Relax, dog lovers, Popper cheats death in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

If you are, like me, a dog, book and movie lover, you will feel a sense of dread when reading Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch. This is because it features a small white fluffster of a Maltese dog — called variously Popper, Popchik and Popchyk — who appears doomed from the moment he makes his entry into the novel, greeting with desperate shrieks the evil owner who has left him home all alone for almost two weeks.

Luckily for Popper, things change for the better thanks to Theo, the new teenage addition to his household,  and Theo’s bad-guy buddy, Boris. These two drug and booze-addled dudes let the little dog hang out with them, ending his life of isolation. The downside  is that their activities don’t exactly provide a safe and secure environment for the family pet, provoking many anxieties that he will go missing forever in a deserted Las Vegas subdivision.

Worse yet, when Theo and Boris encounter a mobster, it seems predestined that Popper will get what happens to so many movie dogs and end up lifeless on the front door stoop or kitchen counter with a threatening note attached to his collar.

Any half-serious movie goer knows just how often the loyal family dog meets a gruesome death, enough that there exists an entire website — — devoted to answering this “most important movie question” and mentally preparing dog-loving movie goers for what’s to come.

That there is no literary equivalent to can be seen as a good thing  in as much as it  shows that tear-jerking pet death  has never been as big an issue for books as it is for movies. On the other hand, it also means there’s no quick reference guide to turn to if a reader does start to worry about a fictional dog’s future.

Therefore in the interests of calming the nerves of dog and literary fiction lovers reading The Goldfinch, I am hereby informing you that Popper survives this almost 800-page novel unharmed despite his many brushes with danger and long absences from the narrative.

And no, I did not forget the spoiler warning. The only thing this knowledge will spoil is a sadistic ride on the roller coaster of fear for an innocent little Maltese dog. Knowing Popper’s fate does not in any way affect the outcome of the rest of The Goldfinch.

Rest reassured dear Reader, Popper lives to a ripe old age.

Is Amazon Prime worth it in Canada?

Amazon Prime Canada
Plus, they will deliver your order anywhere in Canada for free!

It’s true. The Canadian version of Amazon Prime is nowhere near as good as the U.S. one, but it’s still well worth it.

We just have to accept the fact that as Canadians we can’t swap Kindle books at the U.S. library or stream Amazon shows or get all the wonderful products Americans can. C’est la vie.

Once you’ve processed this and moved on to a less bitter place, you’ll see that even without all the south-of-the-border Prime benefits, $79 per year is a small price to pay for Amazon Canada Prime, especially with its brand new grocery store.

The biggest benefit of Prime is the free shipping with no minimum order size. I can have my $5 julienne vegetable peeler and $16 K-cups delivered to me for no extra charge. Or I can send stuff to someone else as a gift — again, with no shipping charges. And though Prime guarantees only two-day shipping, in practice most stuff arrives the very next day.

One word of advice — do look for the prime logo to make sure everything you buy is Prime eligible or you may find yourself dinged with shipping fees, which defeats the whole purpose of Prime, which is, of course, no shipping fees.

If you’re not sure you’d order enough online to justify the annual fee, just take the one-month free trial and decide for yourself.

Oh and if you find some good bargains and want to recommend them, please add a comment below.

I just bought these K-cups for myself along with another order for the kids at college.

Sign up for free Amazon Canada Prime trial month

Update: Well, after, I wrote this my K-cups did not arrive on time, which was supposed to be Friday. As of now, it’s Monday and I’m still waiting. This is the first time since February that Amazon Prime has let me down.

Freedom of Information request goes over 30-day limit

I’m following up on things this week. Here’s an example:

In September, I put in a Freedom of Information request with the Ministry of Labour to find out details of a 2005 accident in Brantford.

When I phoned to follow up on why the response was overdue, having taken more than the mandated 30 days, I learned that someone else had made the same request even earlier than I had and was still waiting for their information.

Needless to say, the Ministry wouldn’t, quite rightly, tell me who the other requestor was. But if you happen to be that person and don’t consider me a competitor, I’d love to hear from you at

This week, tell me what you really think

There are some interesting comments on my post, The journalist and the (accused) murderer, his mother and his ex. I hope the discussion will continue throughout the week.

Here’s part of what Ernest said:

It seems as though you punish the people who don’t cooperate with you. You wrote a whole post about ‘Josie’ that provided zero information. Why? Because she wouldn’t respond to your request to do so? Is she obligated to? Does she really need to make a statement as you suggest, simply because Millard was an ex-boyfriend?

And here’s part of my response:

Of course Josie is not obliged to speak to me. But because she chooses not to speak doesn’t mean I have some kind of obligation not to write about her … While you see my actions in this case as punishing someone who won’t cooperate, I see it as failing to reach an agreement and both parties going their separate ways.

Please check out the discussion and feel free to tell me what you really think as well.

Sign up for the mailing list to get updates on the Dellen Millard investigations:

[wysija_form id=”1″]


The journalist and the (accused) murderer, his mother and his ex

Life gets complicated when you write about an accused murderer. People attack, criticize and take out their frustrations on you.

I’m going to skip over the personal attacks both because they are easily disproved and very rarely bother me.

I am far more interested in genuine critical feedback — whether I think it’s misguided or not — so I’d like to take a look at some of the things people have said to and about me as I’ve reported and written about the murder of Tim Bosma.

I’d be happy to discuss in good faith the following criticisms, which I’ve received. Please feel free to comment away or send me an email at

Criticism: You’re writing about this case for money

And this is a bad thing, why? Reporters work for money. Book authors work for money. Even the people, who accuse me of doing this for money, presumably work for money. How does it become somehow wrong for an independent journalist to write about a certain subject for money?

Criticism: You use unnamed sources

I agree that unnamed sources are problematic and I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t prefer a named source to an unnamed one. The problem is people/sources don’t always want their names out there and, often, for very valid reasons. Two reporters at the Globe and Mail even did a video interview about how difficult it was to get people on the record about this particular case.

I think part of the problem is Google. Once upon a time, if you talked to a reporter about a murder case, your name appeared in the paper and that was it. Nowadays, you risk having the name of a grisly murderer appear next to yours in search engine results for years to come. It’s understandable why that might make people more reluctant to talk than ever.

When I use unnamed sources, I always assess their credibility. Controversial issues must be double and triple-sourced. For example, in the case of the Dellen Millard jailhouse letter, it was not enough to have a group of people who had worked with Millard say they were convinced the letter was real. I had to find someone with a handwriting sample, which took weeks.I also ran the letter by an experienced criminal profiler to further assess ifs veracity.

Just as I do as a reader, I ask myself what the motivations of a source are. Does the person have an axe to grind?  Why is she willing to talk? Why won’t he be named?

Often the reasons are valid. For example, fear of reprisal or being chased by a media mob. When the Globe reported Dellen Millard engaged in plagiarism at community college, the sources were unnamed, but I had no reason to doubt the fact that he did indeed plagiarize. It was clear to me why they would want to be unnamed and there was no obvious reason for them to lie.

Right now, I’m working with someone who, I believe, has inside information but stretches the truth so I have asked for written documentation to back up certain claims. If I rely on a bad source, it will come back to bite me and make others reluctant to talk to me. On the other hand, if my sources are reliable, people will be more likely to give me information because they trust that it will be accurately transmitted.

Given all this, which unnamed sources, if any, have I used that you find difficult to trust? Why?

Do you trust me as a reporter? Why or why not?

Criticism: You posted a photo of Dellen Millard’s mother, Madeleine Burns

Burns plays a major role in this case. People want to know about her including what she looks like. I do, however, understand some people’s resistance to using her photo, especially since she herself has not been charged with anything and seems to have led a low-profile life.

In cases like these, my instincts are those of someone in the news business — namely if there’s a valid public interest, it’s okay to show someone’s photo. I’m not out of sync here either. Most other major news outlets have shown and continue to show photos of Burns. In the most commonly used photo of her, she and her son are shown while a third person, not involved in the case,  is blurred out.

If you think it’s wrong for media outlets to show photos of Madeleine Burns, how about this — is it wrong to do a Google image search for her? If this curiosity is valid, then why is it not valid for media to satisfy it?

Criticism: You fish for information by asking people to contact you on your blog

And that’s wrong because…

Criticism: You wrote about “Josie”

Josie has an active online life and shows no signs of regretting her Cockpit days. Nude pictures of her are available on more than one website. I have no idea whether she would mind having her name associated with the Bosma case as she never responded to any of my requests for interviews.

I honestly don’t know what I would have done if she had said, “Please don’t write about me.” It’s another interesting question. If you put yourself out there in public for all to see, do you get to take it back when something beyond your control happens? Why should a journalist, whose role is to serve her readers, respect your wishes for privacy given your earlier choice to lead a non-private life?

That’s it for now. I’d love to hear from anyone who would like to discuss these questions. They raise complex and interesting issues.

You can also sign up for my mailing list to get updates on the Dellen Millard investigations:

[wysija_form id=”1″]

Dellen Millard, Mark Smich go to court

Both Dellen Millard and Mark Smich are slated to show up in person at the Hamilton Court House Tuesday for a judicial pre-trial conference. This is a meeting of the Crown, the defence and the judge to map out the trial plan. It is not open to the public. More information can be found here.

I’m continuing to research various aspects of Dellen Millard’s background, trying to figure out how he occupied himself after leaving Toronto French School. Basically it seems he was an aspiring photographer with vague ambitions in the visual arts including film and video games. He appears not to ever have finished anything he started or to have achieved any real success. His old email address was

According to sources, Dellen Millard’s parents were concerned about his path in life for several years and tried to push, or perhaps steer, him into more steady work. Despite having never been particularly interested in the family business, Millard took on a much bigger role in it, including the new Waterloo project, in 2010 and 2011, when he became involved in a serious relationship and was briefly engaged.

If you have any information, please contact me at No piece of the puzzle is too small so please don’t be shy.
I’m also working on another completely non-related story and a private investigation.

Broken record: More research

Yes, I am sounding like a bit of a broken record as I continue to track down strong leads relating to the various investigations involving Dellen Millard.

A few people have recently told me I should just stop researching and reporting on the story and, among other suggestions, let the lawyers and police take care of it. I find this a curious attitude given what we know about everything that’s transpired so far, so I won’t be taking that advice. I am, however, always happy to hear feedback even when it’s not particularly positive.

Yo can email me at or leave a comment if you prefer.

Call this a research week

Nothing much new to post this week as I’ve been spending time on research.

There’s still quite a bit of talk about the Fed “leak,” which even Nanex now seems to be acknowledging isn’t a leak in the traditional sense of the word.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s no reason in this day and age for the government to be in the lock-up business other than that Wall Street and all the various other streets around the world will have conniption fits if they have to get their data from the internet like everyone else.

Fed leak rumours shine spotlight on bigger problems with ‘media’ lock-ups

Re the various Dellen Millard investigations, I have a few good leads that I’m following up on and it looks like I’ve place another big feature on the subject. I’m also still waiting for some FOI results to come through.

On another subject entirely, I want to write something about Atopica so if you have an itchy dog, let’s talk.

I always welcome reader feedback: