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, March 25, 2023

Surprise Cancellation of Three Pines Series

To my surprise the series, Three Pines, based on the Armand Gamache books by Louise Penny was not renewed for a second season. I first read of the cancellation on the Rap Sheet blog.

Variety magazine received an email from Amzaon Prime confirming the cancelation and blandly stating:

“We are proud of the work done on the series and the opportunity to work with great partners”.

I have not been able to find an actual explanation online on why the series was canceled.

The program’s showrunner, Emilia di Giorlamo, who had departed for another project wrote on Instagram:

“I was not involved in the conversations and negotiations wround renewal but I have been told Left Bank, Sony & Prime Video all wanted to bring the show back but were unable to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.”

Louise Penny was clearly unhappy. She wrote on Facebook:

We finally have word from Amazon Prime Video. There will be no second season of THREE PINES. Despite achieving #1 for Prime in US, Canada, UK and other markets, and top ten wherever it was broadcast, Amazon has decided to cancel it. I am shocked and upset. Like any show, it had growing pains, but it was only going to get better and better. And it already had Alfred Molina as Gamache! Alfred was deeply invested in the show. He wanted to pass this along to you:

**Sadly, we will not be returning with a second season. My personal disappointment aside, I am proud of what we achieved, and honored to have been part of a wonderful creative tem who gave everything to bring Louise’s books to the screen.** 

If you want to write to Amazon with your thoughts, the executive in charge of Prime Video Television is Vernon Sanders. His email is: vernon.sanders@amazonstudios.com

Her post has drawn 2,500 comments. I have not read all of them. A sampling indicated a majority enjoyed the show. A significant minority had reservations. Many of those with reservations echoed what I had said in my review of the series. A link ot my review is below.

On her website prior to the show being aired last  year Penny had said:

I’m sure you are wondering how true it is to the books. There are definitely changes, some I struggle with but overall I am pleased and relieved. It will be interesting to see what you think.

In an interview with Vanity Fair she recounted her reservations about the movie, Still Life, the first effort, a decade ago, to put Gamache in a film:

Really? Isn’t this the second time Gamache landed on the screen?

It is, and he did, and thank you for bringing that up! It wasn’t my favorite experience, to be honest, and not because of the actors or any one thing in particular, it just wasn’t, I felt, a true reflection of the spirit of the books. Afterwards, every time anybody asked [to make a show], I said no. A hard no. I don’t have much to gain but lots to lose. My characters are very important to me and every decision I made was personal.

I had thought Still Life a barely average movie with Nathaniel Parker badly miscast as Gamache.

She says further in the interview that she agreed to a deal with Left Bank Pictures for the series that became Three Pines principally, but not only, because they had made The Crown.

She recounted to Vanity Fair the push and pull between author and series producers. They agreed with her that it had to be set in Canada but not all went as she wanted:

Can you give me an example of a battle you lost?

Sure, yes, I’ve been open and honest about this. The village is much darker than my village, the villagers aren’t open or welcoming. Everyone has dark secrets. My village is a sanctuary and my characters are a lot more accepting. That’s my Three Pines, but the show goes another route. That’s okay too, and I accept it.

On the rating of the show I could not find a ratings report that had Three Pines as one of Amazon Prime’s top 10 series of 2022 or 2023. FlixPatrol had it ranked 16th in 2022 and 11th in 2023. It is difficult to sort out ranking as the show was released in December so there were viewers in both years. Those rankings suggest to me it did well despite the late year release.

It was clearly set up to be continued because of the cliffhanger conclusion to the first season. 

While it could go to another streaming service most articles I really doubt Three Pines will be picked up.

There is a mystery to be solved here. What were the reasons three major media companies could not reach agreement to continue a series each wanted to bring back? 


(2022) - Season One of Three Pines

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Couturier of Milan by Ian Hamilton

(12. - 1151.) The Couturier of Milan by Ian Hamilton - The Three Sisters (Ava Lee, May Ling Wong and Amanda
Yee) are in London for the first show of PÖ at Fashion Week. The designs by Clark Po are brilliant and the show is a great success. 

 In the whirlwind after the show they are approached by Raffi Pandolfo from the Ventola Luxury Group (VLG) to meet in Milan with Dominic Ventola, the head of VLG.  

In Italy the decisive Ventola makes an offer to The Three Sisters, Clark and Gillian Po to buy a majority interest in PÖ. They refuse. An angry Ventola, unaccustomed to being rejected, threatens them.

At the same time Ava’s relationship with Maria is in trouble. In recent books their time together has been modest.

When Ventola acts, Ava puts her personal affairs aside. The VLG attack is fierce and overwhelming and worldwide. The intimidation is clearly illegal but there is no time to respond with a court action.

True to her nature and the lessons of Uncle, Ava wants to launch a counter-offensive but how to challenge the giant. VLF has fifteen billion dollars in annual sales:

Product lines that encompassed the very best in leather goods and fashion, jewellery, watches, shoes, perfume, and liquor including premium whiskey and cognac labels and one of the world’s top champagne producers.

In her training for the Chinese martial art of bek mei Ava learned swift attacks upon vulnerable points of the body. Uncle was a master of finding the weaknesses of business adversaries. Ava must find the tender spots of VLG or face a major financial setback. 

She considers Ventola as:

 “....just another man who thinks women were put on this earth to do what they’re told or get run over. There isn’t a man alive who can tell me what to do. And I’m certainly not about to be run over.”

Drawing on a French aphorism, Ava tells VLG it will find out how vicious the women and the man of PÖ will be in defending themselves.

Yet Ava is not going to just lash out against the bully. Uncle has taught her to be analytical and she is a skilled accountant. She is also ruthless.

When a potentially violent meeting is set up Ava attends with her male allies. I was reminded of how Uncle gained the loyalty of his triads by standing shoulder to shoulder in the front rank of confrontations rather than leading from the rear.

Where I found drama lacking in The Princeling of Nanjing there is abundant tension in The Couturier of Milan. The stakes are high. Reputations and millions of dollars are at stake. I was anxious to see how the conflict between the rising PÖ and the established titan of the luxury world, VLG, was resolved. Hamilton kept the pages rolling. I had to know what happened next in the plot.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

A Letter to Marie Henein on Life in the Law

Ms. Henein in a firm photo
Dear Marie,

I have just finished reading Nothing But the Truth and enjoyed the book. I posted a review on my blog, Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan. (A link is  below.)

Our youths were far different. A farm in rural Saskatchewan is the opposite of life in Toronto. My father was a quiet beekeeper / farmer / trapper and my mother a nurse who had never lived outside an urban setting before she came to the farm in 1950. I did visit Toronto as most of my mother’s family resided in Etobicoke and Mississauga.

What was most striking to me about your career choice was your determination to be a criminal law lawyer from the day you entered law school. I certainly did not know what I wanted to do in law during law school and have never known as I have worked in a general practice involving a broad spectrum of legal work as a barrister and a solicitor.

You aptly describe criminal law:

It is a crisis management job. 

I would extend the definition to family law and estate litigation. All three areas have clients in highly emotional states dealing with difficult personal matters.

You wrote of being a criminal defence lawyer except for abit of regulatory prosecution.  My prosecutorial experience has been just as limited.  You said you were “confident that I’m the only prosecutor to have received a thank you card from the person she is prosecuting”. I never received a card as a prosecutor but, after successfully arguing to a judge, intent on being tough on drugs, that a young woman who pled guilty to possession of marijuana for holding her boyfriend’s joint should not go to jail, she told me - “Thank you for everything you did for me”.

You come from an immigrant family. Your articling principal, Eddie Greenspan, was a Jewish man from a small town. Both of you were driven by being outsiders. I can relate. My principal, Ajit Kapoor, was from India. I was from the country and did not know a single lawyer outside law school until I stepped into the office of Eisner, Kapoor and Saretzky to article in 1975.

Where the early years of our careers differed was in the intense, all consuming nature of practice at the Greenspan firm. I had long hours but not the 7 day and 7 night work weeks you experienced. I was encouraged to participate in the community and spend time with my family. Even as a young lawyer I played baseball, had a Saskatchewan Roughrider press pass as I was writing a sports column and learned judo eventually achieving a black belt.

Your respect for Eddie and his partner, Marc Rosenberg, is immense. You said Eddie showed you “how to be a lawyer”. I think the same of Ajit.

After 11 years you left the firm. As I expected there were monetary issues. Most importantly you wanted to be the first name on the letterhead and see if you could make it on her own. I never left on my own. Ajit and I separated and set up our own firm. Over the past 48 years associates and partners have departed while I stayed.

I appreciated your spirited defence of the role defence lawyers play in society, not just the judicial system. 

You set out clearly the structure of the legal system in Canada and express justifiable concern that our system which balances rights and obligations is at risk amidst a social media world and populist politics. I agree that the hard won principle of presumption of innocence is threatened.

In exploring legal principles you did not use cases, especially cases in which you were involved, to illustrate them. I find clients better understand principles when I provide examples. To me principles feel abstract until you see how they are applied.

I wish you had discussed some of your cases. I understand your statement that it is for the clients to tell if they want to tell them. I know a lawyer is very limited in discussing a case with regard to what happens outside the courtroom but trials and decisions are public for sound reasons. I have gained insights into lawyers, judges and our legal system from the discussions set out by lawyers in books such as Tough Cases and More Tough Cases.(Links to reviews and a two additional posts related to the books are below.) A series of Canadian lawyers in those books each discussed a case that was important to them.

Over 70 years ago retired English barrister, Patrick Hastings, wrote The Autobiography of Sir Patrick Hastings. His life was interesting. In addition to being a lawyer, he was passionate about the theatre including being a playwright. He followed with a second book, Cases in Court, in which he explored legal principles and courtroom actions through cases in which he had appeared as counsel. (A link to my reviews is below.) I was fascinated by his focus and confidence. I hope you will consider a second book in which you discuss your cases. 

In your chapter on the numbers of women leaving the practice of law and the challenges facing women in the profession you provided idiotic form letters from managing partners to pregnant lawyers. You show how women in law face direct and subtle indignities. You did not discuss how you as the leader of your firm and the women in your firm deal with the issues set out in the chapter. Have you written about your firm’s approach?

I admire your approach to clothes for a lawyer. I enjoy colour in my personal and professional clothing. I am planning a post on lawyer attire.

I am not sure if you read mystery fiction. Saskatchewan author, Gail Bowen, has a long running series featuring a now retired university professor, Joanne Kilbourn. In her latest book, What’s Past is Prologue, a prominent Toronto woman defence counsel, who has successfully defended a media personality accused of sexual assault by three women, is back in Saskatchewan where she grew up. One of the reasons for her return is to start preparations for a major trial. It is ironic you are now involved in a high profile case in Saskatchewan.

I have been proud to be a defence lawyer. From my first trial 48 years ago representing a young man charged with theft to later this month seeking a just punishment for a young man being sentenced for domestic assault I am reminded of the great responsibility of a defence lawyer. I have always believed our criminal justice system requires strong advocacy for the accused.

Never sure if email gets through I will send this letter by email and regular mail. I will be posting it tonight. If you are able to reply and are willing I would post your response.


Bill Selnes


Nothing But the Truth by Marie Henein

Tough Crimes edited by C.D. Evans and Lorene Shyba and Saskatchewan Cases Involving Wrongful Conviction and Jury Nullification

More Tough Crimes edited by Lorene Shyba and William Trudell and and Intervening and Not Intervening with Ashley Smith Choking Herself

Cases in Court by Patrick Hastings -Begun and Finished

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Nothing But the Truth by Marie Henein

(7. - 1146.)
Nothing But the Truth by Marie Henein - Henein is currently Canada’s best known criminal defence lawyer.

She has always been restless:

Discomfort is a home of sorts for me. I know it, and find myself restless and searching for it the moment I feel myself slipping into any state of ease. The truth is that I feel most acutely when I have pushed into some state of discomfort.

Her father, a large outgoing man, was a pharmacist for 50 years, and her mother is a reserved, lovely woman. Her parents grew up in the Middle East. As Christians they did not fit into the Egypt of Gamal Nassar and became outsiders.

The family went from Cairo to Vancouver to Beirut to Toronto where Henein grew up. As with many children she gains interest in her family backgrounds as an adult.

Growing up family life for the Henein’s  is everything, even stifling at times. Years go by before the tight bonds weaken and Amerikani ways creep into their lives. 

Henein has strong women at the heart of her life - her Teta (grandmother) Nour and her mother, Evelyn.  

Her Teta was at the “centre” of the family. Henein was extremely close to her Teta. Her maternal grandparents lived no more than a block away. The two of them were together every day.

Evelyn, refused to have Henein limited to a traditional life:

My mother’s only aspiration for me was that I be educated and financially independent.

Henein’s love of shopping and of negotiating come from her Teta who was a master negotiator at stores as well as in flea markets.

Her mother loves her children deeply but expected them to have separate lives from parents and other adults. Henein was more interested in adults.

Nour, Evelyn and Marie all have a fierce intensity. Henein speaks of Middle Eastern mothers being convinced they are never wrong.

Her brother, Peter, born 6 years after Henein, is less intense. Henein, as a child, organizes and directs his childhood life.

Illustrating her character:

The only arguments my mother and I had about school were those where she asked me to stop studying. She would fight with me to take a break or come eat or join a family gathering. I missed many such events - even my grandmother’s mandatory weekend family dinners - because I insisted on studying just a little bit longer. And the thing is that I never, not once, enjoyed it.

There are mentions, but no discussions, of friends as a child or a teenager. 

Henein loves her Uncle Sami who leaves for New York City when he is 18. With artistic flair he lives flamboyantly and exuberantly as he drifts from endeavour to endeavour. Every visit to Uncle Sami is an adventure. He lived with “glitter and excess and a good dose of fantasy”.

Entering law school, as I did after 2 years of university, Henein is Sami’s support during her first year of law. He has returned to Toronto to die. He has AIDS. She recounts his hard death. It was a desperate time in the 1980’s for those infected with HIV. There was no treatment. I thought of my representation, starting in 1991, of hemophiliacs and blood transfused who were infected with HIV. Eight of my first eleven clients had died by 1996.

She was with Sami to the end when other family members could not bear his suffering. She planned his funeral and delivered the eulogy. The middle name of her second son is Sami so she could say his name again.

In the book Henein sets out the best and worst of law school.

The best involves critical thinking:

Navigating a case effectively requires an ability to critically think, set aside your ego, and most importantly, challenge your own and your client’s assumptions.

In her next sentence she discusses the worst:

While law school does some of this, it completely fails to teach students about the actual practice of law. Very little time is spent on how to interact with clients, tackle ethical issues, or master the art of negotiation and advocacy.

That was my experience in law school 50 years ago. It was her experience over 30 years ago. The experience has not changed for the Canadian law students of 2023.

Henein is an accomplished storyteller as I would expect from a trial lawyer.

I will explore aspects of her three plus decades in the law in my next post, a letter to Marie.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The Midnight Lock by Jeffery Deaver

(9. - 1148.) The Midnight Lock by Jeffery Deaver - In an amazing twist to start the book Lincoln Rhyme is humbled in court. A new experience for the criminalist. Trying to be cu
te when being questioned is a poor strategy for a witness, even the most brilliant. A seemingly awkward defence counsel demonstrates some trace evidence might have come from the area of Lincoln’s home and contaminated evidence from a crime scene. A mobster, Victor Buryak, is acquitted of murder.

The “Locksmith” surreptitiously enters the apartments of women. He moves, leaves and takes objects while the women are asleep. He is extremely skilled in lock picking. I learned more about locks in this book than I had ever known before. 

The Locksmith, like a lock, is precisely organized. He carefully plans using surveillance and searches of social media. He appears to be escalating.

To distract public attention from the unsuccessful prosecution the Mayor’s Office forces the NYPD to cease using consultants. Officers contacting Lincoln are threatened with obstruction of justice charges.

Buryak returns to operating his crime business. He eschews the crudeness of such mob staples as armed robbery and prostitution. He relies on crews of researchers and hackers. He sells informateion. Known as the “Godfather of Information,” After acquittal Buryak sits in his lavish home drinking tea and plotting revenge against the “Chemist” - Lincoln Rhyme.

The Locksmith has been a “peeper” since a boy. He has an obsession to secretly watch people. As a teenager he made “Visits”. Sometimes observisng, other times leaving items inside homes or vehicles. He knows he is mentally disturbed. 

As the Locksmith, he is wreaking havoc with the minds of women. He is as creepy a figure as I have encountered in crime fiction. Who does not fear the silent night intruder?

On each New York visit he leaves a fragment of the same page from a tabloid newspaper, Daily Herald, upon which he writes a phrase. 

What connects the Locksmith’s visits? The answer is logical but devilishy difficult even for the brilliant Rhyme.

The Buryak subplot disappears for most of the book.

Another, rather bizarre subplot, involves Verum, a self-proclaimed prophet of truth upon the internet, spreading conspiracy theories of secret government interventions through the “Hidden”. I thought it a distraction even when it was connected to the main plot.

As expected in a Deaver book the twists increase as the end nears. I saw a couple coming but most surprised me. The third last was not credible and a little disappointing. The second last was no surprise. The last was unexpected. None of them were needed. Still, Deaver is so accomplished at twisting the story.While I see a surplus of twists Deaver makes the pages flow easily, there is always unexpected information and interesting villains. I will continue to read Lincoln Rhyme books. (Feb. 28/23)


Deaver, Jeffery – (2000) - The Empty Chair; (2002) - The Stone Monkey; (2002) - Mistress of Justice; (2003) - The Vanished Man; (2005) - Garden of Beasts; (2005) - The Twelfth Card; (2006) - Cold Moon(Tied for 3rd Best fiction of 2006); (2008) - The Broken Window; (2010) - The Burning Wire; (2013) - The Kill Room; (2014) - The Skin Collector; (2017) - The Steel Kiss; (2019) - The Burial Hour; (2021) - The Never Game and Handwritten Notes Are the Best