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THE WINNERS' CIRCLE
by Gail Bowen
McClelland & Stewart, August 2017
272 pages
$32.00 CAD
ISBN: 0771024061


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Gail Bowen's approach to the mystery genre is a bit hard to categorize. The crime and its resolution, conventionally at the centre of the classic detective novel, are often somewhat off-centre, with Bowen's attention fixed on the aftermath of the crime, on what needs to be done to repair the damage. But if this sounds cosily inspirational, think again. Bowen is thoroughly aware of the pleasures and solaces that money can provide but she also knows all too well that some losses are irreparable. The best we can do is figure out how to go on afterwards.

In this, the seventeenth instalment of the Joanne Kilbourn series, the crime, centrepiece of most crime novels, does not take place until more than two-thirds of the way through the book, at which point Joanne and her family must somehow come to terms with the devastation that follows in its wake. Consequently, much of the novel is preoccupied with back story, with details of the history of the law firm Falconer Shreve that Joanne's husband Zack founded along with other member of his law school class. That circle of friends was cocky and confident at graduation, so much so that they dubbed themselves the "Winners Circle." They remained close over the years, building not only a successful law firm but also constructing a little cottage colony on the shores of a nearby lake that became dubbed "Lawyers' Bay."

Of course, over the years, there were fallings-out, differences of opinion, and the occasional tragedy that diminished the solidity of the group. At this point, Zack, now the mayor of Regina, Saskatchewan, can no longer be an active participant. There are differences of opinion about what direction the firm should take in the future. But there is nothing to challenge the Winners like the catastrophe to come.

It is difficult to say for certain what direction the series will take from here. From a certain perspective, it hard to see how it might develop. On the other hand, the younger generation, including Joanne and Zack's foster child, the precociously-gifted teenaged artist Taylor, seek actively to air out the musty cupboards of the past in order to move forward.

THE WINNERS' CIRCLE cannot really be recommended to readers unfamiliar with the series - there's just too much information to absorb about the connections among the characters. Much better to retreat a bit down the backlist to make an acquaintance with Joanne and her circle. For those, however, who have been following events in Regina over the years, this entry makes for an absorbing read, if a sobering one.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, August 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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