

Former Sheriff, Corcoran “Cork” O’Connor is struggling with the breakup of his marriage to Nancy Jo O’Connor, the best lawyer in town, and losing a recall election when he finds the body of Aurora’s most prominent citizen, Judge Robert Parrant, an apparent suicide.

A local teenage boy, Paul LeBeau, disappears at the same time.

Cork cannot resist asking questions about the judge’s death and Paul. People tolerate his investigative curiosity.

Father Tom Griffin, known as St. Kawasaki as he drives a Kawaski snowmobile and a Kawaski motorcycle, is trusted and respected by both the white residents and The People (the Ashinaabe).

Desperate to save his marriage, Cork asks the priest for marriage counseling. Father Tom says Cork must put his personal affairs in order.

The three children of Cork and Jo love their parents. Their pain over the separation devastates Cork. I am glad Krueger portrayed a family with three good children. While they struggle with their parents being apart they carry on as do real life children dealing with the marital problems of Mom and Dad.

As Christmas nears, Cork is caught up in an investigation that has become intensely personal.

The Minnesota Civilian Brigade, a far right citizen militia, plays a shadowly role. The presence of aggressive fringe right wing paramilitaries is not just a phenomenon of the United States in the 2020’s.

Not many books play off harsh winter weather. In Iron Lake the weather sets the mood of the book, forces the characters to adjust their lives and provides a dramatic background for the Windigo.

Krueger can be lyrical at times:

He bent his head and he wept, and although he didn’t see where the tears fell onto —-’s soft blue cheek, for just a moment, the ice there melted.

Krueger drives the narrative and I was swept along. There is as much darkness amid the white landscapes of northern Minnesota as the mean streets of great cities. It was a great start to the series.