Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A Colder Kind of Death: Gail Bowen

Gail Bowen is the author of an 18-book series featuring Joanne Kilbourn, a Canadian political analyst and college professor who lives in Regina, Saskatchewan. I recently read the fourth book in this series, A Colder Kind of Death, which won the Arthur Ellis award for Best Novel in 1995.


In the first book in the series, Joanne is a widow with three children, the oldest nearing college age. By the third book, she had adopted a fourth child, the daughter of an old friend who died. Most of the books focus in some way on her family and her family life is prominent in the stories. This story involves events related to the death of her husband, a subject that has haunted Joanne for years.

First paragraphs:
Three minutes before the Hallowe'en edition of “Canada This Week” went on the air I learned that the man who murdered my husband had been shot to death. 
A technician was kneeling in front of me, adjusting my mike. Her hair was smoothed under a black skull-­cap, and she was wearing a black leotard and black tights. Her name was Leslie Martin, and she was dressed as a bat. 
... I glanced at the TV monitor behind her. 
At first, I ­didn’t recognize the face on the screen. The long blond hair and the pale goat-­like eyes were familiar, but I ­couldn’t place him. Then the still photograph was gone. In its place was the scene that had played endlessly in my head during the black months after Ian’s death. But these pictures weren’t in my head. The images on the TV were real. The desolate stretch of highway; the snow swirling in the air; the Volvo station wagon with the door open on the driver’s side; and on the highway beside the car, my husband’s body with a dark and bloody spillage where his head should have been.
The face on the screen was Ian Kilbourn's killer, Kevin Tarpley, and he had just been shot and killed while in prison. Several days after that, Tarpley’s sinister wife, Maureen, is discovered dead wearing a scarf that belongs to Joanne, which puts her under suspicion. The investigation into both recent deaths lead to old secrets and surprises for Joanne.

This book does not have a holiday theme but it begins on Halloween and continues through to the days before Christmas. Gail is more actively involved in looking for the murderer than in some of the earlier books. There are many characters, and, as usual, I had trouble keeping track of them.

For me, this was the best book in the series so far. The pacing is good and the story never bogs down.

Links to my reviews of the Joanne Kilbourn series, so far:

1. Deadly Appearances (1990)
2. Murder at the Mendel (1991)
3. The Wandering Soul Murders (1992)


 -----------------------------

Publisher:   McClelland & Stewart, 2011 (orig. pub. 1995)
Length:       228 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       Joanne Kilbourn #4
Setting:      Saskatchewan, Canada
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.


21 comments:

  1. TracyK: Glad to hear you enjoyed another in the series. I never thought about how many characters are in the series with many continuing from book to book. Through reading the whole series these characters, many in Joanne's family, are like an extended literary family. I hope you will continue to make reading trips to Saskatchewan. You may want to stay in California during January. It is about -23C this evening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill, I am definitely glad not to be experiencing your cold weather today. The weather here has been cold (for Santa Barbara) but balmy in comparison.

      Yes, I will be continuing my visits to Gail Bowen's series. I have one more in the series but it is a later one. I will have to seek out the next one. Luckily the local independent bookstore has been stocking the Joanne Kilbourn series, so it must be in demand here.

      Delete
  2. Tracy, I'm yet to read Gail Bowen's fiction, though I have read several good reviews of the Joanne Kilbourn series. It's interesting the author has revolved this story around her protagonist, thereby taking the reader into her past probably as a means to reach closure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I very much liked the way this story was handled, Prashant. It is as much about the protagonist's family as it is about a crime.

      Delete
  3. I'm fairly certain that I read a book or two in this series a long time ago. I have no idea which ones. I checked to see if any are available at my library and the early ones are not. Then I checked to see about purchasing them and they are quite pricey in e-book format. Was there a TV adaptation perhaps? Anyway, I'll have to think about what to do as I'm so fond of buying the older paperbacks - the print is so small. Maybe I can get it through inter-library loan. Thanks for featuring this author though, Tracy. Fits the Canada challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a perfect series for the Canada challenge, Kay, because the setting of Saskatchewan is so important in the stories. Yes, there was a TV adaptation but I don't know much about it. The trade paperbacks are very nice but not inexpensive either.

      Delete
  4. I'm very glad to hear you liked this one so well, Tracy. I like Joanne Kilbourn's character very much, and you're right about the pacing and timing. They're quite effective in this story, and there's just the right amount of action, if that makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This one was especially good, Margot. I haven't even read any summaries of the future books, I want to be surprised by each new book.

      Delete
  5. Do you think this is a series that needs (as so many do) to be read in order?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rick, this series is best read in order because there are changes in Joanne's life and family as the series goes along. I already know more about some later events than I would like, but that is what happens when you start a series late. BUT, this book could easily be read as a standalone, and I often forget what I read before anyway. I think you can go either way. But the first book is really good too.

      Delete
  6. I love the Joanne Kilbourn books: I read this one ages ago, but remember it very well. I think Bowen does an amazing job in combining personal details and murder plots, I don't know many writers who do it so well. That said, I am behind on this series- but I will slowly catch up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have plenty of catching up to do too, Moira. Already looking around for a copy of the 5th book.

      Delete
  7. Fascinating premise, and from the sample here it would seem the writing is superb. I think you sold another to me, Tracy (provided there's an ebook edition)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There! I just downloaded the Kindle version of #1!

      Delete
    2. I am glad you are interested in the series, Mathew, and I hope you like the first book. There are lots of things to like.

      Delete
  8. After reading your review, I am very happy to already own a copy of this book. Thanks Tracy. --Keishon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was very pleased with this book, Keishon. Hope you like it when you get to it.

      Delete
  9. thank you for your well written review.
    I should read the series

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tanza, Saskatchewan is an interesting place to read about.

      Delete
  10. Not an author or series I've tried Tracy. If I was to go for one - this one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Col, A Colder Kind of Death by Bowen would be more to your taste. Although the first one is good too. The first one did get slow in the middle for me and this one keeps up the pace.

      Delete