Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Giles Blunt's "Forty Words for Sorrow" is a very good, almost outstanding police procedural. One of the blurbs on the cover screams "The most horrifying story since The Silence of the Lambs (LA Times)". Well, not really, but it is pretty close. I would agree with Jonathan Kellerman's assessment, also published on the cover, "One of the finest crime novels I've ever read", as long as the pool of the "finest crime novels" is large enough.
This is the first novel in Mr. Blunt's notable series featuring detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme investigating in the fictional small Canadian town of Algonquin Bay, which is modeled on the author's own town of youth, North Bay in Ontario. Cases of missing young people turn into serial murders, and John Cardinal is teamed with Lise Delorme against his wishes (yes, this is one of the few extreme cliches of the novel). Then there is The Other Investigation going on as well (trying to avoid spoilers I will stop at that).
I love several aspects of this book. First and foremost, it is written very well. The vivid descriptions of this small northern town on the lake, in the throes of severe winter, convey the feel of the place and the time. Second, the novel does not make much pretense to be more than what it is - an engrossing police procedural with psychologically accurate portraits of both the detectives and the killers. In fact, the mutual co-dependency between the pair of killers (how the ostensibly controlled person can really control the controlling one) is shown with great insight.
There are some really funny bits, like the characterization of basement burglaries (I can't quote it here without risking being offensive). The reader will not be likely to forget the characters of Karen Steen and Martha Wood. I love the sentence "Murder is a rare event in Canada." Sigh! And the author manages to use the word "mucilaginous" without sounding pretentious.
Good book and a really great read!
Four and a quarter stars.
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