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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Call of the Void by J.T. Siemens

(19. - 1202.) Call of the Void by J.T. Siemens - What an opening:

For a long time, I believed that if I ran fast enough, the dead couldn’t catch up with me.

I was wrong.

But it didn’t stop me from trying.

Sloane Donovan, whose restless mind is constantly troubled, sees dead family and friends as she nears the end of a race. She wonders if ghosts follow you through all eternity.

Forest fire smoke fills the British Columbia skies and sets the mood of the book.

A “heavy set” woman, Maddy Pike, intercepts Sloane as she enters the building which houses the office of Hardknocks Investigations and Security Services, Inc. in Vancouver. She wants Sloane to search for her missing daughter, Emily. Her partner Wayne has already told Maddy they will not take the case. Sloane cannot refuse the desperately sad woman and says she will spend a week looking for Emily who disappeared 7 years ago when she was 15.

The Agency, mainly Sloane, is babysitting Hollywood star, Haley Cooper. While ostensibly they are protecting her from creepy fans Haley’s greatest danger is herself. Her latest movie, Zyborg Apocalypse, being made in Vancouver, had to be delayed 6 weeks while Haley was in rehab. Sloane is to keep her away from drugs and alcohol and bad boys. It is an impossible task. Sloane describes Haley as a “wily little bitch”.

Filming of Zyborg Apocalypse is interrupted by a bomb threat. Sloane, her associate Frank and Haley enter their Range Rover to find a life size sex doll with a de-activated grenade in the vagina and a photo of Haley over the face.

I wish Haley played a larger role. She has charisma and an even more reckless attitude to life than Sloane. She talks of getting a movie written about Sloane.

Sloane’s edgy mind wonders if her prescribed lithium dose is too high. She rejects the thought that drinking a bottle of chardonay could have reacted negatively with the drug.

Wanting to be a vet, Emily worked at Westborough Farm where she was a valued employee. Her employer, Doc Barney, called her their “golden child”.

Interviews at the farm and a trip to the ATM location where she was last seen produce no new information.

Sloane interviews Emily’s father, Lucas “Luke” Pike, a dedicated alcoholic simmering with rage, who does night security at building sites. 

Sloane gets a composite sketch made of a potential suspect. No one recognizes him. She is furious with Maddy for sharing the sketch publicly. Maddy says she used the photo to raise money for expenses such as Sloane’s fees and Maddy’s administration costs. 

Sloane does not want to take her bi-polar medication as it makes her “feel slow”. She simply says she “is fucked up”. 

The investigation grows ever more complex.

For all her brash confrontative nature Sloane is obsessive about noticing details. I appreciate sleuths who are observant.

I felt a shiver as the title is explained to Sloane:

“Call of the void,” she said. “Have you ever stood somewhere really high and felt a weird impulse to jump, like something was pulling you over the edge?”

I feel the void is never far from Sloane's mind whether she is awake or in fitful sleep.

She struggles with the possibility of a normal relationship. It has been a long time since she played with a child. Could Sloane have a life with sobriety and a stable family relationship?

Tension relentlessly builds as Sloane closes in on Emily’s killer.

The narrative of life in Vancouver, especially on the seedy side of town, is compelling and completely credible. The pages flow easily with that wonderful feeling of being caught up in a riveting story. Siemens is a more assured storyteller in his second book. I could see and feel the harsh reality of the city in his words. 

While I do not wish to discuss in detail the ending of the book in a review that will form a post on my blog I had conflicting emotions as I read the conclusion. Initially I thought it was too Hollywood. I acknowledge I am not fond of Hollywood endings. The bulk of the book had told a challenging story without being excessively dramatic. On reflection I concluded the resolution fit the story. Great drama was needed to finish the mystery and address Sloane’s life. 

I expect Call of the Void will be on Award shortlists for 2024 and it has the potential to be an Award winner. Siemens has become one of the best young crime fiction writers in Canada.



  1. It does sound absorbing, Bill, and I know the feeling of being caught up in a book like that. If the writing style is skilled enough, you simply don't want to stop reading. Sloane sounds like an interesting character, too, and a good fit for a noir novel. I can see why you were caught up in this one.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Jeremy drove the plot and I rode with him. More complex than many thrillers.

  2. The books that grab me tend to have fast-paced plots that continuously drive the story forward. I try to channel that pacing in my work, and it helps that I have a main protagonist who is relentless in her search for the truth. Once I tap into Sloane's energy, the writing is a lot of fun.

    1. Thanks Jeremy. I appreciate your comment. Sloane's energy would certainly drive you forward. She is compelling and dare I say, demanding.