The author of Forty Words for Sorrow-winner of Britain's Silver Dagger Award-returns with a crime thriller challenging our most cherished belief: that, in fiction, there is no such thing as the perfect crime.
The small city of Algonquin Bay in northern Ontario: A freak warm front has moved in, making it feel like April and rousing hungry bears from hibernation. So when Ivan Bergeron's dog brings him the chewed-off arm of a white male, it's assumed the victim met a natural if ugly end. Except, as it turns out, the owner of the arm was dead before the bears got to him.
A second victim is found: a woman, apparently raped. There has to be a connection-two bodies abandoned in the woods within days of each other can't be a coincidence. Then police records reveal a long-unsolved murder with the same MO: a woman found in the woods, seemingly raped. It isn't long before homicide detectives Delorme and Cardinal are led back thirty years to another unsolved murder, this one linked to Quebec terrorists. Logic suggests the Algonquin Bay murders are connected to this case. Evidence is less convincing. And somewhere, a murderer-smart and powerful-is walking free.
About the Author
Giles Blunt is the author of Forty Words for Sorrow, hailed by Jonathan Kellerman as "one of the finest crime novels I've ever read" and by the Los Angeles Times as "the most horrifying story since The Silence of the Lambs."
Read an Excerpt
First came the warmth. Three weeks after New Year’s and the thermometer did what it never does in January in Algonquin Bay: it rose above the freezing mark. Within a matter of hours the streets were shiny and black with melted snow.
There wasn’t a trace of sun. A ceiling of cloud installed itself above the cathedral spire and gave every appearance of permanence. The warm days that followed passed in an oppressive twilight that lasted from breakfast to late afternoon. Everywhere there were dark mutterings about global warming.
Then came the fog.
At first it moved in fine tendrils among the trees and forests that surround Algonquin Bay. By Saturday afternoon it was rolling in thick clouds along the highways. The wide expanse of Lake Nipissing dwindled to a faint outline, then vanished utterly. Slowly the fog squeezed its way into town and pressed itself up against the stores and the churches. One by one the red brick houses retired behind the grubby grey curtain.
By Monday morning Ivan Bergeron couldn’t even see his own hand. He had slept late, having drunk an unwise amount of beer while watching the hockey game the night before. Now he was making his way from the house to his garage, which was less than twenty yards away but totally obscured by fog. The stuff clung in webs to Bergeron’s face and hands; he could feel it trailing through his fingers. And it played tricks with sound. The yellow bloom of headlights glided by, dead slow, followed -- after an otherworldly delay -- by the sound of tires on wet road.
Somewhere his dog was barking. Normally, Shep was a quiet, self-sufficient kind of mutt. But for some reason -- maybe the fog -- he was out in the woods and barking maniacally. The sound pierced Bergeron’s hungover skull like needles.
“Shep! Come here, Shep!” He waited for a few moments in the murk, but the dog didn’t come.
Bergeron opened up the garage and went to work on the battered Ski-Doo he had promised to fix by last Thursday. The owner was coming for it at noon, and the thing was still in bits and pieces around the shop.
He switched on the radio, and the voices of the CBC filled the garage. Usually, when it was warm enough, he worked with the garage door open, but the fog lay in the driveway like some creature out of a nightmare and he found it depressing. He was just about to pull the door down when the dog’s barking got louder, sounding like it was coming from the backyard now.
“Shep!” Bergeron waded through the fog, one hand out before him like a blind man. “Shep! For God’s sake, can it, willya?”
The barking changed to growling, interrupted by peculiar canine whines. A tremor of unease passed through Bergeron’s outsize frame. Last time this had happened, the dog had been playing with a snake.
“Shep. Take it easy, boy. I’m coming.”
Bergeron moved with small steps now, edging his way forward like a man on a ledge. He squinted into the fog.
He could just make the dog out, six feet away, down on his forepaws, clawing at something on the ground. Bergeron edged closer and took hold of the dog’s collar.
The dog whined a little and licked his hand. Bergeron bent lower to see what was on the ground.
“Oh my God.”
It lay there, fishbelly white, hair curling along one side. Toward the wrist end, the flesh still bore the zigzag impression of a watch with an expandable bracelet. Even though there was no hand attached, there was no doubt that the thing lying in Ivan Bergeron’s backyard was a human arm.
If it hadn’t been for Ray Choquette’s decision to retire, John Cardinal would not have been sitting in the waiting room with his father when he could have been down at headquarters catching up on phone calls, or -- better yet -- out on the street making life a misery for one of Algonquin Bay’s bad guys. But no. Here he was, stuck with his father, waiting to see a doctor neither of them had ever met. A female doctor at that -- as if Stan Cardinal was going to take advice from a woman. Ray Choquette, Cardinal thought, I could wring your lazy, inconsiderate neck.
The senior Cardinal was eighty-three -- physically. The hair on his forearms was white now, and he had the watery eyes of a very old man. In other ways, his son was thinking, the guy never got past the age of four.
“How much longer is she gonna make us wait?” Stan asked for the third time. “Forty-five minutes we’ve been sitting here. What kind of respect does that show for other people’s time? How can she possibly be a good doctor?”
“It’s like anything else, Dad. A good doctor’s a busy doctor.”
“Nonsense. It’s greed. A hundred percent pure capitalist greed. You know, I was happy making thirty-five thousand dollars a year on the railroad. We had to fight like hell to get that kind of money, and by God we fought for it. But nobody goes to medical school because they want to make thirty-five thousand dollars.”
Here we go, Cardinal thought. Rant number 27D. It was like his father’s brain consisted of a collection of cassettes.
“And then you’ve got the government playing Scrooge with these guys,” Stan went on. “So they become stockbrokers or lawyers, where they can make the kind of money they want. And then we end up with no damn doctors.”
“Talk to Geoff Mantis. He’s the one who took the chainsaw to medicare.”
“They’d make you wait, anyways, no matter how many of them there were,” Stan said. “It’s a class thing. Class not only must exist, it must be seen to exist. Making you wait is their way of saying, ‘I’m important and you’re not.’”
“Dad, there’s a shortage of doctors. That’s why we have to wait.”
“What I want to know is, what kind of young woman spends her day looking down people’s throats and up their anuses? I’d never do it.”
Stan got to his feet with difficulty. The young receptionist came round from behind her desk, clutching a file folder.
“Do you need some help?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Stan turned to his son. “You coming, or what?”
“I don’t need to go in with you,” Cardinal said.
“No, you come too. I want you to hear this. You think I’m not fit to drive, I want you to hear the truth.”
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A John Cardinal novel set in North Bay, Ontario. Excellent characterisation and sense of place.
I liked Forty Words for Sorrow better. This mystery centered around Canadian politics, and I'm not even well-informed about American politics! Still, the series was advanced in this one by developments in Cardinal's relationship with his father and with Delorme. And once again, Giles Blunt writes in a way that keeps my attention.
Canadian setting is exquisitely and brutally rendered, and the characters are never safe.
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was superb, and the author's descriptions of a city under ice were both lovely and...chilling! The thing that struck me the most was how he brought the characters alive for me. Cardinal is deeply flawed, and yet so compassionate I couldn't help but fall in love. Some scenes were so touching they actually brought me to tears. I am anxious to read Forty Words for Sorrow, as well as future works.
Algonquin Bay, Ontario experiences a rare January warm front that awakens the bears that should remain in hibernation. When a dog brings home a piece of an arm, the local police initiate a search for the rest of the body parts. Through diligent investigative work they conclude that the victim is a former CIA agent who worked in Montreal in 1970 during the French Canadian separatist movement that turned violent. While Detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme work the case, a doctor goes missing until her nude body is found in an isolated part of the town. The police link up the two murders because the rare AB type blood was found in the doctor¿s office and the first victim¿s car. They believe the perpetrator was injured and needed medical assistance. To learn who is getting away with murder the two detectives travel to Montreal to try to reconstruct the events that happened over three decades ago to see if one of their interviewees will lead them to the killer. THE DELICATE STORM is a very well written police procedural that takes the reader back in time to the violence of the seventies during the Vietnam protests and the French Canadian separatist movement. The police methodically follow each piece of new evidence and try to connect all the pieces to form the larger picture, but the cases prove difficult and the detectives frequently become frustrated at their lack of progress. It is very entertaining to follow the investigation with is frustrations and triumphs. Giles Blunt is rapidly becoming one of the best writers of psychological suspense. Harriet Klausner