Dead and Living


222 pages
ISBN 0-920544-96-7
DDC C813'.54






Reviewed by Don Crosby

Don Crosby is a journalist in Durham, Ontario.


This novel is based on the trial records of Rodger Pearse Brown, who in
1971 gave himself up to Vancouver police authorities because of his
possible involvement in the unsolved murder of a cab driver outside of
Geraldton, Ontario, on a snowy night in 1947. The story is based on Jane
Bow’s recollections of the trial, at which she served as the reporter
for a Thunder Bay newspaper. Brown naively believes that by submitting
himself to the system of justice he will finally discover the truth
about a night blotted out by drink, and that somehow his 25 years of
guilt will finally be washed away. What he doesn’t realize is that the
legal system is designed to deliver justice, not ascertain truth.

This overly long novel tries to do too much, as it examines the
Canadian justice system, and attempts to create a psychological thriller
by reconstructing the last 25 years of Brown’s life. Bow presents a
disturbing picture of how police evidence is selected and manipulated to
support an argument. The courtroom decision turns on a legal
technicality that finds Brown not guilty, but leaves him still uncertain
of his innocence. Dead and Living could have been pared down to a good
short story or worked into an exposé of the Canadian judicial system.
In its present form it does neither well; like the judicial decision, it
leaves the reader dissatisfied.


Bow, Jane., “Dead and Living,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024,