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Free Reign (Ellis Portal Mystery #1)

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  96 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
The offbeat sleuth in this novel is Ellis Portal, once an esteemed judge, who was himself convicted of a felony and disgraced. He now lives as a vagrant in the river valley that is a wilderness preserve running through the heart of the city of Toronto. One day, while working on his hidden vegetable garden, he unearths a severed human hand. On that hand is a ring that Ellis ...more
Paperback, 293 pages
Published May 1st 1998 by Berkley (first published May 25th 1997)
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Jul 26, 2013 Peggy rated it liked it
Free Reign is the first in the Ellis Portal series. It's the story of a former judge who we meet after he becomes homeless and his home becomes a box in a natural area in or near Toronto. The strength of the novel is its setting and plot. The author describes the society of homeless in Toronto, at the same time making the life out of doors sound enviable, beautiful, and free. Details about sights, scents, and sounds draw us in so that we don't think too closely about Portal's fall from grace. Th ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Maddy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1998-reads
Once a powerful judge, Ellis Portal was convicted of a felony and disgraced. His life style has changed drastically. He is now living as a homeless person in a ravine along a Toronto river. While working in his vegetable garden, he finds a ring with a black hand attached to it. Ellis recognizes the ring as one of five that was exchanged between himself and four other law school graduates (all of whom were white). When the rings were exchanged, they were accompanied by a vow that each of them ...more
Morgan Osborn
Oct 27, 2010 Morgan Osborn rated it liked it
Ellis Portal, like every judge, had friends within the Law system that he became very close to. The group of friends that he managed to conjure up during his time during Law school, got together one evening to exchange rings that would externally bond them forever. Years later, Ellis now lives within the woods of his hometown after getting into trouble with the law and being excluded from his family. After waking up one morning and finiding a severed hand with the same ring he has attached to ...more
Jun 10, 2015 Terri rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
A really different detective, here's a man who used to be on top of the world and is found living in a box on land he where he should not be. I liked the way the author slowly brings out the reason he has fallen so far, yet holds on to his integrity, and tries his best to keep promises. Has some twists in it, who I thought would be the villain isn't really. It will be nice to see if the author continues with this character or it ends up being a one-time appearance. Personally, I'd like to see ...more
Feb 28, 2010 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries, canada
One of the best mysteries I have read in a long time. The characters leap of the page and you are drawn in to the life of Ellis Portal, a Judge who has been judged and found wanting. He now is a homeless man, living off the land, with few creature comforts. The story of his rise and fall is very well done, and very believable. He still has his character flaws and he has to over come these to try a help someone from his past as well as someone from his present.
May 23, 2010 Kat rated it really liked it
This is the first book in a series and it's been unavailable for quite some time ... I'm very happy to see it again. Homeless man Ellis Portal finds a severed hand outside his hand built shelter by the Don River and recognizes the ring on it as belonging to someone from his past when he was an esteemed Toronto judge. He reluctantly investigates and finds himself confronting a number of truths about his past. A far more enjoyable read than one would suspect given the description.
Feb 04, 2010 Mimi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Introduction to former Toronto judge Ellis Portal whose uncontrolled temper led to his confinement in a mental hospital and then to living in the Don river valley and fending for himself. His past catches up to him in the form of the death of an unknown man and possible misdoings in a local charitable home for pregnant teens started by two former classmates and friends.
Oct 01, 2009 Steven rated it liked it
Some of the pacing was a bit uneven; some parts of the plot were a bit too contrived; and the writing and character development were fair; and yet I enjoyed the characters, the hooks, and the overall plot. I thought it was a good read with a very good central character. My largest criticism is that I never felt I fully understood the motivation behind Ellis' crack-up.
Mar 14, 2009 Linda rated it really liked it
Recommended to Linda by: LJ
Ellis Portal, a homeless man who was once a judge, is a fascinating protagonist. This was an absorbing read, though I felt some ends were left dangling at the conclusion.
Mar 25, 2008 Karen added it
I liked this book - set in Canada; first in a series about a 'fallen' judge who tries to solve a crime while living on the streets.
Mar 17, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
Intelligently written, not as formulaic as many mysteries. I liked how she treated the characters from the street, gave them innate dignity, and their distrust of authority seemed spot-on.
Jun 04, 2010 Dave rated it liked it
Not quite a mystery, but that is the genre. The view into the culture of the homeless is well worth the read. I was pulling for the main character from the first page.
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Rosemary Aubert, B.A., M.A., C.Cri is the internationally-acclaimed author of the Ellis Portal mystery series. She is the author of five romance novels published around the world and of poems, interviews, articles and reviews over several decades of writing. She has taught workshops from coast to coast in Canada and the United States and is a frequent guest lecturer at colleges, universities, ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Ellis Portal Mystery (5 books)
  • The Feast of Stephen
  • The Ferryman Will Be There
  • Leave Me By Dying
  • Red Mass

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