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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Rising by Brian McGilloway

The Rising by Brian McGilloway – Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin is called out at 4:30 in the morning to investigate reports of gunfire. As he nears the area he sees it is a fire on a farm. At the farm he finds a barn burning. Rushing into the building he rescues an elderly man. Returning to try to find a young man he is trapped by falling debris and almost killed.

The next day Devlin learns the old man has died and the young man in the barn was murdered. While the young man’s body is badly burned they are able to identify the corpse as Martin Kielty, a local drug dealer.

In conversation with Elena McEvoy, his girlfriend, Devlin learns that Kielty had received a Mass card with a bullet in the card. It is a message of threat and warning familiar in the area from the Troubles.

Devlin is stationed in Lifford, an area of Ireland adjacent to Northern Ireland. The residents go back and forth across the border. The region has seen its share of violence. While peace has come some of the para-militaries have little interest in peaceful pursuits.

Kielty has property on both sides of the border giving him convenient bases for his drug dealing. Devlin and other officers work on Kielty’s relationships in the drug world.

A group have formed a group called The Rising to challenge drug dealers in the area. Their primary forms of advocacy are intimidation and assault.

At home Devlin, having spent too much time working, is not able to recognize that his children, especially 11 year old Penny are growing up. She is no longer a little girl. While his wife, Debbie, understands Penny’s need to go out Devlin exerts a tight rein upon his daughter. His concerns with the parents of a boy she likes cause a rift in the family.

In the midst of the investigation Devlin is called by former colleague, Caroline Williams, whose son, Peter, has disappeared while camping with friends on the coast. Devlin joins the search for Peter. A text from his phone buoys Williams. It turns out to be a cruel hoax.

Devlin pursues his investigation into Kielty’s death gradually penetrating into the drug dealing world along the border.

The Rising is led by vigilantes too comfortable with violence. Devlin finds it hard to believer their motives are pure.

Back home Devlin is adrift as he tries to understand the needs of an 11 year old girl. An area not touched upon often in crime fiction is the damage to relationships with children for police officer parents who spend excessive time pursuing crime.

The late Maxine Clark considered The Rising an excellent book. I agree the author is a good writer. The plot proceeds smoothly. The pages turn easily. I would not call it a great book. It is a comfortable book. While drugs and murder are not comfortable topics the story flows well. It was interesting to read of the challenges to para-military men reluctant to adjust to a new world of peace. Violence has been their way of life and solution to problems.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Legally Speaking in Fiction and Real Life

Margot Kinberg, at her excellent blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, put up a fine post today on the role of public speaking in mysteries. She inspired me to think about lawyers in legal mysteries.

To be a trial or appellate lawyer is to be comfortable with public speaking for our courts are open to the public. Justice is to be seen to be done.

I am never surprised when lawyers speak articulately in mysteries. We try to speak clearly and directly contrary to public myth.

The flashing eyes and powerful baritone of Raymond Burr as Perry Mason dominated television 50 years ago.

What reader of mysteries and viewer of television mysteries cannot instantly recall the rolling phrases of Leo McKern as Rumpole of the Bailey staunchly defending the Timsons.

More recently, Matthew McConaughey in the movie A Time to Kill by John Grisham gave a memorable performance as the lawyer, Jake Brigance, defending an African American in the Deep South.

On paper who could not admire the suave Sandy Stern in Presumed Innocent and Innocent skilfully questioning witnesses and presenting arguments on behalf of Rusty Sabich.

In the novels of Robert Rotenberg taking place in the coutrooms of Toronto an ensemble of Crown and defence counsel are true professionals. They prepare well and find the weaknesses in the testimony of witnesses.

What fiction does not portray is that while real life lawyers are just as skillful as their fictional counterparts they are not as perfect.

Questions are occasionally mangled. I tell witnesses not to worry about perfection as I can guarantee them there will always be questions I wish I could have re-done.

Most difficult to re-create are closing addresses to juries. Seeking to persuade a jury does not often flow with the beautiful phrasing of fiction, television and the movies. The hesitations, adjustments to the reactions of jurors, the examination of notes, the cadence do not transfer well to print and screen. I try not to read addresses as you risk the connection of speaking directly to the jury by following a script.

Gerry Spence, famed American trial lawyer, describes his address to the jury in his book, How to Argue and Win Every Time, in the defence of Randy Weaver:

'I'm afraid I won't be able to make the kind or argument to you that Randy Weaver deserves,' I said.  'After nearly three months of trial, I'm afraid I won't measure up. I wish I were a better lawyer.'  As always, the fear began to slink away and the argument began to take its place, one that was to consume nearly three hours.  It was an argument that was honest, and angry and humorous, one that was punctuated with defects and false starts and syntax that would horrify any self-respecting English professor. It was an argument that was a real as I was able to be - an argument that, in the end, was to free my client."
Still Spence, in an address to a legal seminar on jury addresses, spoke about a closing for jury trials that he had developed that reads as well as it does to listen to (visualize his hands as you read):
"Here’s the story of the bird that some of you wanted to hear again. This is one I’ve used many, many times. It’s a nice method by which you can transfer responsibility for your client to the jury.
Ladies and gentlemen I am about to leave you, but before I leave you I’d like to tell you a story about a wise old man and a smart-alec boy. The smart-alec boy had a plan, he wanted to show up the wise old man, to make a fool of him. The smartalec boy had caught a bird in the forest. He had him in his hands. The little bird’s tail was sticking out. The bird is alive in his hands. The plan was this: He would go up to the old man and he would say, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” The old man would say, “You have a bird, my son.” Then the boy would say, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?” If the old man said that the bird was dead, he would open up his hands and the bird would fly off free, off into the trees, alive, happy. But if the old man said the bird was alive, he would crush it and crush it in his hands and say, “See, old man, the bird is dead.” So, he walked up to the old man and said, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” The old man said, “You have a bird, my son.” He said, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?” And the old man said, “The bird is in your hands, my son.” Ladies and gentlemen of the jury my client is in yours."

Who would not want Gerry Spence standing with you fighting for your liberty?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Wrong Man by David Ellis

The Wrong Man by David Ellis – What a bundle of emotions I have about this book.

I liked Jason Kolarich as a hard working, clever and determined defence lawyer willing to take on the defence of a homeless Iraq War veteran, Tom Stoller, charged with murdering a young paralegal, Kathy Rubinkowski, on the streets of an unnamed mid-American city.

I disliked Kolarich as a stubborn loner, a cowboy in his words, who is prepared to personally assault and torture in the pursuit of justice. I have a problem with vigilante lawyers.

I admired Kolarich taking on the murder defence pro bono but found it improbable that he could put his whole firm onto the defence with little apparent means to sustain themselves financially.

I thought Kolarich’s efforts to defend the deeply psychologically damaged Stoller superb. His plan to plead insanity and raise the post traumatic stress disorder suffered by his client while in Iraq very well done. The challenge of building evidence for a defence was demonstrated. It is not a simple process. Experts offer different theories. Evidence does not fit precisely the defence to be argued. Judges make unexpected rulings.

My favourite scenes are his efforts to interview his client. Few clients are articulate. Many struggle to express themselves. You have to understand your client to be able to defend him or her. Kolarich’s meetings with Stoller are moving.

When the plot moves into court the arguments and questioning of witnesses are authentic.

I expect Ellis was venting some past frustrations in the creation of the irascible aged Judge Bertrand Nash who berates all counsel appearing before him.

Ellis has some fine phrasing:

            “I don’t believe in coincidences,” I said. “But I do believe
            in cover-ups.”

At the same time there is a spectre of Mob involvement and a shadowy conspiracy. They sapped credibility from the plot and were a distraction. There was more than enough tension built into the struggle to defend Stoller in a conventional legal mystery.

The book veered from a legal mystery to thriller. As often in thrillers there was a mystery woman and attacks upon the hero. I wish Ellis would have been content to develop the legal mystery. The book is well suited for Hollywood. It will barely need to be adapted. As the book began I was thinking of John Grisham but as it progressed it became more Christopher Reichs.

The book was on the shortlist for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. While there are aspects of the book I did not enjoy, I admire those determining the shortlist for including The Wrong Man. It departs from the regular legal mysteries which were past winners – The Confession by John Grisham and The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly. I have purchased this year’s winner, Havana Requiem, and am interested to find out whether it fits more into legal mystery or legal thriller or some other form of legal fiction.

The action is well done. The book moves swiftly Ellis ties together the strands of the plot well. It is a good book. Readers wanting a high paced thriller with a lawyer as hero will find it a great book. For myself, I would have preferred more court and less mayhem. (July 22/13)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

“P” is for Louise Penny as Movie Producer

Nathaniel Parker and Louise Penny
Canadian author, Louise Penny, has gained fame as the author of the Inspector Armand Gmache series with most of the books set in the fictional village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

Last year she also became a movie producer. The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), PDM Entertainment and Attraction Images purchased the rights to make a movie of Still Life, the first book in the series which won a group of awards - Arthur Ellis, Dagger, Anthony, Barry and Dilys. Penny is one of four executive producers.

Penny had previously declined offers from companies that wanted to create a T.V. series using her characters. In a CBC interview she said:

“I just couldn't do that. I couldn't let them do whatever they wanted with these characters: Gamache, Clara, Ruth. These characters really seem alive to me."

In the same interview Penny provided a comment on the filming that included a remark about continuing character, Clara Morrow, an artist who has gained an increasingly important role in the books:

"The first day they were on set — when I saw Nathaniel Parker as Gamache and Kate Hewlett as Clara Morrow, who is actually me — I cried. I couldn't believe they were alive."

I had not known that the sensitive and talented Clara was Penny.

Having watched what A & E has done with the charcters of Craig Johnson in the T.V. series Longmire I can appreciate her concern over how film makers will treat her characters. While I like Longmire overall I like the characters in the books better than the T.V. series.

I was glad that she was able to insist that the filming be done in Quebec. It adds to a show to be filmed in the location in which it is set.

What did surprise me is that Armand Gamache will be portrayed by an English actor, Nathaniel Parker, who played Inspector Lynley in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. He is not my image of Gamache.

I expect I am prejudiced that the producers did not choose a Canadian actor, especially a Quebec actor, to play Gamache who is a deeply Quebecois character in the books. I appreciate film makers should choose the best actors for roles but I will have to be convinced that Parker is right for the role.

The same group of companies who made Still Life have the rights to make a movie of the second book in the series, Dead Cold. The cautious Penny has not sold the rights to the third book. She wants to see how the movies of Still Life and Dead Cold turn out.

The CBC plans to air Still Life this fall. I am looking forward to watching the movie. I shall do my best to approach it with an open mind.
This post in my entry for "P" in that Alphabet in Crime Fiction hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise. Please drop over and see both the other entries and the many fascinating posts she has on her blog.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

2013 Harper Lee Prize Winner – Havana Requiem

The winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction in 2013 was announced earlier this week. It is Havana Requiem by Paul Goldstein.

The other books on the shortlist were:

1.) The Wrong Man by David Ellis; and,

2.) Defending Jacob by William Landay.

The ABA Journal invites readers to vote on which of the three books on the shortlist should win the prize. Havana Requiem was also the winner of the Readers Choice poll with 39.63%. Defending Jacob was 2nd with 38.97% and The Wrong Man was 3rd with 21.4%. What was noteworthy to me was that 1,519 votes were received by the ABA Journal.

On the University of Alabama Law School website for the Prize Goldstein is quoted as follows:

“Apart from its many other virtues, To Kill a Mockingbird was the first the novel to show me that it is possible to write about law and lawyers in a profoundly human, as well as literate, way. More than fifty years later, it is impossible to study any of the better lawyer-heroes of today’s novels without finding Atticus Finch looking back at you. I like to think that Michael Seeley, the hero of Havana Requiem, embodies not only Atticus’s integrity, but also his unvarnished nobility, and the Harper Lee Prize is not only a great honor for me, but evidence that perhaps I got it right.”

The site further sets out his distinguished legal career:

Goldstein is a member of the bars of New York and California and, since 1988, been of counsel to the law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP, where he advises clients on major intellectual property lawsuits and transactions. He has regularly been included in the annual volume Best Lawyers in America.

Since 1985 Goldstein has been the Lillick Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. He has testified before congressional committees on intellectual property legislation, been an invited expert at international governmental meetings on copyright issues, and he is a member of the editorial boards of leading intellectual property publications in England, Germany and Switzerland.

He has served as visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law in Munich, Germany, and he is a member of the founding faculty of the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center.
His website is http://paulgoldstein.law.stanford.edu/.

With regard to fiction he had written Errors and Omissions and A Patent Lie prior to Havana Requiem.

I have not read any of Goldstein’s books. I need to go looking in bookstores.

I am currently reading The Wrong Man after receiving strong recommendations from commenter Kathy D. I am enjoying the book and thank her for pushing me to read the book.

Congratulations Professor Goldstein!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – My older son, Jonathan, had raved to me about the book saying that he and his girlfriend had loved it. I expressed polite interest. Undismayed he sent the book to me as a Father’s Day present.

I was drawn in by the end of the first page and raced through the book. Pat Peoples narrates the story in an engaging style.

Pat is in a mental institution, Collingwood, sometimes described as a neural health facility in the book. Pat simply calls it the bad place.

(We live in an age that has chosen obfuscation rather than description. Statutes dealing with mental health problems have undergone great changes in Saskatchewan over the 37 years I have been a lawyer. When I began practising law mentally ill people were dealt with under The Lunacy Act.  A few years later it was The Mentally Disordered Persons Act. It then became The Dependant Adults Act. Currently I deal with The Adult Guardianship and Co-decision-Making Act. Whether the changes of name for the statute have benefited the mentally ill I have no comment. Certainly you can no longer determine the purpose of the Act from its name.)

Pat’s mother, Jeannie, offers him the chance to come home and he thinks:

I don’t want to stay in the bad place, where no one believes in silver linings or love or happy endings, and where everyone tells me Nikki will not like my new body, nor will she even want to see me when apart time is over. But I am also afraid the people from my old life will not be as enthusiastic as I am now trying to be.

Nikki was Pat’s wife when he was institutionalized and his goal in life is to be reunited.

Pat returns home. Convinced Nikki will want to be with him if he loses excess weight and becomes fit he obsessively weight trains and runs every day.

Life is challenging with his father, Patrick, isolating himself from the family and uninterested in talking with Pat.

At the same time Jeanie's love and patience with Pat is inspiring.

His friend, Ronnie, and Ronnie’s wife, Veronica, introduce him to her sister, Tiffany, who is also living with her parents and struggling with her own mental health issues. While far from encouraging her Pat finds Tiffany joining him on his long daily runs.

Wanting to improve himself as a person, Pat practises being kind.

His therapist, Cliff Patel, is remarkable at putting Pat at ease while he draws out Pat’s emotional turmoil and desperate desire to be better.

As Pat tries to resume life outside the bad place the passion of the Peoples’ men and the residents of Philadelphia for Philadelphia Eagles football brings Pat back into his family and community. They do not judge him as a recent mental patient. He is a fellow Eagles fan.

Quick evokes the emotional bonds of sports fans as well as anyone has ever written about them. Living in Saskatchewan where Rider Pride draws our province together I could vividly relate to the joys and sorrows of the Eagles fans. Even readers uninterested in sports must be stirred by the devotion to the Eagles.

Quick has created a wonderful character and voice in Pat who has returned to the innocence and simple intensity of youth. Yet Pat struggles with his return to the real world. He hallucinates. He has emotional outbursts that can be violent and self-destructive. He cannot recall lost years.

I found myself anxious to know whether this broken young man, so convinced there are silver linings in the clouds of his life, could recover his mental well being.

Having read the book I am now eager to watch the movie made from the book for which Jennifer Lawrence won the 2013 Oscar for Best Actress.

It is a book to be read when life is grim and dark clouds are all around and you need some silver linings in your life.  

I will no longer doubt Jonathan if he highly recommends a book to me. (July 6/13)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"O" is for Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter

"O" is for Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter will be my entry this week for the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog Mysteries in Paradise. It is a book I greatly enjoyed 7 years ago. It hardly seems possible we are into the second half of the alphabet.
45. - 360.) Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter – An outstanding debut. Spokane detective, Caroline Mabry, is 36 and very conscious of her age (she is living with a 24 year old man). An attempted drug arrest in a park turns in a comedy of errors and then a debacle when a young drug dealer is shoved into a concrete river. Mabry tries desperately to save him. When he is swept away the resulting search turns up the ritualized corpses of prostitutes. A task force led by senior detective, Alan Dupree, and including Mabry seek out the connections between the
murders. Eventually a pair of competing profilers are drawn into the chase. The profilers struggle to make the clues fit their approaches to serial murderers. Mabry and Dupree struggle with their existing relationships and each other. The solution is innovative and a challenge to the “science” of profiling. The characters are alive. Excellent. Hardcover or paperback. (Nov. 12/06)
My connection with the book is travel related. A few years ago my family and I stopped in Spokane while traveling from Seattle to Saskatchewan. I hope to return to Spokane. It is a lovely city.

Friday, July 12, 2013

“N” is for Alamo, North Dakota by Phil Rustad

“N” is for Alamo, North Dakota by Phil Rustad – Dan Neumann is a semi-retired Minneapolis homicide detective who stays active writing books on forensic ballistics and consulting with police departments and being an expert witness. Life is good though a bit humdrum.

The peace of his quiet Minneapolis suburb in late fall is destroyed when his friend, Pete Anderson, calls him. Pete’s Grams, his grandmother Anderson, has been killed by someone who broke into her home.

Dan rushes over to the home and offers his support to Pete and the Edina Police Department. Family and investigators are puzzled that nothing was taken.

Searching through her possessions the family makes a pair of unexpected discoveries that go back to Gram’s roots in northwestern North Dakota at the small community of Alamo.

There is a collection of letters written over decades from a man who loved Grams and signed each letter “Forever Yours”.                                                                                                                                                                              
There is also a deed about mineral rights in North Dakota.

Finding an electronic device that bypassed the alarm system seems more professional than the average local burglar. Still, with no motive for the breakin the police are finding it difficult to move the investigation ahead.

Shortly after, an intrusion into Pete’s home is thwarted by Sinbad, the family dog. Evidence of a comparable electronic device to bypass the alarm is found.

Once again no one can find a reason for the second incursion.

With both investigations faltering Dan is looking forward to a visit for Thanksgiving from Maria, an LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) from Phoenix, Arizona was has brought joy into his life.

Readers are able to know the purpose of the breakins as the perpetrators are identified and discuss their actions.

The action heats up on a dramatic Thanksgiving Day and the mystery starts to unravel.

The investigation takes Dan and other officers to western North Dakota, where the Bakken formation has produced the greatest oil boom in an American region in the last 25 years.

Dan is a staunch Minnesotan. He avoids flash. He is reliable. He exudes the form of earnestness displayed in the movie, Fargo, by the pregnant police chief played by Frances McDormand.

Do not expect any flaws in the good people. They are all solid persons who love guns. Even in Minnesota most of the men are carrying guns and proud to have them.

It is a pretty good mystery. It was interesting to learn about American oil leases. Non-lawyers may not be as excited.

Not many mysteries have tried to take an ongoing economic event, the Bakken boom in the book, and work it into the story.

For much of the book I thought the name of Alamo for a North Dakota town did not fit. I am accustomed to North Dakota place names related to the European origins of settlers. I did not recall many Texans homesteading in North Dakota. Notes after the ending proved me wrong. It is a good choice for the name of the town.

I did find some frustration as, based on the information disclosed in the book, Dan and the other investigators were far slower in recognizing the significance of evidence than I would have expected. (July 8/13)


Alamo, North Dakota, is my post for the letter “N” in the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme being hosted by Kerrie Smith at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise. My connection to my “N” is that many times I have travelled  through and around North Dakota on trips through the northern United States. Rustad does a good job of describing North Dakota geography and climate. When I bought the book I did not realize probably 2/3 of the story was in Minnesota rather than North Dakota.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson – University of Chicago History Professor, William E. Dodd, is offered the position of American ambassador to Germany in 1933 just after Hitler has assumed power essentially because no one else wanted the job. President Franklin Roosevelt gave him two hours to consider the offer. Dodd accepted.

The austere Dodd, who loved to spend time working on his small Virginia farm, is often described in the book as a Jeffersonian democrat. With modest personal resources and determined to live on his official annual salary of $17,500.00 he was ill suited to serving in a foreign service dominated by members of America’s wealthy elite. The members of the “Pretty Good Club” were condescending at best in their attitudes towards Dodd.

Joining Dodd in Berlin were his wife, Martha known as “Mattie”, his son, William Jr. known as “Bill” and his daughter, Martha.

A jolt of sexual energy runs through the book as the daughter, Martha, engages in affairs with men of multiple European nationalities including Russians, Germans and French. She is attracted to good men, average men and dangerous men.

As they arrive in Germany Dodd and his family share a positive attitude. Dodd enjoyed his studies at Leipzig prior to WW I. They have an American optimism that is a wonderful trait of many Americans. They are wary of Nazis but hopeful the early violence of the regime was an aberration.

Where I had thought of the SS and the Gestapo as the most feared agencies in Nazi Germany the book makes clear that in the early days it was the SA which caused the most anxiety. With their aggressive marches and crude tactics they were a menace to anyone not an avowed supporter of Hitler. It is Ernst Rohm, head of the SA, rather than Heinrich Himmler, in charge of the SS, who lives in a fine home down the street.

Dodd is one of many to find Hitler’s personality uncomfortable during meetings. More important he believes Hitler’s sincere expressions that Hitler wants peace. While Hitler is verbally interested in peace all around Germany re-armament has begun. With the terrible losses that took place in WW I, diplomats and politicians in Europe and North America want to believe Hitler’s words.

There is a fascinating moment when Martha has a private discussion with Hitler. Nazi Putzi Hanfstaengel had an idea that an American woman would be a good choice for the spouse of the Fueher. While the rendezvous was not repeated Martha's observations of Hitler were positive:

“Hitler’s eyes,” she wrote, “were startling and unforgettable – they seemed pale blue in color, were intense, unwavering, hypnotic.”

Yet his manner was gentle – “excessively gentle,” she wrote – more that of a shy teenager than an iron dictator. “Unobtrusive, communicative, informal, he had a certain quiet charm, almost a tenderness of speech and glance,” she wrote.


He “seemed modest, middle class, rather dull and self-conscious – yet with the strange tenderness and appealing helplessness,” Martha wrote.

The story of this All-American family in Germany, as the Nazis steadily strengthen their grip on Germany, is compelling.

The Dodds support Jewish people but have their own prejudices. Ambassador Dodd speaks to senior Nazis of how America resolved the issue of too many American Jews in high ranking university positions through quotas.

There are vivid portrayals of such Nazi leaders as Goebbels and Goring.

I have long read that Berliners were famous for sardonic humour but I have rarely seen examples. Larson provides several. Two arose after Hitler’s “Night of the Long Knives” in which he purged the leadership of the SA.

There was a question between Berliners after the killings:

            “Are you still among the living?”

When Hitler said the homosexuality of Ernst Rohm, the SA’s leader was “a complete surprise to him” Berliners joked:

            “What will he do when he finally finds out about Gobbels’s
            club foot?”
During their first year in Berlin the family, especially Martha, is transformed. Where 80 years later we see the Nazis through their brutality, especially during WW II, they were subtler in their early days in power. Life, except for Jews and Communists, was improving for the German people under Hitler’s leadership of the nation in 1933. It was only through daily contact with Nazis that the Dodd family came to appreciate the Nazis were cruel and dangerous.

It is a brilliant book unfolding as a mystery with the Ambassador and his family gradually working out that the dangers at the heart of Nazi Germany. (June 30/13)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

6th Canadian Book Challenge (Part II)

In my last post I discussed the 6th Canadian Book Challenge which ended earlier this week. Tonight's post deals with the books read during the Challenge.

The 13 books I read for the Challenge this year were:
1.) Before the Poison by Peter Robinson
2.) The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton
3.) Murder in a Cold Climate by Scott Young (1988)
4.) The Legends of the Lake on the Mountain by Roderick Benns

5.)  River in a Dry Land by Trevor Herriot and Reflections on River in a Dry Land
6.) Healthy, Wealthy & Dead (1994) by Suzanne North
7.) A Murder of Crows by David Rotenberg
8.) Redefining Success – Still Making Mistakes by W. Brett Wilson

9.) "C" is for Showdown at Border Town by Caroline Woodward

10.) “H” is for High Chicago by Howard Shrier

11.) The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton

12.) When the Saints Go Marching In by Anthony Bidulka

13.) "M" is for Murder at the Mendel by Gail Bowen (1992)

 I was alittle surprised when I realized that only 2 of the 13 books, Redefining Success and River in a Dry Land were non-fiction.

Three of the books - River in a Dry Land, When the Saints Go Marching In and Murder at the Mendel - were set in Saskatchewan.

Two books - The Legends of the Lake on the Mountain and Showdown at Border Town - were part of the Leaders & Legacies series of the adventures of young future Canadian Prime Ministers.

I liked all the books and would recommend them all to readers. At the same time I would not describe any of them as outstanding.

Out of the group, the pair of books by Ian Hamilton featuring forensic accountant and martial arts expert, Ava Lee, were my favourite finds of the year. Ava is a compelling character and the plots ricocheting around the world are fast paced. Ava reminds me abit of V.I. Warshawski.

My favourite book of the 13 was Murder in a Cold Climate. Matthew “Matteesie” Kitogitak is a fascinating character with an unconventional lifestyle for an RCMP inspector. The mystery set in the winter of northern Canada is a story that is uniquely Canadian in its combination of climate, location, geography, people and snowmobiles.

I am starting on the 7th Canadian Book Challenge next week.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

6th Canadian Book Challenge Roundup (Part I)

The 6th Canadian Book Challenge ended on Sunday, June 30. The 7th Canadian Book Challenge began the next day, July 1, which is Canada Day.

I managed to complete the 13 books for the 6th Challenge but it was a cliffhanger with my 13th review published minutes before midnight on June 30 in Saskatchewan. One of the advantages of living in a country with 6 time zones is that I could still have published an hour later and it would have been before midnight in the Mountain time zone of Canada.

The Challenge went well overall. Host, John Mutford, at his Book Mine Set blog set out the following information:

     Let's see what the stats say:
      - We've read and reviewed a total of 1041 books! 
      - The grand total for all 6 years combined is 5179.
      - Of the people 59 who participated, 31 finished (reached 13 or
     more books)
      - Irene read and reviewed a whopping 70 books. Impressive!  
      - The most popular author reviewed was Alan Bradley, with 24
     reviews. Though Margaret Atwood had the most books
     reviewed (11). Bradley's reviews were spread over 5 books (and
     their audiobook versions).
     - The most popular book reviewed was a tie between Will
     Ferguson's 419 and Alan Bradley's Speaking from Among the
     Bones. Each had 8 reviews.

Once again in 2013 I find myself in another circumstance, the Challenge this time, having neither read the most popular two authors during the past year nor the most popular two books. I have not read any Award winners in 2013 as far as I know. For most of the Awards I have barely read any of the shortlists.

I was curious about Irene having read 70 books and went over to her blog site. Irene Roth has a website devoted to Canadian book reviews. It is http://canadianbooksblog.wordpress.com/. On the site she provides short reviews, usually about 3 paragraphs. on a variety of books. Most are picture books or young adult books or poetry.

It is a reflection of our wired and wireless age that the Challenge is hosted by a writer living in a city, Yellowknife, north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories.

There have been intriguing logos for each of the Challenges but the 6th Challenge picture of a Mountie in his red serge tunic is an iconic Canadian image.

In my next post I will go through the 13 books I read for the challenge.

It is a beautiful summer evening as I write this post sitting on my deck looking through the darkening trees at the western sky. The pure blue sky is tinged with pink as twilight descends. If only there were no mosquitoes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New to Me Authors for April to June of 2013

During the second trimester of 2013, April 1 to June 30, I was  I read 7 new authors in the last 3 months. The total is down slightly from the opening 3 months when I read 9 new authors.

They were:

3.) Murder One by Robert Dugoni;
4.) Pierced by Thomas Enger;
5.) The Third Riel Conspiracy by Stephen Legault (I have not yet posted a review post. It will be my entry for "T" in the Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme. It is an interesting mystery set in Saskatchewan before we became a province and were still part of the Northwest Territories.);
6.) The Rising by Brian McGilloway (I have not put up a review post but it is coming. The book is a contemporary Irish mystery which I picked up in Dublin almost a year ago.); and,
7.) In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson (I finished on June 29 and will have a review post shortly. It involves William E. Dodd and his family when he was the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 - 1937. It focuses on their first year in Germany. They arrived shortly after Hitler had taken power.)

Two of the books were non-fiction, Redefining Success and In the Garden of the Beasts. Both were excellent books.

Of the 5 mysteries my favourite was Showdown at Border Town. Caroline Woodward is a teenage author who crafted a good mystery set 60 years ago featuring a Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, as a teenager. The series Leaders & Legacies, which has  Prime Ministers in adventures at 12-13 years old, has reached 3 books with a fourth expected later this year.

Overall I read 14 books during the three months which is about average. With 7 new authors half of my books read were new authors to me. The percentage is alittle higher than I would expect to have in my reading.

This quarterly post continues to help keep my reading varied.