It’s not very often you get to review two books covering the same topic practically back-to-back. Such is the case this month (October) with the coverage of the Dennis Oland trial. Dennis Oland was convicted of second-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of his father millionaire Richard Oland in 2011. His bail appeal is set for Oct. 31st.
The first book out of the gate was Truth & Honour by Greg Marquis, published by Nimbus Publishing. I rated it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It lost a star due to it appearing to be rushed to publication. There were numerous spelling errors which detracted from the overall ‘fit and finish’ of an otherwise great book. Released in hardcover (it is not clear why) with a cover price of $29.95, it may get passed over by all but the keenly interested reader. Now from Goose Lane Editions comes Shadow of Doubt: The Trial of Dennis Oland by CBC reporter Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon. I’m giving this book 5 well-deserved stars. While I wasn’t exactly keen to read another book about the Oland trial, I must say that Shadow of Doubt was very impressive to read and wasn’t simply a rehashing of already published information. Let’s take a closer look.
While Truth & Honour was written in a more documentary-like style by an author with a strong legal background, Shadow of Doubt is a well-organised comprehensive account of the entire investigation and trial that garnered national attention and tested the mettle of one of the world’s oldest police forces. Ms MacKinnon states in the Preface:
“As a reporter for CBC News, I covered this case from the day Richard Oland’s body was discovered. I attended press conferences, jury selection, numerous court proceedings, and the entire trial.”
Such involvement translates into a consummate account of every aspect of the case, especially the trial process. She includes a few details here and there that add realism to the process for those of us not familiar with the Canadian justice system. Details such as elaborating on the jury selection process, computer forensics, text messages, cell phone towers in the Saint John area, and the qualifications of expert witnesses. There is also a chapter on what the jury did not hear; these were court records and testimonies from the inquiry that were not opened until the trial was over. Much of this was covered by Mr Marquis in Truth & Honour, just not in as much depth. His focus understandably was on the legal system and processes.
So, which book to choose, dear reader? If you have the money and are deeply interested in this trial, then I would recommend both. However, if I had to choose between them, then Shadow of Doubt would be the clear winner. Available in softcover for the suggested price of $19.95, Shadow of Doubt will give you more value for the price: fascinating, extensive coverage from Day One of the investigation nicely rounded out with details that only a dedicated insider like Ms MacKinnon could glean.
Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon is a reporter and web editor for CBC Radio and Television. She has worked at the Telegraph-Journal, the Toronto Star, and the Ottawa Citizen. She has been a finalist for two National Newspaper Awards and three Atlantic Journalism Awards, including one for her early reporting on the Richard Oland murder. She lives in Saint John.