About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Plantin Polyglot Bible in Fiction

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk the mystery is about the disappearance of The Plantin Polyglot Bible which has been purchased for $500,000 by Department Director, Christopher Wolfe.

There are 6 volumes to the Bible and they are not in the safe at the Department. Jurczyk creates a wonderful book around the missing volumes of the Bible.

I had certainly heard of the Gutenberg Bible, the book that heralded the age of print in the Western world, but I had not known of the Plantin Polyglot Bible. A quick Google search revealed the stunning Bible.

It is Polyglot as it is written in multiple languages - Hebrew, Chaldean (Aramaic), Greek, Latin and Syriac. Printed between 1568-1572 in Antwerp the Bible is a magnificent work of book making. Plantin’s goal was, as stated in Christie’s who were selling a vellum copy in 2018, to “produce the finest Bible in all Christendom”.

There were 1,200 copies printed on paper and 12 copies on vellum. The vellum copies were for King Philip II of Spain. The skins of 8,000 sheep were needed to print the vellum copies.

Christie’s says:

Plantin devoted 5 years, up to 4 presses and 40 workment to print the Bible. He had been acquiring types from the best type-cutters and designers of the day - Guillaume Le Be and Cornelis van Bomberghen for Hebrew and Brobert Granjon for Greek and Syriac … 

Between financial issues and strife in the Netherlands the last two volumes, the Apparatus Sacra, were only printed on paper.

The vellum copies, because of weight, were bound into 11 volumes instead of 6 volumes.

In the book it is the paper version which has been bought by the library.

It was not until I saw the photos from Christie’s, which in 2018 auctioned the only vellum copy in the world in private hands, that I appreciated the majesty of the Bible as described in Jurczyk’s book.

It would be an amazing experience to hold and look at a volume.

Christie’s sold the vellum Plantin Polyglot Bible for 488,750 pounds (Canadian $836,101)!


My review is at The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Here is a link to a wonderful video from Christie’s auction information.

Eva had an interesting conversation with John Shoesmith, the Outreach Librarian at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto about her book and her work at the year. The Fisher Library is the inspiration for the library in her book. Here is a link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mkaGbdAfa0&t=246s

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections by Eva Jurczyk - The Plantin Polygot Bible has been purchased for $500,000 for the university  while Liesl Weiss was away “at home working on her own book”. Christopher “Chris” Wolfe, the Director of Rare Books and Special Collections at the university (a thinly disguised University of Toronto) for over 50 years, who made the winning bid at auction, is disabled, probably from a stroke. 

When the safe in Christopher’s office is finally opened there is no Bible. Liesl is in charge with Christopher gone, but she is not respected by senior male librarians. With uncertain authority and a diplomatic personality she struggles to investigate what has happened to the missing multi-volume Bible.

Everyone wants the Plantin Bible to be misplaced but how is a multi-volume Bible misfiled? Liesl wants to call the police but President Lawrence Garber refuses to allow her to report as stolen a Bible that has been misplaced. Only when another book cannot be found are the police contacted.

A hand search is undertaken that goes deep underground. Ordinarily, Liesl loves the basements of the library where books are shelved by size to maximize space and let the “fragile” books support one another. Now she is depressed and anxious as she and another librarian slowly go from stack to stack of books. She considers the quest to be futile.

The donors who provided thousands of dollars for the acquisition want to see “their” Bible. It is getting harder and harder to deflect wealthy men not accustomed to or tolerant of delay.

There is nothing in Christopher’s personal computer. He was a “digital ghost”.

There is a fascinating visit to a book fair at the huge convention centre by the Toronto airport. Aisles of booksellers are ranked by Liesl. She equally slots the buyers. The book world is relatively small with significant trust. A vendor hands a buyer a book upon receiving a $25,000 cheque.

She has spent 40 years in the Department and loves the rare books and special collections.

As the investigation proceeds explanations must be given about the missing books. Liesl is advised:

“Don’t get too creative, and don’t be more honest
than you have to be.”

Recommending evasion inevitably means manipulation.

Determining the identity of the thief or thieves should not be that difficult. With the Department having good security against intruders the investigation must focus on the librarians. Yet it proceeds slowly. The police take little role as the university administration does not push the original complaint. President Garber wants as little attention as possible to the missing books. Donors might turn reluctant to give if the university cannot safeguard what their donations have purchased.

Liesl has a significant flaw as an investigator. She does not want any of her colleagues to be a thief. 

The head librarians have well developed personalities. There is friction, credible conflict between them. At the same time there are the bonds of decades together. When there is loss of life among them they grieve deeply and sincerely.

They all have secrets in their lives. They are gradually revealed during the investigation.

I had an early inkling about the thief but put it aside and was as saddened as Liesl when she discovered the thief.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is a wonderful place for those who love the feel, the sight, the weight, the smell, the print, the contents of great and rare books. The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections book is a thoughtful mystery with an admirable clever sleuth. No guns, knives, bombs or other means of mayhem were wielded in the library. Liesl is a woman of mature years with great integrity. I admired her determination to solve the mystery. I would love to visit her Department. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Legacy by Gail Bowen

(39. - 1178.) The Legacy by Gail Bowen - Zack Shreve is grieving the loss of Pantera. They had been inseparable for eight years and eight months. She was his first dog. 

Zack and Joanne meet their nearly 6 year old grandsons, Colin and Charlie, at a dog breeder near Regina to pick out a puppy. When they arrive the breeder, Neil who has Down Syndrome, startles Zack:

Neil spoke slowly, and he stuttered a little when he was excited. “That’s right. It took me awhile to find the right puppy for you, Mr. Shreve. But I found him, and here he is. He’s a boy, and you get to choose his name. Neil handed the squirming puppy to Zack and the pup immediately settled in.

I was emotional reading about the new dog. Zack can now move forward with life.

Just as Zack was surprised by Neil, Joanne is equally caught off-guard when they go for lunch at Val Masluk’s home near Neil’s place. Val is a writer who is about to have published a lengthy biography of Steven Brooks, a very successful Canadian fiction author. Val, using the surname of Massey, had been a student of Joanne during an ugly time involving fellow professor, Tom Kelsoe.

Leah, Steven’s daughter, and Angus, Joanne’s son, are getting married just after the Labour Day Weekend. They are 15 years into their relationship.

There is abundant tension about Steven. Leah has had little to do with her father but he has come to Regina for the wedding. Her unmarried aunts, Reva and Mila, effectively raised her.

In addition to the wedding there are multiple family birthdays to be celebrated.

An anonymous emailer raises issues of plagiarism with regard to Steven’s last two books, Medusa’s Fate and The Iron Bed of Procustes drawn from classical Greek stories. Steven’s first three books had modest readership. After eight years without a book Steven was fading from public and publishing view. The two brilliant books save his career and make him famous.

As Val is interviewed by Charlie Dowhaniuk, the Shreve’s son-in-law, for his national radio show the tension level with regard to Steven is ratcheted up. 

All tread carefully. Accusations of plagiarism, if true, would be devastating for Steven’s career. 

Val is in a quandary. He is embarking on a national promotional tour as the rumours circulate. He is constantly asked about the claims of plagiarism. He wants to avoid speculation. Deflecting the issue seems best.

Back in Regina Zack and Joanne are occupied with the outdoor fall wedding and the birthday parties. 

Concerns over Steven take precedence over the weather uncertainty of a fall outdoor wedding in Saskatchewan. Steven has learned of the accusations. You will need to read the book to find out what happens at the wedding.

The primary investigation concerns the alleged plagiarism. Suspicion is not proof.

As an avid reader and former University English professor Joanne is well suited to assessing literary honesty.

The Legacy is definitely a book that has a murder in the plot. The greatest focus is upon Joanne, Zack and their family. They are thriving and I appreciate the latest updates on their lives in each book of the series.

I was glad the book dealt with literary issues. The last few books in the series had featured the movie industry. I was ready for the series to move to other themes. A book focused on books was welcome.

It is a powerful testament to Gail’s drive to write that she completed this book while in hospital for 9 months, the first four in bed. Fortunately, she has been able to return home and continuing to write. Her spirit is indomitable. 


** 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 and Law Matters in What's Past is Prologue

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Resurrection Walk by Michael Connellly

Resurrection Walk by Michael Connelly - Mickey Haller has rescued Jorge Ochoa from life in prison because of Harry Bosch’s hard work in identifying a serial killer who was the actual killer. Mickey takes pride in seeing Ochoa walk out of prison into life. (Connelly has an exceptional talent with his publishers in coming up with remarkable book titles.)

While smiling over Mickey’s satisfaction I was hit hard when I read Harry has a raw throat from his latest cancer treatment. He is working for Mickey on Mickey’s personal innocence project. Mickey hired him so Harry could get private health insurance and be enrolled into an experimental treatment program at UCLA. The sense of looming mortality in The Desert Star has been realized.

Harry is driving Mickey but not chauffeuring him. Mickey sits in the front seat. When he forgets the Lincoln Navigator does not move until Mickey remembers and moves from the back seat to the front seat.

Harry, in addition to driving Mickey, is reviewing the numerous letters Mickey has received from inmates stating they are innocent and asking Mickey to represent them. Harry’s skeptical eyes find but two letters worth investigating.

One is from Lucinda Sanz who pleaded nolo contendre to killing her ex-husband Roberto Sanz, a Los Angeles County deputy, and has an 11 year sentence. She had claimed innocence throughout the case but accepted a plea deal to avoid the risk of a life sentence without parole if she were found guilty at a trial.

Harry contacts Renée Ballard who is still working at the recently re-established cold case unit where the 70 year old Harry had been a volunteer in The Desert Star. He asks her for background information. She cleverly avoids compromising access to official files by emailing him newspaper reports of the case.

Harry swiftly notices some weaknesses in the case.

Mickey contacts Frank Silver, Sanz’s defence counsel. He operates out of legal commune. It is a set of offices in which defence lawyers come and go so frequently there are simply slots on the doors for business cards. There are no support staff. Silver proves to be a “weasel” demanding a share in any civil law payments if Sanz is freed before he will release the file to Mickey.

Mickey and Harry go to the prison in Chino to see Sanz. She is steadfast and convincing in her denial of guilt.

The hunt for evidence to free her commences and I was absorbed.

Her son, Eric, now 13 had been with his father for the day before being dropped off late. His father had been shot 12 feet from the house after an argument with Sanz. The police interviewed him. Silver’s failure to interview Eric was a flaw in representation.

Roberto Sanz was part of a “clique” within the Sheriff’s department and had been involved in a shootout with a gang a year before in which he killed a gang member. The police ceased looking into that possible motive when they concluded Sanz killed her ex.

For Silver not talking to a clearly potentially important witness, even at 9 years of age, and not looking into the gang shootout were egregious missteps. Mickey derisively refers to him as Second Place Silver.

And then Harry’s careful review of the evidence finds the thread that can unravel the whole case.

I understand but do not excuse the police, clearly not mentored by Harry, did not bother with an interview or following up on the shooting. They were convinced they had the killer and did not need to talk to anyone who might weaken their case.

In Resurrection Walk Harry and Mickey are actually working together. In past books they would come together for meetings but it was never a true working relationship. They also have more of a brotherly connection. Cancer can build as well as end relationships.

Connelly provides a vivid description of Harry’s treatment:

Bosch could feel the isotope moving in him, coursing coldly through his veins, over the shoulder and across his chest like a broken-dam flood.

Harry has always maintained that representing the accused and the convicted was the dark side and, beyond a few isolated cases for or involving Mickey, he has never worked defense cases. Thus, I was stunned when:

In the seven months they had worked the Sanz case together, Bosch had come to realize that working on the defense side made Haller a long-shot underog. He was like a man on the beach holding a surfboard and looking up at a hundred-foot wave coming in. The power and might of the state was limitless. Haller was just one man making a stand for his client. He was willing to paddle out to that crushing wave. Bosch was beginning to see that there was something noble in that.

I went “yes!” to myself. While uncommon now I think lawyers and investigators benefit in perspective if they have both worked for prosecution and defense.

The habeas corpus application hearing was as tense and driving as any Connelly has written.

The twists and turns were riveting as the evidence and law shifted back and forth. The case was both sophisticated and visceral, as rare a combination as you can find in legal fiction.

In recent years I have decried some of Connelly’s books for bad guys who were so evil as to be caricatures. In Resurrection Walk he returned to his early books with wickedness present but characters who were multi-dimensional.

Harry and Mickey formed a great team. I hope they continue forward together but the tone of the book makes me wonder.

The ending was spectacular with a closing little twist that left me smiling as I read the final page.

Connelly, Michael – (2000) - Void Moon; (2001) - A Darkness More than Night; (2001) - The Concrete Blonde (Third best fiction of 2001); (2002) - Blood Work (The Best);  (2002) - City of Bones; (2003) - Lost Light; (2004) - The Narrows; (2005) - The Closers (Tied for 3rd best fiction of 2005); (2005) - The Lincoln Lawyer; (2007) - Echo Park; (2007) - The Overlook; (2008) - The Brass Verdict; (2009) – The Scarecrow; (2009) – Nine Dragons; (2011) - The Reversal; (2011) - The Fifth Witness; (2012) - The Drop; (2012) - Black Echo; (2012) - Harry Bosch: The First 20 Years; (2012) - The Black Box; (2014) - The Gods of Guilt; (2014) - The Bloody Flag Move is Sleazy and Unethical; (2015) - The Burning Room; (2015) - Everybody Counts or Nobody Counts; (2016) - The Crossing; (2016) - Lawyers and Police Shifting Sides; (2017) - The Wrong Side of Goodbye and A Famous Holograph Will; (2017) - Bosch - T.V. - Season One and Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch; (2018) - Two Kinds of Truth; (2019) - Dark Sacred Night and A Protest on Connelly's Use of Vigilante Justice; (2020) - The Night Fire; (2020) - Fair Warning; (2021) - The Law of Innocence and Writing a Credible Trial; (2022) - The Dark Hours; Hardcover

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Bill's Best of 2023 - Non-Fiction and Most Interesting

I conclude Bill’s Best of 2023 with 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.

As with 2022, I have chosen 2 books for Best of Non-Fiction in 2023.



1.) We Keep the Dead Close by Becky Cooper - It is a book for which I have not yet posted a review. I expect to post in 2024. This note will be part of the review:

Harvard is a world of its own. Cooper recounts how it is filled with elite people displaying all the variations inherent in “elite”. It was no different in 1969 when Jane Britton was working on her Ph.D. in archaeology.

Cooper is intrigued, ultimately obsessed, with the murder of Jane Britton. She has had a fascination with solving mysteries since she was a child. A 40 year old murder with a striking victim, a glamorous professor and a potential coverup by one of America’s great institutions is perfect.

Cooper’s style appeals to me. She tells the story from the alternating perspectives of the actual investigation of the murder and her search decades later. She is open about herself and how she reacts to the investigation. She writes narrative very well. The stories, past and present, flow as they unfold. I ended up with almost 5,000 words in notes upon the book. It took me much of the book to appreciate she is telling Jane’s story through seeking to solve a murder.

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

The daughter of Middle Eastern immigrants she grew up in Toronto. I found the description of her youth and attending law school the best part of the book:

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.

I regretted that she chose not to discuss any of her high profile cases.


1.) Livingsky by Anthony Bidulka - Last year Anthony’s Going to Beautiful was my favourite book of the year. In 2023 his next book Livingsky tops Most Interesting.

Private Investigator, Merry Bell, is returning to Livingsky (inspired by Saskatoon), Saskatchewan from Vancouver. She arrives in the midst of the harsh Saskatchewan winter. Her days are long as no one is calling. 

I was caught offguard when Anthony reveals Merry is transgender who has completed her physical transition to a woman in B.C.

Looking for cheap housing she finds an inexpensive house through the son of a notorious slum landlord:

Gerald tells Merry that he rents to those who have no choices.

In return, she investigates a fire for which he is a suspect. 

Merry is a good investigator.

The book is another illustration of Anthony crafting an excellent mystery featuring the under-represented in crime fiction.

I especially appreciated his reply to an email asking him numerous questions on the book.

2.) Thursday Murder Club - I loved the concept of a group of senior citizens forming a club to solve murders in England.

In my review I set out why I thought I could be valued addition to the club. I summed up:

The club members are relentless. Each is resolute in solving murders. I enjoy the challenge of trying to solve murders in crime fiction. My determination is reflected by having over 1,000 murder experiences through reading mysteries.

I really enjoyed the club members. They are witty, kind and bright. Each is an engaged senior using the talents acquired during their lives. They are a dynamic quartet. I hope they call. I would relish being a member of the Thursday Murder Club.

I regret to report they have yet to call me.

3.) Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy - Sister Holiday of the Sisters of the Sublime Blood in New Orleans swears, smokes, has tattoos and is queer. She is also devoted to her vocation. She is unlike any nun I have met in my life.

She is teaching music in a high school when there is a fire and a member of the staff is killed.

She joins another unique woman, Magnolia “Maggie” Riveaux, New Orleans first black female fire investigator, in investigating the arson. 

Douaihy is a strong writer. I stated in my review:

There is a lyrical quality to Douaihy’s prose as she drives the story forward.

The striking cover caught my attention in the bookstore. Fair or not, I doubt I would have picked up the book except for the cover.

I expect to read more of Sister Holiday.

3.) Death and the Conjuror by Tom Mead - I cannot recall the last time I read a classic locked room mystery written by a contemporary author.

Mead does set the book in 1936 in London. Joseph Spector is a former music hall conjuror who aids the police in their investigation of murder.

I said in my review that:

Mead’s prose flows smoothly and I glided through the book. It is a good book. Mead is a clever man. The solution is suitably complex. As usual, my efforts to understand how murder was committed and how the killer escaped the locked room were futile.

I followed with a post featuring Hercule Poirot analyzing Spector and Inspector George Flint. Mead kindly said my review and Poirot analysis were “highly entertaining”.