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.

Friday, February 24, 2023

A Three Book Problem by Vicki Delany

(8. - 1147.) A Three Book Problem by Vicki Delany - Gemma Doyle, Jayne Watson and Detective Andy Ashburton have left the bookshop, the tearoom and the police department for a weekend of catering a gathering of Sherlockians at Suffolk Gardens House. It is a beautiful, though fraying, English style manor in West London, Massachusetts. Gemma will spend little time in the kitchen for, as she admits, she has “meagre” cooking skills. Her role will be a hostess, server and supplier of books, games and puzzles from the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium.

The wealthy David Masterson, the host and organizer, is an aficionado of The Great Detective. His “accent is upper-class New York City”.

All working that weekend have been assigned roles and names suitable for an English country house weekend in the late 19th Century. As house staff David has brought his niece, Annie Masterson, a struggling actor to be the maid and his unemployed nephew, Billy Belray, to be the butler / footman / bartender.

Formal attire is expected of the guests. Gemma’s outfit for the opening cocktails is:

…. peach satin, very 1920’s, coming to just below the knee, with straight lines, a dropped waist, and a tassled hem. I paired the dress with a long double strand of fake pearls, my own pearl earrings, and above-the-elbow white gloves.

The guests are a motley crew.

Donald Morris, an esteemed though financially challenged local, is a devout Sherlockian.

Miranda is tall, slender and “sharp boned” befitting a former model. She has virtually no knowledge of Holmes.

Local newspaper reporter, Irene Talbot, is replacing Gemma’s Uncle Arthur, a knowledgeable Sherlockian who has abruptly gone to Spain. She has recently indicated she has aspirations of being a Sherlockian.

Steve Patterson is in his 60’s. A buzz cut former Marine, he is an expert on John Watson’s military career.

Jennifer Griffith, a frizzy haired buxom woman from L.A., is well versed in the Canon.

Cliff Mann is a dealer in letters and first editions with a modest knowledge of Holmes.

Kyle Fraser is a young musician from New York who barely recognizes the name of Sherlock Holmes.

Those guests with enough knowledge are immediately at odds, bickering rather than discussing, such issues as which actors were the best Holmes and Watson in early Sherlockian films. Others concentrate on drinking.

Gemma and I are puzzled about the collection of guests. Why are so many clearly not Sherlockians? 

Gemma keeps noticing the superficial maintenance of the grand home, built in 1965, which is for sale including furnishings.

With faux home and faux staff and diverse guests the scene is set for murder and irony.

Gemma’s powers of observation are at their highest when she meets the owner of the manor: 

He was in his late fifties, with slicked-back silver hair, a pale face and small dark eyes. The jacket of his blue and gray suit was open to show a crisp white shirt and a black leather belt. His blue silk tie was shot with pink threads, and his shoes were handmade Italian loafers. The suit cost in the two-thousand-dollar range, I guessed, but that money had been spent some time ago. The belt strained under his belly and the trousers were too tight around his plump rear end. A few threads were loose in the cuffs of the shirt, the tie showed traces of a grease stain he’d not been able to get fully out, and a thread of the hand applied stitching on the right shoe was coming loose. The hair at the back of the head was sloppily cut, and he was relying on an excessive amount of hair product, rather than expert styling, to keep it frozen in place. Mr. Daniel Steiner had fallen upon hard times indeed, and he was desperately trying to keep up appearances.

Little time is spent in the tearoom and bookshop though there are nice vignettes of a young sales clerk, Ashleigh, unnerving Gemma with her themed work wardrobe and talent at observation.

Gemma is more discreet than in earlier books in the series. She has learned to keep some of her “observations” to herself. She will “assist” Ryan and Offieer Louise Estrada with their inquiries but with more information and less direction on how to investigate.

A Three Book Problem is a good book but it does not sparkle. The ending had a nice twist that was unconventional. The no Hollywood conclusion is appreciated.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Law Matters in What's Past is Prologue

What’s Past is Prologue by Gail Bowen revolves around a prominent Toronto lawyer, Libby Hogarth, who grew up in Saskatchewan. The book deals with numerous legal issues. Several caught my attention.

Hogarth is spoken of reaching the top tier of Canadian lawyers. I had the impression “the top tier” meant Toronto lawyers. While perception, fed by major Canadian media concentrated in Toronto, would create such an impression I disagree it is accurate. There are “top tier” lawyers across Canada. I do acknowledge that when I represented infected hemophiliacs and blood transfused at the Royal Commission into the Canadian Blood System in the 1990’s I had some trepidation on how I would fare with Toronto lawyers. I should not have been surprised that I found some to be exceptional, some to be good, some not better than average. I was able to be effective. There was no reason to have insecurity because I was from Saskatchewan.

As set out in my review, a link is below, Hogarth had a significant discussion with Eden Sass on recanting her testimony at the Delio trial. Later she had a conversation with Joanne and Zack that “the focus should be just on getting Eden to pull back on her plan to recant”.

In real life Hogarth should neither have spoken with Sass about recanting nor discussed with Joanne and Zack not recanting. She should have simply referred her to Zack for advice. She was acting contrary to the interests of her former client. 

She is concerned over Sass damaging her reputation and even facing criminal consequences by recanting. In the thorny world of law and sexual assault what is the responsibility to encourage truth. Delio’s reputation, despite acquittal, has been savaged. Is there not a benefit to the community if the truth that a woman made a false accusation comes forth?

There is concern her reputation will be sullied if she recants and tells the truth. I did not see a comparable discussion about the accused’s reputation. Sass is concerned about Delio not wanting to live.

Canada is wrestling with the consequences from a General in the armed forces being acquitted of sexual assault and then in a civil proceeding the accusations were ruled unfounded on balance of probabilities.

There is reference to a fictional Saskatchewan lawyer who “died the death trial lawyers dream of; a massive heart attack seconds after the jury comes in with a not guilty verdict for their client”.

I state categorically it is no dream of mine to die in the courtroom.

In real life, a few years before I started my career, a Saskatchewan lawyer, J.G. Crepeau, died in a Prince Albert courtroom. 

Some years ago one of my associates was dismayed when a witness he was questioning fainted.

Taylor, Joanne’s daughter discusses when a painting is done:

“.... With every painting, there comes a moment when you have to say, This is the best I can do. It’s time to walk away and let other eyes see what I hope they will see. Thank you for being here at that moment for me.” 

Crafting a written legal argument comes with such a moment. The challenge is in realizing the moment as you are caught up in trying to make the argument perfect. A few drafts are useful but endless drafts dilute the argument. I see the moment has come when the narrative is clear and the argument flows.

Gideon Sass is a loud aggressive 62 year old lawyer derisively referred to by Zack as an “ambulance chaser”. He is notorious for starting class actions. His two sons are lawyers and one is disbarred. There is a legal family who could have inspired the character and his sons.

I would be happy if every Joanne Kilbourn book concentrated on the lawyers in her life.


** Bowen, Gail – (2000) - Burying Ariel (Second best fiction of 2000); (2002) - The Glass Coffin; (2004) - The Last Good Day; (2007) – The Endless Knot (Second Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - The Brutal Heart; (2010) - The Nesting Dolls; (2011) - Deadly Appearances; (2012) - Kaleidoscope; (2013) - Murder at the Mendel; (2013) - The Gifted and Q & A; (2015) - 12 Rose Street; Q & A with Gail Bowen on Writing and the Joanne Kilbourn Series; (2016) - What's Left Behind and Heritage Poultry in Saskatchewan Crime Fiction; (2017) - The Winners' Circle(2018) - Sleuth - Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries / Gail the Grand Master - (Part I) and (Part II); (2018) - A Darkness of the Heart and Email Exchange with Gail on ADOH; (2020) - The Unlocking Season; (2021) - An Image in the Lake and The Fourth "F" is Forgiveness; (2023) - What's Past is Prologue  

Thursday, February 9, 2023

What’s Past is Prologue by Gail Bowen

(6. - 1145.) What’s Past is Prologue by Gail Bowen - I was excited that the 21st Joanne Kilbourn book is
focused on lawyers and legal issues.

Libby Hogarth successfully defended Jared Delio against criminal charges of sexual assault by three women. Hogarth grew up and was educated in Saskatchewan The complainants had connections with Saskatchewan. The trial was in Toronto. She demonstrated in cross-examination the weaknesses in their evidence and Delio was acquitted.

The character of Hogarth is clearly patterned on Marie Heinen who successfully defended Jhian Ghomesi on charges of sexual assault in Toronto. There were three complainants in the real life case. By chance I am currently reading a memoir by Ms. Heinen.

Untrue “lurid stories” are spread after the trial “about what Hogarth did to get ahead and stay ahead”.

Hogarth and Zack Shreve, Joanne Kilbourn’s husband, articled, a few years apart, for the same lawyer after graduating from law school. They remained friends.

Three years after the Delio trial Hogarth is coming to Regina to give the Mellohawk lecture called “Abracadebra” on creating “a community that understands that rape is an act of violence, that no means no and that a man doesn’t have to prove his masculinity by forcing himself on a woman”.

Since the lecture was announced Hogarth has been receiving weekly a threatening anonymous email from Amicus Curiae (friend of the court):


Hogarth comes to see Zack as one of the complainants, Eden Sass, in the Delio case has called Hogarth wanting to recant her evidence and say she lied at the trial. Hogarth, Zack and Joanne discuss ways to convince Sass not to recant. The conversation made me uncomfortable as I will discuss in a further post.

That evening, New Year’s Day, Zack and Joanne celebrate their 9th wedding anniversary at a lovely dinner party. The table is decorated with glass pots of newly planted wheat which is several centimetres high. The pots are so unique and cleverly Saskatchewan.

Eden and Seth Wright, the brother of Zack’s former partner Margot Wright Hunter, are examples of “outsiders, children who never felt they were truly a part of the family they were born into”. Kevin Coyle, a friend of Joanne, speaks of the consequences by referring to a study called The Long Reach of Childhood.

The title of the study resonated with me. In What’s Past is Prologue the phrase refers to adults whose childhoods were isolating. It equally applies to happy childhoods. Whether positive or negative, childhood reaches out through our whole lives.

Earlier books in the series have also explored the consequences of childhood. Joanne and her best friend, Sally Love, had difficult experiences that extended into their adult lives.

Taylor entered the series, coming to live with Joanee, after her parents were murdered.

Joanne’s children endured the violent death of their father.

Bowen powerfully states they are  “… defining moments in life, the moments that last only a second but determine the course of forever”.

After reading the passage I was lost in memories of such moments in my lifetime. More are painful than are joyful.

I was not ready when murder occurred. I had been caught up in the lives of the characters. As with the best books in the series there need not have been a murder to keep me absorbed.

What’s Past is Prologue is an excellent book. Of course, I am biased. Any book with Saskatchewan lawyers among the primary characters is bound to win my approval. I appreciate the original motto of Zack’s firm:

“A Reasonable Doubt for a Reasonable Price”

Gail Bowen has reached a personal milestone in that she is now 80. Some years ago in an email exchange she said she was not sure how long she would continue the series. I said P.D. James wrote mysteries into her 90’s. I am optimistic we can look forward to at least another decade of Joanne Kilbourn mysteries.


Bowen, Gail – 2011 Questions and Answers with Gail2011 Suggestions for Gail on losing court cases; The author's website is http://www.gailbowen.com/ - (2011) Deadly Appearances; (2013) Murder at the MendelThe Wandering Soul Murders (Not reviewed); A Colder Kind of Death (Not reviewed); A Killing Spring (Not reviewed); Verdict in Blood (Not reviewed); (2000) - Burying Ariel (Second best fiction of 2000); (2002) - The Glass Coffin; (2004) - The Last Good Day; (2007) – The Endless Knot (Second Best Fiction of 2007); (2008) - The Brutal Heart; (2010) - The Nesting Dolls; (2012) - "B" is for Gail Bowen; (2012) - Kaleidoscope and Q & A on Kaleidoscope; (2013) - The Gifted and Q & A and Comparing with How the Light Gets In; (2015) - 12 Rose StreetQ & A with Gail Bowen on Writing and the Joanne Kilbourn Series; (2016) - What's Left Behind and Heritage Poultry in Saskatchewan Crime Fiction; (2017) - The Winners' Circle; (2018) - Sleuth - Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries / Gail the Grand Master - Part I and Part II; (2018) - A Darkness of the Heart and Email Exchange on ADOH; (2020) - The Unlocking Season; (2021) - An Image in the Lake and The Fourth "F" is Forgiveness 

Friday, February 3, 2023

Do Mystery Fiction Sleuths Watch T.V.? (No. 2)

In my last post, a link is below, I discussed some stats from the last 25 mysteries I have read. I mentioned that one of the stats involved the question of whether sleuths watch T.V. I decided to put the
question to Saskatchewan mystery fiction writer, Tony Bidulka, in the form of a letter and seek his comments. I sent the letter, which is below, to Tony recently. He advised me that he is busy right now. If he is able to respond in the future I shall put his reply in a post.


Dear Tony,

Over the years I have felt few crime fiction sleuths were T.V. watchers. I decided to check out my hypothesis. 

Of the last 25 mystery books I have read there were 5 that were set before television was invented or at least not commercially available.

Of the 20 in the T.V. era which is already fading, unless you include watching the computer, there were 13 sleuths, 65%, who never watched T.V. I actually expected the percentage to be higher.

A striking stat was that of the 7 sleuths who watched T.V.  6 were Canadian. The one non-Canadian sleuth to watch T.V. was an American indigenous sleuth.

My list contained 10 Canadian sleuths meaning 60% of the Canadian sleuths watched T.V. 

My original expectation was born out with American sleuths. Of the 10 sleuths who were American only one watched television.

The 7 sleuthing T.V. watchers:

1.) Two watched Netflix;

2.) One watched delayed programing in Newfoundland in 1975 on one channel; 

3.) One sleuth and her husband enjoy Scandinavian crime series; 

4.) Two watched some T.V. but the programs were not noted; and,

5.) One watched some network news and old movies.

I do not recall Jake Hardy, your sleuth in Going to Beautiful, watching T.V. though Jake and his husband, Eddie Kravets, were very successful as reality T.V. stars. Please correct me if I was wrong in putting him in the non-watcher category. I do not recall whether Russell Quant watched T.V. 

Virtually everyone I know watches T.V. I watch a lot of sports. I do not watch much other T.V. programming as few shows interest me. 

I would appreciate knowing if you and/or Herb personally watch T.V.

I have no profound insight into why fictional sleuths outside Canada rarely watch T.V.

I do think many American sleuths are so obsessed with their investigations that they have little to no free time. 

Equally I think most authors do not consider whether their sleuths watch T.V. Sleuth free time is not a priority. I just realized I am not sure how many sleuths are readers. I will keep track of sleuth reading in my next 25 mysteries.

If you have any thoughts on fictional sleuths and T.V. watching, whether in the context of your books or more generally, please let me know.

I will be posting this letter and any reply from yourself in a couple of days.

All the best.



Bill's Mystery Fiction Stats (No. 1)