Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes By Silver Donald Cameron

    I received a free publisher's digital review copy, via Netgalley.

    Phillip Boudreau was an incorrigible criminal with, according to some prison psychiatrists, the moral development of a five-year-old. Living on the small Canadian Maritimes island of Isle Madame, Phillip brazenly steals, vandalizes, threatens, and—as we find out late in the book—worse. This is a fishing community, and Phillip commonly not only steals lobsters from neighbors’ traps, he sells the lobsters on the town wharf, and he cuts their trap lines and vandalizes their traps.

    Though Phillip has been committing crimes for years, and been arrested and jailed many times, much of the time the Mounties and the Fisheries officials are unsuccessful catching him. And, as some townspeople say, Phillip’s threats are worse than the crimes, because you can’t feel safe, and law enforcement don’t do anything about them.

    The years of fear, anger and frustration come to a head one sunny day in June, as lobstermen James Landry, his son-in-law, and their hired man see Phillip stealing their lobsters and taunting them as he cuts the lines. The lobstermen come back to port, but Phillip never does. His speedboat is found drifting, missing its motor.

    Cameron vividly depicts life on Isle Madame, a place where everybody knows everybody else, and people don’t tend to lock their houses or vehicles (even with Phillip around). He describes the court case in detail, the prosecution’s version of the case, defense counsels’ versions, the court’s instructions, the verdicts, sentencing, and the aftermath for the community.

    Cameron asks the question: what do you do in a small community with someone like Phillip Boudreau, when the legal system has failed? What is the effect of violence on the community? This is a striking story not just of crime, but of a unique way of life, informed by Acadian, native tribal, and Anglo traditions. Audiobook This is quintessential Silver Donald. It's brilliantly told with lots of compassion. It's such a tragic story and somehow SDC manages to deftly weave together all the threads so that the reader understands that there is never one story, one true account, of a tragedy. The book focusses on the court cases, but, as one would expect, the book sits square in context -- the whole context, the history of the Acadians, and (particularly intriguing) how Acadian communities interact with the law and its institutions. Since the Portapique tragedy in April, the RCMP in rural Nova Scotia has been under some scrutiny, and although all of this was written prior to this, this reader couldn't help seeing some similar threads. This is a great book, and it's really a great shame that Don is not here to talk about it. Highly recommend it. Audiobook I reviewed this book in Saltscapes Magazine's Oct 2020 issue, with the conclusion: It took a writer like Silver Donald Cameron to show how the ‘murder for lobster’ case runs so much deeper than just petty human differences. Audiobook Blood in The Water is a gripping, insightful account of small town murder and asks the question can such actions ever be justified?

    The author takes us right into the lives of this community, painting a realistic and vivid picture of both victim and perpetrators- an intricately detailed sense of the place where they live and right at the heart of it a morality tale of how actions have consequences.

    The victim in this case is no angel, those who took a life that day pretty much at the end of their tethers. Through the first hand accounts of the community and a front row seat at the ensuing trials, Blood In The Water is beautifully crafted and completely addictive. Whether justice is ultimately served in this case will almost certainly be in the eyes of the beholder and the author makes no judgments but offers both fact and interpretation.

    Sadly Silver Donald Cameron passed away in 2020. I’ll have to read his other work but as a swan song I imagine Blood In The Water will stand the test of time- not only because it is so incredibly well written and full of journalistic insight but because the questions it asks of society are eternal.

    Highly Recommended Audiobook It's not about stealing lobster.  It's about a problem that continues and doesn't stop.  People said 'murder for lobster.'  I said, Look, if that guy had of come in my shed and took a screwdriver, okay, would you have said 'murder for screwdrivers'?  Because it's not about the value of what he stole, it's about having someone that constantly is disrupting people's lives.

    I had been browsing through CBC Books’ Fall Nonfiction Guide a few weeks ago when Silver Donald Cameron’s Blood in the Water jumped out at me.  Does anyone remember the “murder for lobster” case that brought international eyes to the small island of Isle Madame?  Well, it all happened in June of 2013 when three men - James Landry, Craig Landry and Dwayne Samson, aboard the Twin Maggie’s fishing ship, brutally killed Phillip Boudreau after Boudreau had been caught cutting and poaching their lobster traps.

    While the “murder for lobster” tagline certainly helped attract widespread interest in the case, it’s unfair to distill what happened on that day down to simply someone dying over lobster.  A life-long resident of Isle Madame, Cameron explores just who Phillip Boudreau was and why his complicated relationship with his fellow island inhabitants led to a boiling point that morning.

    Much of the book is spent analyzing Boudreau’s adverse effect on the community.  For years, he would steal from the community, cut lobster traps and generally cause chaos in the small town.  There were even claims of violent sexual crimes made against him.  One problem lay in the fact that the RCMP were often helpless to stop him as rarely could anyone prove that Phillip had committed some or any of these crimes.  Even when they did get him into custody, it was only for extremely short stints in jail where he would come out having learned little.  There’s a funny story where Boudreau was being transported to Sydney for a hearing and asked to stop on the side of the road to relieve himself.  When he went into the ditch to urinate, he ran into the woods and escaped.  Another problem, and the bigger one, being that Phillip would constantly threaten those who followed through with a complaint against him to the RCMP with arson or violence.  People felt helpless against his reign of terror.

    It seemed surreal to be reading a true crime book set in Cape Breton, the island where I grew up.  Cameron printed direct, unedited anonymous quotes from Isle Madame’s inhabitants that contain slang and dialects I’m more than familiar with.  Is it weird that it made me homesick?  I don’t think that’s the goal of a true crime story.  With Cameron being permitted to attend the trials of the men accused, he had firsthand knowledge of the inner workings of the courtroom and recounted each day blow-by-blow.  Some people may find this dull, but I loved it.  Maybe it stems from my enjoyment of the old Perry Mason series.

    There did seem to be a bit of filler in here.  I don’t believe a history of the Acadian people in the Maritimes really added anything to the book or was at all necessary.  Cameron also included the Catholic Priest Scandal of the latter part of the last century, seemingly out of nowhere, with no connection to the main crime.  There are a few moments like that that left me scratching my head.  Unfortunately, Cameron had passed away in June of this year, shortly after delivering his manuscript, so it’s possible he wasn’t quite finished nor settled with the final product.

    Tangents aside, Blood in the Water does a more than adequate job bringing to light the true factors that led to Phillip Boudreau’s death.  While Maritimers can certainly hold a grudge, we have a fuse a mile long and are willing to put up with just about anything.  Boudreau finally pushed someone too far on that day and ultimately, it led to tragedy. Audiobook


    free read ñ eBook or Kindle ePUB ñ Silver Donald Cameron

    A brutal murder in a small Maritime fishing community raises urgent questions of right and wrong, and even the nature of good and evil, in this masterfully told true story.

    In June 2013, three upstanding citizens of a small Cape Breton town cold-bloodedly murdered their neighbour, Phillip Boudreau, at sea. While out checking their lobster traps, two Landry cousins and skipper Dwayne Samson saw Boudreau in his boat, the Midnight Slider, about to vandalize their lobster traps. Like so many times before, Boudreau was about to cost them thousands of dollars out of their seasonal livelihood. One man took out a rifle and fired four shots at Boudreau and his boat. To finish the job, they rammed their own larger boat over the top of his speedboat. Boudreau's body was never found. Then they completed the day's fishing and went home to Petit de Grat on Isle Madame.

    Boudreau was a Cape Breton original--an inventive small-time criminal who had terrorized and entertained Petit de Grat for two decades. He had been in prison for nearly half his adult life. He was funny and frightening, loathed, loved, and feared. One neighbour says he would steal the beads off Christ's moccasins--then give the booty away to someone in need. He would taunt his victims, and threaten them with arson if they reported him. He was accused of one attempted rape. Meanwhile the police and the Fisheries officers were frustrated, cowed, and hobbled by shrinking budgets. Boudreau seemed invincible, a miscreant who would plague the village forever.

    Cameron, a resident of the area since 1971, argues that the Boudreau killing was a direct reaction to credible and dire threats that the authorities were powerless to neutralize. As many local people have said, if those fellows hadn't killed him, someone else would have. Like Say Nothing, The Perfect Storm, The Golden Spruce, and Into Thin Air, this book offers a dramatic narrative set in a unique, lovingly drawn setting, where a story about one small community has universal resonance. This is a story not about lobster, but about the grand themes of power and law, security and self-respect. It raises a disturbing question: Are there times when taking the law into your own hands is not only understandable but the responsible thing to do? Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes

    Every place has its ne'er-do-well, and Isle Madame's was a particular menace. So when he was killed out at sea by a fed-up crew of fishermen, reactions in the community were mixed.

    This was an interesting read, but not as true crime unfortunately. I enjoyed the style of writing and how entwined the author was with the community. I liked learning about the Acadians and life on Isle Madame, and how someone like Philip could get away with what he did for so long.

    However, the courtroom scenes dragged, with the author often relating the trial verbatim in parts. There's not a lot of suspense around the crime as we know pretty much from the start what happened, and the more intense reveals about the character of the victim were buried very late in the book.

    Overall, an informative read, but not a favorite.

    Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review. Audiobook I'm from Cape Breton and have been to Petit-de-Grat, where this book takes place, so I thought it would be interesting. The story itself was (I hadn't heard about it) but I found there was waaaaaaaaaaay too much filler ... about the fishing industry, the Acadians, the steel industry in Sydney, etc. Did it matter that Beyoncé's ancestor was Joseph Broussard, the Acadian Che Guevara? Or that when the author bought his first property in Isle Madame in 1971 that Arthur LeBlanc, the former Supreme Court justice, managed the transaction? Audiobook The media dubbed it the murder for lobster trial, but as he explains in the final novel before his death, Silver Donald Cameron illustrates that it was so much more. A series of events that all spiraled into the criminal becoming the victim and the victims becoming the criminals.

    I was absolutely unable to put this true crime down as Caneron takes us in and out of the small Nova Scotian community and into the courtroom. This was an impulse buy that was absolutely rewarding from start to finish.

    Goodreads review published 21/12/20 Audiobook Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes is late Canadian journalist, author, playwright and teacher Silver Donald Cameron's account of a horrifying crime that occurred in June 2013 near Isle Madame, Nova Scotia, Canada, the resulting legal proceedings and community disquiet that followed.
    As anyone who has ever had personal involvement or knowledge of a sensational crime will know, the true story is often substantially more complex than that portrayed in the media, or even before a jury in court. Silver Donald Cameron paints a nuanced picture of the small fishing community of Petit-de-Grat, and the years of personal and community provocation and frustration that led inexorably to the death of islander Phillip Boudreau on 1 June 2013.
    Boudreau was a lifelong petty criminal and nuisance, who was notorious for poaching lobster from the traps placed by hardworking career fishermen. He'd often flaunt his loot, waving it at the disgruntled trap owners as he sped off in his faster speedboat. He also had a history of flagrantly stealing vehicles and other property from islanders, usually to sell on for cash. Boudreau spent much of his adult life in and out of prison, but local law enforcement, either by reason of apathy or due to the constraints of the legal system, were unable to control his frequent crime sprees. Any islander who expressed his or her displeasure or reported Boudreau's crimes was likely to find themselves on the receiving end either of property damage or threats of violence to themselves and their families.
    On the day of his death, Boudreau had set out early to steal lobster from the traps of long-established Petit-de-Grat fisherman James Landry, who was in business with his daughter and son-in-law. Catching Boudreau in the act, and at his wits end after suffering years of damaged property and lost business, Landry shot at Boudreau with a gun he had on board Twin Maggies. Landry and his crew then pursued Boudreau, crushing his smaller vessel, Midnight Slider. Exactly what happened thereafter remains a matter of conjecture, but Boudreau was never seen again, nor his body ever recovered.
    A week after the incident, Landry and his son-in-law Dwayne Samson, skipper of the Twin Maggies, were charged with Boudreau's murder, after deckhand Craig Landry (everyone on Isle Madame seems to be interrelated) gave police a statement to the effect that they'd forcibly drowned Boudreau using a gaff hook.
    Cameron's account of the ensuing trial of James Landry is interwoven with his descriptions of the complex history of Isle Madame and its inhabitants. The book brings to mind Truman Capote's classic true crime novel, In Cold Blood, for its richness of detail in examining the ripples created by a notorious crime. While Cameron's prose isn't lyrical in the sense that Capote's is, his longstanding personal experience of the area brings invaluable texture to the narrative.
    Cameron explores the moral ambiguity surrounding the death of Phillip Boudreau - many details of which the jury hearing Landry's case weren't entitled to be privy to. He also highlights the Isle Madame community's mingled feelings of shared guilt and relief at Boudreau's death - while the dispensing of vigilante justice can't be condoned, it's clear that many, Cameron included, felt a great deal of sympathy for James Landry and Dwayne Samson, and the predicament in which they found themselves.
    I found Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes a fascinating and thought-provoking read, and would recommend it to readers who enjoy a more thoughtful form of true crime writing, or have an interest in the vagaries and limitations of the legal system.
    My thanks to the author, Silver Donald Cameron, whose death in 2020 (ironically on the seventh anniversary of Boudreau's) I was sorry to read of, publisher Swift Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this fascinating title. Audiobook I think it is fitting that this was Silver Donald Cameron’s last work, as it is more than a tale of revenge, it is a love letter to the people of Isle Madame. Audiobook