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, January 29, 2023

Bill's Mystery Fiction Stats (No. 1)

I have kept stats from my last 25 crime fiction reads. Most were fairly routine such as  noting genders of authors and sleuths. One stat was unusual. I kept track of how many sleuths watched television. My next post will discuss that stat. 

I was inspired by fellow blogger Margot Kinberg who currently blogs at https://margot-kin-berg.com/blog-2/. Occasionally, though not recently, she has posted stats using vividly coloured pie charts. I always found it interesting where the stats took her. I am not much for charts so my stats will remain written.

My sample size was small though it will expand. I plan to update my stats every 25 mysteries I read. I make a distinction between thrillers and crime fiction. To be considered a mystery I require there be a sleuth or sleuths solving a crime or crimes. 

I excluded two books from my 25. I considered Finale by Ian Hamilton and City on Fire by Don Winslow to be thrillers. Each certainly qualified as crime fiction but neither had a sleuth investigating a crime. Having but 2 thrillers reminds me that few current thrillers appeal to me.

The 25 which qualified are not carefully chosen mysteries beyond being skewed by 10 of the books being written by Canadians. (I included Kathy Reichs as a Canadian as she has split time between Canada and the U.S.) Within the Canadian books are the shortlist for the Best Canadian Set Novel Award, one of the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence. Overall I read books that I think I will enjoy.

I was surprised that of the 15 mysteries by non-Canadians there were 13 by American authors, 1 Japanese and 1 Spanish. None were by British, Australian and New Zealand authors. On reflection I think the heavy concentration on Canadian and American authors reflects the books I can find in bookstores especially Saskatchewan. I expect to be ordering more diverse authors going forward though not from Amazon. I prefer to support companies that have physical bookstores as well as online ordering.

The other stats I kept track of were:

1.) Authors - 12 female and 13 male;

2.) Sleuths - 12 women and 16 male (there were 3 teams of two with 2 teams having a male and female and the other with 2 males);

3.) Settings -  9 in Canada, 9 in the U.S., 1 in Italy, 1 in Japan, 1 in India, 1 in England, 1 in Spain, 1 in Ireland and 1 in Germany; and,

4.) Victims - 16 female and 27 male (I made an arbitrary decision to exclude 14 killed in one book after the 2 murders prompting the case. Though more thriller than mystery there was a sleuth in the book. In all the books I did not count any deaths that were part of the resolution of the plot.)

Beyond trying to read more authors from outside Canada and the U.S. I am content with my reading approach.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Letter to Roseanne Montillo on Deliberate Cruelty

A few weeks ago I posted a review of Deliberate Cruelty by Rosanne Montillo. I subsequently wrote a letter to Ms. Montillo about the book. The letter may have more information then some readers would like before reading the book. I sent a copy of the letter to her. Should she reply I will post her response.


Dear Roseanne,

I enjoyed reading Deliberate Cruelty. I was not familiar with the story.

A link to a copy of my review is at the end of this letter. 

As I read about Ann’s dysfunctional, abusive, at times violent marriage to Billy Woodward, I thought the threat of a divorce exposing her past was not a credible motive for murder.

Her friends in society knew she was a showgirl from the interior of America.

Divorce, messy or amicable, was not uncommon in her social set.

Her mother-in-law, Elsie, would have been ecstatic, if she ever allowed herself to be in such a state, at having her son freed from Ann. As well, I am sure Elsie would have restrained her son from an expose of Ann to avoid a public scandal for the family.

I was more surprised that Ann did not follow the example of other women of her era such as Babe Paley of divorcing a well-to-do first husband to move on to an even wealthier second husband. 

It could not have been because of insecurities that she could not get another husband. She knew she remained attractive. Her affair with Lord William Astor confirmed her continuing ability to beguile men. At 40 had she taken the $2 million previously offered by Elsie and Billy and moved on I consider it a certainty she could have been a “trophy” wife for an older man a generation before the term was in vogue.

Was love enough to keep them together? I accept they continued to care for each other but love does not seem enough to me. However, that she loved him is another reason I do not think Ann murdered Billy.

I believe she recklessly fired her shotgun into the dark with a mind disordered by alcohol, drugs and dread over the prowler. I thought the earlier references to her frightening fellow tiger hunters and servants on the India hunt by her careless handling of guns were important.

I understand the grand jury not indicting her for murder but wonder if the District Attorney put before them lesser charges involving manslaughter or dangerous use of a firearm. Do you know if they were presented with alternative charges?

Elsie was right not to want a trial. Whether intuitively or through information from the police or lawyers she rightly sensed that a trial could have become a circus focused on Billy’s life.

In Canada during World War I a young servant woman, Carrie Davis, shot and killed her employer, Bert Massey. He was a member of one of Canada’s most distinguished families. At trial defence counsel for Davis destroyed the reputation of Massey making Davis the victim who was defending her honour. While Ann could hardly have pleaded she was an innocent, her counsel could certainly have pilloried Billy. (A link to my reviews of a book on the Canadian case are below.)

I did not see in the book whether you thought Ann murdered Billy. Could you share your opinion?

While reading the book I thought of Ty Cobb, the famous early 20th Century ballplayer. In 1905 his mother, Amanda Cobb, shot and killed his father, William Herschel Cobb, with a pistol. (It is a myth it was a shotgun as set out below.) It was night and his father was on the porch roof outside the second storey bedroom window checking to see if his wife was being unfaithful to him. She said she thought he was an intruder. She was charged with voluntary manslaughter and acquitted at trial. Might you be aware of the Cobb story? 

With regard to Truman Capote I thought her crude comments on his sexuality and appearance were “reckless cruelty” that reflected a pattern of impulsive behaviour.

On the other hand, Truman was deliberately cruel.

Few in the world, if any, have not engaged in “reckless cruelty” or “deliberate cruelty”. Those with a conscience will regret their words and actions. 

I saw in the book Ann did not remember her slights towards Truman. At the same time I did not see if she ever apologized to anyone for her mean remarks about Truman. Certainly Truman had no remorse.

To me Truman’s verbal viciousness reflected a facade of empathy towards his “swans”. Do you think in his mind he actually cared about them?

I plan to post this letter in a few days. If you are willing to reply I would post your reply as part of that post or in a subsequent post if I have already put up this letter.

I hope you will continue to write non-fiction.

All the best.

Bill Selnes



Charlotte Gray - (2020) - The Massey Murder - A Maid, Her Master and the Murder That Shocked a Country and Comparing a Poor Woman with a Wealthy Young Woman Facing Murder Charges Early in the 20th Century

On the Cobb killing an article, The Georgia Peach: Stumped by the Storyteller, published by the Society for American Baseball Research sets out how a legend was created concerning the claim a shotgun was used. A link is:


Friday, January 20, 2023

Do You Believe in Goodness?

One of the subplots in A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny involves the forming and continuation of relationships by Chief Inspector Armand Gamache with troubled young Surete agents. Having lost his parents as a boy, Gamache can penetrate deeply into their psyches.

Guy Beauvoir was a misfit exiled to wilderness Quebec by the Surete du Quebec until Chief Inspector Armand Gamache rescued him but not by attacking his anger:

What blinded us, he told Beauvoir, were the horrorific acts. They threatened to overwhelm and obscure the decency. It was so easy to remember the cruelty because those left a wound, a scab that hid the rest. But those appalling acts, those appalling people, were the exception.

Ten years later the presence of Reine-Marie and the villagers of Three Pines reassure him:

Every evening Armand Gamache was reminded that goodness existed.

Gamache’s confidence in goodness resonated with me.

A decade after their meeting Beauvoir shares the goodness that supports Gamache. He is married to Annie, the Gamache’s daughter, and has two children.

Amelia Choquet returns to the series in A World of Curiosities. She was another wounded soul rescued by Gamache to become a member of the Surete.

A few years ago she appeared in The Reckoning as a brilliant, very troubled young woman, on and off the streets of Montreal who Gamache, as Commander of the Surete Academy, grants admission. He saw past her tattoos, piercings and studs and gave her a chance.  

Choquet is now an agent. She is impetuous, on the edge or past of contempt towards colleagues and superiors. She instantly offers opinions. She is much like the young Beauvoir. 

Choquet is sly, as well as clever. Asked by Gamache to subtly approach Sam Arseanault (See my previous post where he appears in my review of the book) she clicks her tongue stud against her teeth in Morse code forming “Subtle, c’est moi”. Only Gamache understands.

Lawyers, especially litigators, can be as cynical as police about the world. We see people daily who are entangled in trouble. My day may start with a call about issues over parenting involving parents who only text as they cannot talk with each other. Disclosure on a criminal file may follow the call. Most criminal files I deal with involve some conflicted domestic situation. The day may continue with an estate dispute over whether a sibling unduly influenced a parent in the making of a will.

It would be easy to think the world is filled with bitter people intent on hurting those they are sure have wronged them.

Yet the rest of my day might see me meeting with a young couple signing documents for the purchase of their first home. That appointment might be followed by parents working out the details of the transfer of some farmland to their children. It might conclude with discussion of the terms of settlement of a commercial dispute in swhich both sides have shown some flexibility after starting with rigid positions.

Beyond work days that involve a mix of the best and worst of human nature I, as with Gamache, have the goodness of family and community in the evening.

Beauvoir and Annie, the Gamache’s daughter, chose life rather than abortion when they learned Annie was pregnant with a child who would have Down’s Syndrome.

Their daughter Idola brightens their lives:

He bent closer to his daughter, smiling. “Daddy’s big and strong and won’t let anything ever happen to you, right, ma belle Idola, Idola, Idola.”

As Idola’s father held her flat, saucer-like eyes, she laughed, With abandon.

She was so like her mother that way. A light and easy heart.

Gamache and Reine Marie love and cherish Idola.

What neither Gamache nor the other police in the Three Pines mysteries have is faith. I find being a Catholic sustains me in tough times and gives me hope for the future.

A spiritual life involves faith. You cannot be a cynic if you have faith.

On a lovely spring day Beauvoir reflects on goodness:

But now, as the sun rose higher and the scent of lilac filled the air Juan-Guy looked around at the peaceful village and began to see that maybe the belief in goodness wasn’t a blind spot. It was a bright spot.

Outside today the sun is shining in a big Saskatchewan sky. The brilliant white snow sparkles. I agree, goodness is a bright spot. 

There is good all around if you are open to goodness.


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; (2022) - Season One of Three Pines; (2023) - A World of Curiosities

Monday, January 16, 2023

Sleuth of Baker Street is Closing

Dear Marian and J.D.

Thank you (the collective you) for almost 40 years of book memories. Sleuth of Baker Street “is”, too soon to be “was”, my favourite bookstore in the world.

I started coming to Sleuth shortly after you became the owners. I always enjoyed buying books from the two of you.

I thought it fitting your store was in Leaside because Saskatchewan’s most famous author had lived in the neighbourhood in the late 1940’s. W.O. Mitchell, while he was fiction editor of Maclean’s, resided in one of the fine brick homes amidst the grand trees.

Happy expectations would start on the journey to the store. I am not going to claim I thought a lot about the store on the flights from Saskatchewan to Toronto but I would be scheduling time to visit the store. Once in Toronto there would be time to anticipate the visit whether riding the subway up Yonge to Davisville and the bus over to Bayview or driving in from Mississauga if I was at the home of an aunt.

The second store on Bayview was magical to me with the fine bookcases, the hidden door, the inviting fireplace, the Sherlockian memorabilia, the cats and thousands of mysteries.

You were the first mystery bookstore I visited. The wonder of walking into a store full of mysteries reminded me of my first experience of a library. I was 7 years old attending a one room school, Galabank, a couple of miles from our farm in Saskatchewan. My two Grade 2 classmates and I had exhausted the small book collection in the school by November. Later that winter, 62 years ago, our teacher, Mr. Streeton, took a group of us in the back of his grain truck to the village of Ethelton where a regional library had opened. It was the first time I had ever seen a room filled with books. I was in awe. I was overjoyed when I found I could take home 6 books every two weeks. 

My sons equally loved the store. My older son, Jonathan, has never forgotten the winter day when he was so absorbed in a book while sitting before the fireplaee that he did not notice his running shoes had started smoking.

You were great booksellers. When I walked into the store I knew I would get a friendly greeting.

I would browse the store. I focused on the new books as you had the best selection of new crime fiction.

Invariably I would have some questions about one or more of the books. I would wait until one or both of you were free and get your thoughts. I knew I would receive candid opinions.

I thought your expression of pride J.D., recounted several times in Merchant of Menace, of putting good books in the hands of customers was perfect.

Our family enjoyed your section of Bayview. Sharon loved the antique shops. The restaurants were fun. The boys were delighted at McSorley’s Saloon that they could toss peanut shells on the floor.

I visited most often during the 1990’s when I was often in Toronto on blood litigation and the Kreever Inquiry. Visits were less frequent in the 2000’s once our sons were at the University of Calgary and then became residents of the city.

I always enjoyed the store though the atmosphere was not the same when you moved to Millwood. I understood the commercial reasons for the move.

More recently I bought more books through email than in person. I appreciated the prompt service and your efforts to get books not easily available. I specifically remember your efforts to get a copy of Escape Velocity by Susan Wolfe when it did not have a Canadian distributor.

In the current location I felt I had more conversations with Marian. It seemed J.D. was often absorbed in golf. 

It was always a struggle for me to restrain myself in the store. Usually I woud get 5-6 books. If there were no weight restrictions on luggage for flights I would have bought more.

I have put up 6 posts on my blog about the store and a post on Marian winning the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada. This letter will be my 8th post featuring Sleuth.

I never figured out whether I preferred recommendations more from J.D. or from Marian.

There was never any doubt you loved books. 

I continue to value the excitement of holding a new book and opening it to read the first page. The feel of a book is an important part of my reading experience.

I am sad the store is closing. I am not much for change. I would have been glad to keep buying books from you long into the future.

I am happy you are looking forward to retirement. I expect more golf courses and more cottage life await you.

Best wishes for the future.



Sleuth of Baker Street and Update on Sleuth and 2012 Trip to Sleuth and Sleuth of Baker Street in Mid-winter of 2015 and Authors at Sleuth and A Quintet from Sleuth and Marian Misters Bookseller and Award Winner in Toronto, Ontario whose website is http://www.sleuthofbakerstreet.ca/

Thursday, January 12, 2023

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

(1. - 1140.) A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny - Thirty years ago, as a young officer, Armand Gamache responded to the École Polytechnique in Montreal. A lone gunman had killed 14 and wounded 13 engineering students. All were women targeted for wanting to be engineers. He annually joins survivors, family members of victims and other first responders at the Polytechnique on graduation day. (The terrible event took place in 1989.)

Ten years ago Gamache flew hours northeast from Montreal. A woman was dead in a lake. On arrival Gamache met Guy Beauvoir, an insolent young Surete du Quebec officer with a “boulder” on his shoulder.

Gamache takes the responsibility to tell Clothilde Arsenault’s children, 13 year old Fiona, and 10 year old Sam of their mother’s death by murder. It is a harrowing scene made even more intense by Gamache’s recollection of the death of his parents at 9 years of age. 

After their death Gamache had not wanted anything around him to be changed until his grandmother told him:

“They’re here.” Zora touched his head. “And here.” She touched his heart. Then laid her thin hand over her own heart. A house can change. Things get lost or broken. But the love you keep inside you is safe, forever. They’re safe, inside you.”

Gamache is abruptly shaken to his core when he discovers what their mother had done to Fiona and Sam.

And I was swept into the story.

In the present day the village celebrates the graduation from the Polytechnique of two women engineers, Fiona and Harriet (niece of bookshop owner Myrna).

Sam comes to Three Pines for the celebration and Gamache is deeply unsettled. He is not often in such a state of mind.

A day later the residents are shaken when Myrna says that she and Billy Williams are thinking about moving from Three Pines. Clara, desperate to keep them, offers to have them live in her house and she will move to the loft in the bookstore. A series has gripped me when I felt a pang of regret at Myrna’s statement. In real life we have to deal with friends and relatives moving. I do not want it to happen in a favoured fictional village.

There is a secret to the bookstore that has been hidden for 160 years. There is a hidden room. The room was bricked and plastered over in the 19th Century. It is a locked room mystery as to its creation and that inside are several items and a copy of The Paston Treasure painting to which have been added images that range from the 1600’s to our time. A grimoire, a book of spells, from the 17th Century is also found in the room. 

The symbolism within the painting is from the minute to the massive. The symbolic power of the spells is intense. The consequences for those who create symbols and invoke spells has its own symbolism.

As the room, painting and book are examined murder is discovered and a wicked devious plot unfolds. There is mystery within mystery within mystery.

Penny has used history from 100 to 350 years ago to great effect in the series. In A World of Curiosities she once again links events long past with Three Pines.

The book has several references that pick up or refer to events in earlier books or in Penny’s life. An example involves holding hands at death as Penny held Michael’s hand when he died. You need not have read the full series but, for those who have, the references add depth to the book. 

Evil and goodness fill the book. They are not addressed as abstract concepts. Penny says the book is about forgiveness. I found it more about trust and revenge. My next post will address “goodness” in the book and real life.

The ending confounded me. It was too much Hollywood but also contained profound moments. I raced through the final 100 pages. I prefer Penny forgoing Hollywood. A World of Curiosities could have been more than a very good book. (Jan. 9/23)


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; (2022) - Season One of Three Pines

Saturday, January 7, 2023

The One From the Other by Philip Kerr

(34. - 1139.) The One From the Other by Philip Kerr - What a surreal opening. It is 1937. Berlin private detective, Bernie Gunther, is with Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem and Cairo, He is working for and against Eichmann. I was reminded of Germania where former Jewish police officer, Richard Oppenheimer, worked with Hauptsturmfuhrer Vogler, an SS officer, to find a serial killer. Bernie is also spying on Eichman for the Gestapo.

The story moves to 1949 with Bernie, now living in Dachau in his father-in-law’s shabby hotel. Visitors are rare to a town infamous as the location of a concentration camp. His father-in-law has committed suicide and Bernie’s wife, Kirsten, is in a psychiatric hospital. It was a surprise to see Bernie, a long time Berliner, in Dachau though Kirsten and Bernie had been struggling to get by in the devastation of post-war Berlin.

Kirsten dies and Bernie is alone. No spouse. No children. No colleagues. No friends. Having survived the Eastern Front and a prisoner of war camp he still says every day is a bonus. 

Bernie returns to being a private detective. He quickly returns to searching for missing people. There are millions missing in Germany. He finds a niche in finding people connected to Nazis involved in the Holocaust. 

He finds himself torn between wanting retribution for murdering Nazis and wanting no more involvement in killing. Asked if he has become squeamish he says:

“It could be,” I said. “If I am it’s because I’ve seen men hanged and I’ve seen them shot. I’ve seen them blown to pieces and starved to death, and toasted with a flamethrower, and crushed underneath the tracks of a Panzer tank. It’s a funny thing, but after awhile you realize you’ve seen too much. Things you can’t pretend you didn’t see because they’re always on the insides of your eyelids when you go to sleep at night. And you tell yourself that you’d rather not see any more. Not if you can help it. Which of course you can because none of the old excuses are worth a damn anymore. And it’s simply not good enough to say we can’t help and orders are orders and expect people to swallow that the way they used to. So yes, I suppose I am a little squeamish. After all, just look where ruthless has gotten us.”

I was reminded of the consequences of WW I affecting fictional sleuths such as Maisie Dobbs (Jacqueline Winspear), Ian Rutledge (Charles Todd), John Madden (Rennie Airth) and Bess Crawfored (Charles Todd). None of them can forget their war experiences.

Bernie's old comrades, whether regular SS or Waffen SS soldiers, maintain their bonds of loyalty. Bernie was sent East in 1941 as a member of an auxiliary police battalion. As set out in my posts on German Police and the Holocaust after reading A German Requiem (links are below), Bernie avoided joining “the special action” killing units of the SS and served in intelligence and investigations during the war. Yet there was an action on the Eastern Front which he led that haunted him. 

With numerous SS members still seeking to escape Europe the “Comradeship” reacts viciously against those probing for information  on old comrades.

The war made Bernie even more cynical than he was as a pre-war Berlin police officer and then a private detective. He has no faith, no confidence in government, no trust to go with the other “no’s” set out above.

Bernie is as tart tongued as ever whether emotionally up or down.

While battered in the war what has endured is his integrity. He will not compromise his principles. Integrity was little valued during Nazi times and is in short supply in post-war Europe.

Too often to his detriment, Bernie’s innate curiosity drives him to find out what happened, especially when an investigation has unanswered issues. He acknowledges he is a dedicated “sniffer” pursuing information.

He learns of SS experiments that sought to develop a vaccine for malaria. The Nazi methods were repulsive. American experiments were little better.

Deception is all around Bernie. I sensed some of the deceit but not the layers Kerr created. There is a brilliant scene where Bernie, in the guise of another man, is interviewed by police searching for Bernie. 

As the truth is revealed Bernie is enraged. He seeks vengeance. I was dismayed expecting a Hollywood finale. Integrity be damned. To my surprise and appreciation it was a subtler, more effective, ending. The conclusion reflected Bernie’s distaste for ruthlessness. Kerr is a talented writer with a deep understanding of the complexities of German life during and after the Third Reich. The mysteries he creates are also brilliant.


Kerr, Philip – (2004) - Dark Matter; (2016) - March Violets; (2016) - The Pale Criminal; (2016) - A German Requiem; (2016) - Berlin Police and the Holocaust - Part I and Part II;  (2016) - Comparing Serial Killers in Three Totalitarian States;

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Bill's Best of 2022 - Non-Fiction and Most Interesting

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 I found intriguing.

2022 was not a great reading year for me. I read few non-fiction books. Thus this year I have chosen 2 instead of 3 books for Best of Non-Fiction.



1.) Defense Lawyer by James Patterson and Benjamin Wallace (review and supplementary review) - After representing people accused of criminal offences for almost 5 decades, I am prejudiced in favour of biographies of defense (defence in Canada) lawyers. 

Barry Slotnick represented accused in New York City from Bullets (a mafia leader’s dog) to Bernhard Goetz (the “subway vigilante”).

Impeccably dressed in $2,500 suits he strode into courtrooms with a presence that claimed the room. He personally carefully prepared the facts for trials. He relied on others to develop the legal arguments to apply to the facts.

In the book the focus is on his two most highly publicized trials. 

In the RICO, racketeering, trial of John “the Teflon Don” Gotti case, he led the defense team while representing a co-accused of Gotti. There were flamboyant moments and gripping evidence in the trial. 

Goetz’s trial was even more of a circus with Slotnick wrestling with a client who loved the limelight and talking about his case.

Patterson and Wallace kept the narrative driving.

2.) Kleptopia by Tom Burgis (review and libel case) - I had but the barest knowledge of the “Trio” - Alexander “Sasha” Machkevitch from Kyrgyzstan, Patokh Chokiev from Uzbekistan and Alijan Ibragimov of Uihghur descent - before reading this book.

They moved vast sums of money from central Asia and Africa through London. Burgis provides fascinating details on how, aided by Western bankers and lawyers, they shifted the money to the West.

Through the book:

I learned the perils of modern black money. Between Western governments constantly investigating and rapacious unreliable colleagues there is constant personal danger. Best to spend the loot.

In a second post I discussed a libel suit against the author. While his defence was successful I was not surprised he did not answer a letter I wrote to him about the book.


1.) The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizu - My first Japanese locked room mystery, set in 1937, was an excellent read. 

Yokomizu provided a “locked room” that I never figured out. Not a surprise there.

He also introduced an interesting sleuth:

Kosuke Kindaichi, a famed young private detective, is summoned. He is an “unremarkable” looking young man in his mid-20’s - “he seemed stunningly indifferent to his appearance”. Formerly a drug addict he applies “reasoning and logic” to the evidence collected by the police. The narrator associates him with a fictional English detective.

What made it Most Interesting were the references to real crime fiction:

In an intriguing development for mystery book lovers, there is an extensive collection of crime fiction, including locked room mysteries, in the main house. Saburo, who is Kenzo’s younger brother, has assembled the books. Most remarkably, Kindaichi, uses the collection to help him solve the case.

2.) The Silence of the White City by Eva Garcia Saenz and translated by Nick Caistor - I infrequently read crime fiction featuring serial killers but The Silence of the White City was compelling.

The scenario began with a series of killings 20 years earlier:

The first victims had been a pair of newborns, then a boy and girl each 5, then a boy and girl aged 10 and then a boy and girl of 15. 

The killings have begun again in the Basque city of Vitoria with a young man and woman of 20.

I was Most Interested when I learned that bees had been diabolically used to kill the latest victims.

3.) To Those Who Killed Me by J.T. Siemens - In his first novel Siemens creates an amazing sleuth in Sloane Donovan:

The book is at its best exploring the tumultuous Sloane. Constantly on the edge of dysfunction, nightmares of her family past lurking in her “pinballing” mind, she is never at rest but she is resolute and resourceful. 

She finds her friend, Geri Harp, murdered and has to find out “why”. While now working as a fitness trainer she had been a Vancouver police officer.

I summed up the book:

Wild it was and glad I was to have experienced it. The pages raced by in the exhilarating feeling of a great read. No drug or alcohol needed.

3.) The Searcher by Tana French - I have seen many recommendations for French and took this book upon a 34 day cruise last November and early December. It was a good choice.

Former Chicago Police detective, Cal Hooper, is seeking a quiet life in Western Ireland. He finds himself drawn into a quest for a missing teenage boy.

It is a very good story which become one of my Most Interesting because of French’s portrayal of Ireland and the Irish:

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.

I am looking forward to a more productive reading year in 2023. I will be starting with some good books from Christmas.