Excerpt from By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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By the Time You Read This

A Novel

By Giles Blunt

By the Time You Read This
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2007,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2008,
    352 pages.

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“What time do you think you’ll get back?” Cardinal said.

Catherine tied a short plaid scarf around her neck and tucked it inside her jacket. “Does it matter? I thought you had to go back to work.”

“I do. Just curious.”

“Well, I’ll be home long before you.” She pulled her hair out from under her scarf and shook her head. Cardinal caught a whiff of her shampoo, a faint almondy smell. She sat down on the bench by the front door and opened her camera bag again. “Split-field filter. I knew I forgot something.”

She disappeared downstairs for a few moments and came back with the filter, which she dropped into the camera bag. Cardinal had no idea what a split-field filter might be.

“You going to the government dock again?” In the spring Catherine had done a series of photos on the shore of Lake Nipissing when the ice was breaking up: great white slabs of ice stacking themselves up like geological strata.

“I’ve done the dock,” Catherine said, frowning a little. She strapped a collapsible tripod to the bottom of the camera bag. “Why all these questions?”

“Some people take pictures, other people ask questions.”

“I wish you wouldn’t. You know I don’t like to talk about stuff ahead of time.”

“Sometimes you do.”

“Not this time.” She stood up and slung the camera bag, bulky and heavy, over her shoulder.

“What a gorgeous night,” Cardinal said, when they were outside. He stood for a moment looking up at the stars, but the glow of the moon washed most of them out. He took a deep breath, inhaling smells of pine and fallen leaves. It was Catherine’s favorite time of year too, but she wasn’t paying attention at the moment. She got straight into her car, a maroon PT Cruiser she’d bought used a couple of years earlier, started the engine, and pulled out of the drive.

Cardinal followed her in the Camry along the dark curving highway that took them into town. As they approached the lights at the Highway 11 bypass, Catherine signaled and shifted into the left lane. Cardinal continued on through the intersection, heading down Sumner toward the police station.

Catherine was headed toward the east end of town, and he wondered briefly where she was going. But it was always good to see her involved in her work, and she was taking her medication. If she was a little moody, that was okay. She’d been out of the psychiatric hospital for a year now. Last time, she had been out for nearly two years when she suddenly embarked on a manic episode that put her back in for three months. But as long as she was taking her medication, Cardinal didn’t let himself worry too much.


It was a Tuesday night, and there was not a lot going on in the criminal world. Cardinal spent the next couple of hours catching up on paperwork. They’d had the annual carpet cleaning done, and the air was rich with flowery chemicals and the smell of wet carpet. The only other detective on duty was Ian McLeod, and even McLeod, the station loudmouth during the day, maintained a comparative solemnity at night.

Cardinal was putting a rubber band around a file he had just closed when McLeod’s florid face appeared over the acoustic divider that separated their desks.

“Hey, Cardinal. I have to give you a heads-up. It’s about the mayor.”

“What’s he want?”

“Came in last night when you were off. He wanted to put in a missing-person report on his wife. Problem is, she’s not really missing. Everybody in town knows where she is except the goddamn mayor.”

Excerpted from By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt. Copyright © 2007 by Giles Blunt. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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