What We’re Reading Now – Dead Reckoning, How I came to meet the man who murdered my father by Carys Cragg

Review By Grant T. Smith 

Dead Reckoning, How I came to meet the man who murdered my father by Carys Cragg


caryscragg“What is it like not to have a father who was murdered?” Carys Cragg raises this question early in her book.  And for good reason. When she was eleven years old, a man broke into her family home and murdered her father. Dead Reckoning, How I came to meet the man who murdered my father, tells the author’s personal journey to her personal place of understanding.


As you can see, I am not reviewing a book on business, or goal setting, or productivity. I am instead introducing you to a spectacular new book by a brilliant new author. There is an offer for you, my readers, at the end of this review, so please stick with me.


Carys remembers her dad as a fun-loving father. Dr. Cragg was a consummate sailor, with a successful family medical practice on the West Coast. In his early forties, he moved with his family to Calgary to study orthopaedic surgery. In September 1992, Carys lost her dad at the hands of a stranger who, in an act of robbery, entered her family home through a window. When confronted by the man of the house, the intruder stabbed Geoffrey Cragg three times and left him to die. As we learn in the narrative, Carys was held on a 9-1-1 call while her mother and siblings stayed beside her father watching him bleed to death in the front yard.


As an adult, it became essential for Ms. Cragg to engage in a path of restorative justice, “a model that focuses on identifying harms, empowering victims and responding to both victims’ and offenders’ needs.” In applying this method, she first wrote to and subsequently met the man who murdered her dad. In this book, we follow the process through each letter between this victim and the offender and join her as she travels to Drumheller to meet her father’s killer.


Cragg is an instructor in Child, Family and Community Services at Douglas College. There is a tactile connection between her childhood experience and her need to engage with and support family life and child services. The work she does and the communication with her father’s murderer both point to a need to find value in her father’s death. This is how she inspires through her writing.


Here, I have pulled a small snippet of a letter written by Cragg to the offender:


“Most of all, I’m sorry that you never had a father like mine, a flawed human being with a caring, creative, life giving, and passionate soul. But I am not saying sorry and then going on to do nothing about it. The work I contribute to the world has integrity, and I remind myself of that expectation every day, because I’ll be damned if I have lived my life contributing to destruction.”


We come to know Geoffrey through personal vignettes of his daughter’s memories inserted throughout the book. Her memories show the inspiration and joy he brought to the life of his family. In her narrative, Cragg comments, “I continue a relationship with him to this day, and I continually try to find new ways to uphold his life and let his influence on my life take new and creative paths.”


One morning, as I was reading the book, I wiped a few tears from my cheek and continued reading (confession – I cry fairly easily). A few minutes later, as I turned to another page I saw ‘Chapter One.’ Cragg had me totalled engaged in the prologue.  


Maybe this book was written for me to read, as I have often pondered how I would act in the face of a tragedy like the one Cragg faced. I wonder if my principles of empathy and respect for the value of life would be able to stand up in the face of true adversity. The mind and the strength of this writer will inspire you. It will exhaust you. It will uplift you. Carys, thank you for sharing and I wish you exciting sailing.


This book is newly released and has yet to have its book launch in Vancouver. Keep your eyes open for the official launch (November 27, at VPL) or email me here at Clearline. Carys has offered to do a book reading with us if readers reach out and show interest. Simply send me a note at Grant.T.Smith@clearlinecpa.ca if you would like to attend. This would mark a milestone for Clearline as our first official book signing. We hope you will join us.


On another note, a few years ago I reviewed a marvellous book called Pogo Pig Learns About Goal Setting.  It is a children’s book about learning to continually improve. That was my Christmas book review that year and it got some great feedback.


Any other marvellous books about setting great habits for kids that you would like to see reviewed? Please let me know.