CM February 9, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 17

image Criminal acts 1:
the Canadian true crime annual.

Allan Gould.
Toronto: Macmillan, 1994. 199pp, paper, $14.95.
ISBN 0-7715-9068-7. No CIP.

Subject Headings:
Crime-Canada-Case studies.
Criminals-Canada-Case studies.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Neil V. Payne.


Vancouver, January


It was all a set-up. Parminder Chana got a phone call in his car at 9:00 p.m. from a friend, saying he had to see the man right away, and they should meet at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia salvage yard in New Westminster, where the twenty-one-year-old worked as a night security guard.

When Chana got to the yard, he was wrestled to the ground and stabbed, and the following morning his body was found floating in a ditch nearby. His throat slit, his fingers amputated and his body stabbed fifty-three times.
Four days later, Chana's seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Jassy Benji, jumped to her death from the Pattullo Bridge, leaving a suicide note that read: "When Parmar died, I died."
In the trial, the court learned that Jassy's brother, Rajinder, had killed Chana because he frowned on his sister dating the man. Faisel Ali Dean was convicted of second-degree murder after his girlfriend admitted that he had bragged to her about holding Chana down while Rajinder Benji stabbed him. Faisel was expected to be sentenced in February.

Gould has set himself the task "to try to capture a year of Crime and Justice in Canada." This is a large job that could provide a valuable source of information for both interested readers and students studying a wide range of related topics.

The author collected his information from a systematic reading of Canadian newspapers, then distilled the data into a brief chronological account of each case.

The book itself is organised chronologically, with each case assigned to the date it came to the author's attention -- in some cases the date of the crime, in others the date of an arrest; in some the trial date, or the date of a trial judgement. Each case, once started, is reported to its completion before another is started.

Interspersed on the pages, with no apparent organization, are occasional boxes of interesting information about Canadian law, public opinion, survey results, statistics, and so on.

The book is written in a breezy, fast-paced style that makes interesting light reading -- like a supermarket tabloids. Criminal acts 1 is certainly entertaining, but anyone hoping to use it as a source of reliable information will be totally frustrated.

There is an endless stream of facts, statistics, and quotations in this book, yet nowhere is any source cited. The "tens of thousands of newspapers'' searched for information all remain nameless. Surveys, studies, and sources of statistics presented, if identified at all, are vaguely attributed to "an Angus Reid poll," "a Statistics Canada release," or "according to Canada-wide studies."

There is no index provided to names of the accused or the victims, the type of crime, categories of statistics, or anything else. Readers searching for a particular case must scan every page to find the relevant sections.

Criminal acts 1 is replete with unsubstantiated opinion, editorializing, and emotional catch-phrases. And since the sources are not cited the reader has no way to evaluate whether the account is complete, fair, or even truthful.

Karla Homolka graces the cover in living colour beside a brilliant yellow upper right corner that promises the book "chronicles the Homolka/Bernardo case." That was no doubt good for sales, but it fails to mention that coverage of the case only goes as far as Karla's conviction and the media ban.

The idea of Criminal acts is a good one, and the book could have provided a valuable summary of crime and justice in Canada, a starting point for many essays and assignments, or a quick reference to the basic facts of any case or issue in Canadian law. With solid research, factual rather than opinion-based reporting, careful citing of sources, and an extensive index, this could have filled a very real gap in the information available in this area of vital concern.

Unfortunately, in its present form, if it were a Grade 10 assignment, it would earn a "D" and the comment, "this assignment is poorly organized and incomplete -- I know you can do much better."

Not recommended.

Neil V. Payne is a teacher-librarian at Kingston Collegiate in Kingston Ontario.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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