Foreword Reviews

The Bushman's Lair

On the Trail of the Fugitive of the Shuswap

Paul McKendrick’s The Bushman’s Lair is the thrilling true crime account of John Bjornstrom, a reclusive thief who lived in a beach cave off of British Columbia’s Shuswap Lake. It also functions as a speculative biography of the legendary fugitive.

With a pastiche of visceral details about Bjornstrom’s life, from the patina on his worn camp stove to a mildewed newspaper found in the cave, featuring Osama Bin Laden’s photograph on the front page, the book is a compelling account of a mysterious life. It also uses court documents, records saved by Bjornstrom’s friends and partners, posts from online forums, and selections from woodcraft and backcountry survival guides to do its work.

A devoted individualist for whom the wild seemed to be the last welcoming place on Earth, Bjornstrom proves to be a somewhat elusive subject. Born to Roma parents and raised by nature-loving Norwegians, Bjornstrom’s path was crooked, captivating, and adventure-filled. It took a metaphysical turn when he began working with the military as part of a psychic energy experiment. Later, he was involved with the Bre-X mining scandal.

The choices leading up to Bjornstrom’s lair years are detailed in a way that makes his retreat from society seem both necessary and inevitable. While remembered as a fugitive, he considered his crimes imperative for his survival: he trespassed, forged checks, engaged petty theft, and lived off of the land and other people’s trash. McKendrick is humane in detailing these escapades, however unglamorous; his text includes adequate context for understanding all of Bjornstrom’s actions.

The Bushman’s Lair is a sometimes sensational true crime account of the adventures of an extraordinary cipher.

Reviewed by Claire Foster

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Load Next Review