Saturday, August 04, 2007

'Forty Words for Sorrow'

by Giles Blunt

Fiction/Crime/Canada, pub. 2000
Random House Canada, mm pb, 388 p.
Detective John Cardinal series, Book 1
Winner - British Crime Writers' Silver Dagger Award, 2001

(Book #32 for 2007, Summer Mystery Challenge- Book #3, O'Canada Challenge- Book #2)
When four teenagers go missing in the small northern town of Algonquin Bay, the extensive police investigation comes up empty. Everyone is ready to give up except Detective John Cardinal, an all-too-human loner whose persistence only serves to get him removed from Homicide. Haunted by a personal secret in his own past, and hounded by a special investigation into corruption on the force, Cardinal is on the brink of losing his career – and his family.
When the mutilated body of thirteen-year-old Katie Pine is pulled out of an abandoned mineshaft, only Cardinal is willing to consider the horrific truth: this quiet town is home to the most vicious of serial killers. With the media, the provincial police and his own department questioning his every move, Cardinal follows increasingly tenuous threads towards the unthinkable. Time isn’t only running out for him, but for another young victim, tied up in a basement wondering when and how his captors will kill him.
I have to say I loved the setting. Set in mid-winter, the snow and ice sounds quite appealing right now. I’m not very familiar with Ontario, but it was still fun to read a Canadian mystery this time. His writing has apparently been compared to Ian Rankin, so it’s fun timing that I read it just after Rankin’s Knots & Crosses.
About half-way into the book, we find out who the killer is and then it becomes a race against time to save the current victim, or as it’s otherwise known, a ‘howcatchem’ (heehee! Love the term!). It was a fast-paced, page-turning read. I’ll be sure to pick up the next one in the series (there are 4 in all so far), next time I’m in Canada.

My Rating: 4/5
The Inuit, it is said, have forty different words for snow. Never mind about snow, Cardinal mused, what people really need is forty words for sorrow.
Interesting fact: Murder is a rare event in Canada. So rare that most of the country’s ten provinces are allocated only one forensics unit, usually in the province’s biggest city. (p. 96)


  1. This does sound good! I will definitely be adding this one to my wish list. Thank you for the review!

  2. Literary Feline,
    It had me staying up too late just to finish so that's a good sign I think. :)

  3. That last statement makes me want to move to Canada, although I was already leaning that way because I'd like to move away from the heat. ;)

  4. I never thought about it before, but I think I like 'howcatchums' much better than 'whodunnits'. I never could put my finger on why some mysteries are more appealing to me than others, but I think that's it. Interesting.

  5. "howcatchem" - love that! Although I typically prefer to find the killer's identity until the end if the book is written well (like this one seems to be) then I do enjoy the race to catch the killer. Oh and you had to mention Ian Rankin - I'm adding this one to my list asap! :)

  6. Nancy,
    I hear ya! Seeing all of Les' pics and the thought of escaping the heat is making me rather homesick for Canada right now.

    Glad to provide some enlightenment. :P I don't know if I could say definitely all the time, but for this particular 'howcatchem' it was quite suspenseful wondering if they'd catch them in time. I'm still pretty new to reading mysteries but I'll have to pay attention as I read more.

  7. Iliana,
    It's a fun term, isn't it?
    I've only read one book by each of them, Blunt and Rankin, and they weren't exactly the same or anything but there was a similarity, I guess. Worth trying the first one anyway maybe. Although I probably should've mentioned that the murders are a bit violent.

  8. Sounds like one to add to my TBR list. I especially like that quote about forty words for sorrow.

  9. Les,
    I liked that quote too. :)


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