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Blood in the Water

A True Story of Small-Town Revenge

Blood in the Water Buy Now
Format Paperback Ebook Audiobook
ISBN 978-1-58642-293-6 978-1-58642-294-3 978-1-58642-295-0
Published Nov 23, 2021
Imprint Steerforth Press
History - Social History North American World History True Crime

“Fascinating! [A] must-read for all concerned about how humans manage to live together. Or not.” Margaret Atwood

“Superb… an instant true crime classic.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A masterfully told true story, perfect for fans of Say Nothing and Furious Hours: a brutal murder in a small Nova Scotia fishing community raises urgent questions of right and wrong, and even the very nature of good and evil.

In his riveting and meticulously reported final book, Silver Donald Cameron offers a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing and its devastating repercussions.

Cameron’s searing, utterly gripping story about one small community raises a disturbing question: Are there times when taking the law into your own hands is not only understandable but the responsible thing to do?

In June 2013, three upstanding citizens of a small town on Cape Breton Island murdered their neighbor, Phillip Boudreau, at sea.

While out checking their lobster traps, two Landry cousins and skipper Dwayne Samson saw Boudreau in his boat, the Midnight Slider, about to vandalize their lobster traps. Like so many times before, the small-time criminal was about to cost them thousands of dollars out of their seasonal livelihood.

Boudreau seemed invincible, a miscreant who would plague the village forever. Meanwhile the police and local officials were frustrated, cowed, and hobbled by shrinking budgets.

One of the men took out a rifle and fired four shots at Boudreau and his boat.

Was the Boudreau killing cold blooded murder, a direct reaction to credible threats, or the tragic result of local officials failing to protect the community? As many local people have said, if those fellows hadn’t killed him, someone else would have…


Shortlisted for The 2021 Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence.

Loving, intimate look at Acadian culture. . . [and a] courtroom drama [that] asks big questions beyond simply 'Who done it?'"

--The Minneapolis Star Tribune

This is an instant true crime classic.”

--Publishers Weekly (starred review) absorbing study of the way an isolated community handles conflict as well as the failures of the Canadian legal system.”


How a small fishing community responded to the violent death of one of its most notorious citizens . . . Cameron artfully links the central drama to broader discussions about socio-economic inequality, natural resource management, police interrogation tactics, and the consequences of a loss of faith in law and order . . . An often gripping, insightful examination of a well-known crime and the Acadian milieu in which it took place."

--Kirkus Reviews

Silver David Cameron knew intimately the Cape Breton community where the brutal murder of a local who was vandalizing lobster traps took place. But instead of that insider knowledge giving him too narrow a focus, it enables him to see beyond the broad strokes of the story -- and so bring to life ideas about power, law, vigilantism and community."

--Toronto Star

A masterful true account of a celebrated small-town murder."

--The Globe and Mail

It became known as the 'murder for lobster' case. But that description . . . comes nowhere near capturing the complexities of the crime and its effects on the local community. [Cameron] successfully weaves together courtroom drama, memoir, and an insightful exploration of people and place . . . While much time is spent in a courtroom, Blood in the Water is not particularly concerned with innocence and guilt. It's a book about place, relationships, and our responsibilities to each other."

--Quill & Quire

A dramatic narrative set in a unique, lovingly drawn setting, where a story about one small community has universal resonance. This is a story not about lobster, but about the grand themes of power and law, security and self-respect."


A vibrant portrait of a hardscrabble town . . . Blood in the Water demonstrates how even the quietest towns are capable of explosive violence."

--Foreword Reviews



It was in 2013 that Phillip Boudreau was dropped—allegedly—to

the bottom of the sea, but his neighbours would not be entirely

surprised if he walked out of the ocean tomorrow, coated in seaweed

and dripping with brine, smiling.

After all, Phillip had often vanished for long periods during his

forty-three years, and he always came back to where he’d grown


Point, at the edge of the Acadian village of Petit de

Grat on Isle Madame, Nova Scotia. Afterwards it would turn out

that he had been in prison, or out West, or hiding in the woods.

Perhaps the police had been looking for him and he’d have tucked

himself away in other people’s boats or trailers, or curled up and

gone to sleep in the bushes of the moorland near his family’s home,

his face coated with droplets of fog. He and his dog often slept in a

rickety shed outside his parents’ home, where the narrow dirt road

ends at the rocky shore of Chedabucto Bay. He’d even been known

to hollow out a snowbank and shelter himself from the bitter night

in the cold white cavern he’d created.

He was a small man, perhaps five-five, with a goatee and a ready

smile. He usually dressed in jeans, sneakers, a windbreaker, a baseball

cap. Whenever he was released from prison, word would go around

Isle Madame: Phillip’s out. Lock the shed, the barn, the garage. Phillip’s

out. If your boat’s missing, or your four-wheeler, talk to Phillip. Maybe

you can buy it back from him. Phillip’s out. If you want a good deal

on a marine GPS, an outboard motor, a dozen lobsters, check out

the Corner Bridge Store and Bakery. Phillip likes to hang out there.

He ties up his speedboat, Midnight Slider, at a little dock nearby.

Some people loved Phillip. He could be funny, helpful, kind. He

was generous to old people, good with animals, gentle with children.

Other people hated and feared him, though they tended to

conceal their feelings. If you crossed him he might threaten to sink

your boat, shoot you, burn down your house. He could make you

fearful for the safety of your daughter. Would he actually do anything

violent? Hard to say.

If you went to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment

in nearby Arichat, they would tell you they couldn’t do much until

he actually committed an offence. Perhaps they’d tell you that you

could get a peace bond, a court order directing Phillip to stay away

from you and your family and your property. From time to time

the Mounties would arrest Phillip for “uttering threats”—or


any of a dozen other offences—and

send him back to prison. But

he’d be out again soon enough, and if you’d helped put him inside,

watch out.

So most people quietly avoided Phillip, carefully steering around

him the way a lobster boat navigates a rocky shoal.

He did a tidy little business in hallucinogens and was available as

a vandal for hire, particularly with respect to lobster traps. An Isle

Madame lobster trap is a baited wooden cage weighted with rocks

and lying on the sea floor. It’s tied by a long slender rope to a buoy

that floats at the surface. The fisherman hooks the buoy, hauls up

the trap, and removes his catch; then he rebaits the trap and drops

it overboard again. The trap is worth about $100, but the value of

the lobster it catches can be in the thousands of dollars.

Nothing prevents a poacher from hauling someone else’s traps in

the middle of the night and selling the lobsters as his own. And if

the buoy rope is cut off, the owner can’t even find the trap. If I have

a grudge against you, what better way to harm you than to slide out

at midnight and cut a bunch of your traps? But if you catch me at it

the outcome won’t be pretty. So if I don’t want to take a chance on

doing it myself, I can always hire Phillip.

Phillip Boudreau was by no means the only man who ever cut

traps in Petit de Grat, but he was the dominant figure in that line of

work. He would also take credit for things he hadn’t done, just to

bolster his reputation as a crafty rascal operating by stealth and

beyond the reach of the law. A Fisheries officer who confronted him

had the tires of his car slashed. When he bought new tires, those

were slashed too. Phillip? Try to prove it. If you confronted him,

he’d just smile.

Phillip could make your life a misery—but

if he was your friend

and thought you needed something he would provide it, whether

or not he owned it. So you had to be careful about idly voicing

your desires.

And then, from time to time, he would disappear—for

days, or

weeks, or months. But he always cropped up again.

There had been attempts to kill him—conspiracies,

even. But

on June 1, 2013, he was said to have been drowned—and

not by

thugs or druggies but by highly respected local fishermen. A lot of

people thought the very idea was ridiculous. Phillip was wily and

resilient and he swam like a seal. Trying to drown him would be

like trying to drown a football. No doubt he was hiding out


But he was never seen again.

About the Author

Silver Donald Cameron

SILVER DONALD CAMERON’s literary works included plays, films, radio and TV scripts, hundreds of magazine articles, and nineteen books. Cameron had also been a professor or writer-in-residence at seven universities and Dean of Community Studies at Cape Breton University. In 2019 he was appointed the first Farley Mowat Chair in Environment at Cape Breton University. He died in June 2020, soon after completing the manuscript of Blood in the Water.

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