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Verdict in Blood [Hardcover]

Gail Bowen
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 5 1998 Joanne Kilbourn Mysteries
Verdict in Blood is Gail Bowen’s sixth novel featuring Joanne Kilbourn, one of Canada’s most beloved sleuths. Teacher, friend, lover, single mother, and now grandmother, Joanne has a quick intelligence and a boundless compassion, which repeatedly get her into – and out of – trouble.

In Verdict in Blood, Joanne’s good friend Hilda McCourt is visiting her in Regina, Saskatchewan, when Judge Justine Blackwell’s corpse is found sprawled across one of the limestone slabs of the Boy Scout memorial in Wascana Park. Blackwell, known for the harsh sentences she’s handed down over the years, had lately been seeking out people she’d once incarcerated and trying to help them. Had she had a genuine change of heart, or had she been getting senile? Even the fearsome judge herself had wondered. Just the night before her death, she’d asked Hilda to make an assessment of her mental condition.

Now she’s dead, the matter is urgent: Which of her two wills should prevail – the one leaving everything to her daughters, including the famous sixties singer Lucy Blackwell, or the one leaving it all to Culhane House, a halfway house for ex-cons? Whoever stood to lose could be her murderer, and Hilda has to decide. Before too long, Joanne (who has problems enough of her own with her lover, Alex, and his troubled nephew, Eli) finds herself once again embroiled in intrigue.

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Joanne Kilbourn is a 51-year-old professor of political science, broadcaster, mother, lover, and amateur crime solver based in Regina, Saskatchewan. She's an original and immensely appealing character, totally believable in all her roles. In five previous installments, author Gail Bowen has supplied such a convincing array of details about her family, friends, and the landscape they inhabit that we slip into Joanne's life as easily as knocking on a neighbor's door.

The plot of this sixth book in the series is also strong on family and friends: when a tough judge, Justine Blackwell, suddenly softens up after 30 years on the bench and supports a prisoners' rights group, attacks from her three angry daughters make her doubt her own mental competence. Judge Blackwell turns to an elderly teacher and mentor, Hilda McCourt, for advice. McCourt is staying with her friend Kilbourn when they both get the news that Judge Blackwell has been battered to death in a public park. A group of ex-prisoners who had been incarcerated by the judge seem to have reasons to want Blackwell dead, but so do the Lear-like daughters, especially a former rock star and a discredited psychiatrist.

In addition to helping McCourt sift through the evidence, and then having to deal with another brutal attack, Joanne is also caught up in the psychological problems of the fragile 15-year-old nephew of her policeman lover. In all the turmoil, she still has time to become a grandmother, a scene described with as much honest emotion and artistry as the rest of Bowen's engrossing book. Other Kilbourn outings include Deadly Appearances, A Colder Kind of Death, and A Killing Spring. --Dick Adler

Review

“A deeply involving novel…Bowen has supplied such a convincing array of details about [Joanne Kilbourn’s] family, friends and the landscape they inhabit that we slip into her life as easily as knocking on a neighbor’s door.”
Publishers Weekly

“Bless Gail Bowen, she does it all: genuine human characters, terrific plots with coherent resolutions, and good, sturdy writing.”
–Joan Barfoot in the London Free Press

“An author in full command of her metier. Like a master chef, Gail Bowen has taken disparate elements…and combined them seamlessly.”
Calgary Herald

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Joanne Kilbourn does it again Feb. 1 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Verdict in Blood by Gail Bowen McClelland and Stewart 1998
Judge Justine Blackwell is bludgeoned to death after leaving a party celebrating her 30 years on the bench. A call in the middle of the night wakens Joanne Kilbourn to ask that her 83 year-old friend and house guest, Hilda McCourt, identify the body. It turns out that Hilda has been asked by the Judge to decide if she is becoming senile. Judge McCourt has been spending a lot of time developing a halfway house for released criminals and her three daughters think she is losing it. When a will shows up that leaves the bulk of her fortune to the halfway house, the daughters become very upset. Some very unsavory characters at the halfway are linked to the Judge and come under suspicion. When Hilda is attacked and nearly killed in Joanne's home Joanne begins to put the pieces together and eventually solve the riddle of the Judges death.
The personal life of Joanne continues to be hectic. Her budding romance with Alex Kequahtooway, hits some snags when Alex's nephew Eli, disappears and Joanne's good-intentioned comments about his care raise Alex's hackles. An old lover returns to Saskatoon and wants to rekindle their old flame and throws Joanne into a bit of a tizzy. Joanne becomes a grandmother and her adopted daughter continues to grow in spirit and painting ability.
A good solid read but not as good as "Burying Ariel". After watching two made-for-TV movies of Bowen's previous books just before reading this book I had a little trouble getting my head around Joanne's character again. They are presented quite differently in book and movie.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I want to read all her other books! Jan. 28 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I just discovered Gail Bowen when we were doing a mystery program on Canadian and Alaskan mysteries at our local library. Of all the new authors I sampled, Gail Bowen was my favorite! I was instantly struck by how well written A Killing Spring was. Also, I found that not only did I like the character of Joanne Kilbourn, I also cared about her and wanted to go back and read all the previous mysteries in the series to see her character develop. I found all the characters in the book quite engaging and well developed, and also became quite fond of Jo's elderly friend Hilda, whom I hope to meet again in other books in the series. I found the Saskatchewan setting added another appealing element--just a bit exotic to a reader living in California! Jo's romance with an "aboriginal" (Indian) policeman, as well as her relationship with her children and with the troubled nephew of her policeman friend, all add three-dimensionality to her character. Gail Bowen is a great new discovery for me, and I am recommending her to all my mystery-reading friends! I am eager to read all the other books in this series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful series continues May 16 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Gail Bowen has done it again! Political Science professor/sleuth Joanne Kilbourn, in the latest in this excellent series from Canada, has a full plate, indeed. She manages to lead a full life with all its joy and despair. She's a "real" person; as I mentioned in a review of an earlier work of Bowen's, one of the rewards, for me, in this series is watching the growth and development of "true" people. The protagonist and her family and friends come alive for this reader, and they don't stay stuck in one time slot book after book. Not at all - They age - Children mature - (If not that, at least they grow up)- A grandchild arrives and so on. Through it all, because of Bowen's very fine writing, we have a novel of three-dimensional characters about whom we care deeply and I, for one, look forward to meeting them all again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bowen is a class act. Oct. 26 1998
Format:Hardcover
Gail Bowen's series featuring Joanne Kilbourn, widow, mother,collge teacher and political analyst for the radio is one that should be anyone who likes marvelous writing, interesting, three-dimensional characters and amazing insight into society at the end of the 20th century. Set in Saskatchewan, the books, even when discussing Canadian politics, are very accesible to non-Canadians. In this entry, Joanne gets involved in the brutal murder of a female judge who in the last year of her life has made some uncharacteristic decisions. Joanne's friend, Hilda McCourt, had been asked by the judge to determine if she has mental problems. After the murder Hilda stays involved to the point of almost losing her life. Joanne can not stay out of it even though her relationship with a policeman is going through a very bad patch. Gail Bowen's books cannot be recommended highly enough.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good work Aug. 27 1998
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
While patrolling Wascana Park, the Regina Saskatchewan police find the murdered body of Judge Justine Blackwell sprawled across the Boy Scout Memorial. The victim, renowned for her brutal sentencing, has a note on her person containing the name of Hilda McCourt, a senior citizen visiting Joanne Kilbourne, whose phone number was also on the paper.
In recent months Judge Blackwell had begun to act strange. She talked with some of the individuals she put away behind bars and offered to help them. The Judge was so worried about her mental state, she asked Hilda to assess her mind. The issue soon becomes not who killed the Judge, but which of her wills is valid. The older document leaves everything to her children. The newer document, recently processed, bestows her estate to a halfway house for former convicts. Joanne begins to investigate the final days of the Judge without realizing that she has placed her own life in danger.
The sixth Kilbourn who-done-it is a wonderful mystery that feeds on the craving and naiveté of individuals. The story line is impressive and the characters, especially the octogenarian Hilda, add much depth to an already complex storyline. The insiders tour of Regina also provides much warmth (in spite of the climate) to a well written regional amateur sleuth tale. This is a series well worth reading.

Harriet Klausner
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