By The Time You Read This is
the fourth in Giles Blunt's excellent series set in
Algonquin Bay, a loosely disguised version of North
Bay, Ontario, where Blunt grew up. Long time
visitors to BookBrowse may remember us profiling
Forty Words For Sorrow in 2001, the first
volume in the series which
introduced Canadian Detective John Cardinal and his
photographer wife Catherine, who suffers from
Catherine's illness and her regular hospitalizations have been an ongoing thread through the series, but within a few pages of By The Time You Read This we are shocked to discover that Cardinal will never have to worry about his beloved wife's illness again when she takes a fatal fall from the top of an apartment building. Despite it looking like a clear case of suicide John is suspicious, he's known Catherine for years and knows her moods intimately and had detected no signs of her falling into another depression. Even the note she left behind seems a little odd - it's definitely in her own writing but it's all a bit too neat for somebody in her supposed condition; and why did she jump with all her camera equipment?
Cardinal steps on multiple toes as he violates department rules with his own unauthorized investigation; Chief R.J. Kendall, trying hard to be sympathetic but increasingly out of patience, tries to redirect Cardinal's interest by putting him on to a case led by Detective Lise Delorme, who is on the track of a sickening pedophile. As the two cases start to interconnect, it doesn't look like Cardinal will find the distraction Chief Kendall hopes for, but he just might find resolution to the mystery of his wife's death, and save a number of other souls, if only he and Lise can put the clues together in time.
The opening pages indicate that Blunt is as keenly interested in developing his characters as he is in delivering pulse-pounding action. Unlike so many thrillers that throw us straight into the crime scene, Blunt opens with a scene of domesticity, throws in a quick red-herring that we think might be the central story, and then, only then, gets down to the business of a dead body.
Some mystery-thrillers keep the reader in the dark as to who the killer is right up until the final pages, which keeps the tension ratcheted to high but tends to limit how much we know about the killer's motives, mentality and background, for the obvious reason that if one knows everything there is to know about a person one also knows who he is! Other thrillers reveal the murderer to the omnipresent reader long before the detectives can possibly have worked out the clues, which allows for a greater depth of characterization but can make it difficult to keep the suspense at maximum.
Giles Blunt follows the latter path. Readers will tag who the bad guys are in By The Time You Read This significantly before the detectives do, but will be driven to read on by the finely crafted storytelling and their own heart-pounding righteous anger to see justice served, and the truly nasty villain or villains (no plot spoilers here) put away for good.
With its themes of mental illness, physical abuse and dealing with loss By The Time You Read This could be a deeply depressing story, but in fact it's an absolutely riveting character-driven mystery, a thinking-person's novel that tackles big issues with sensitivity, but reaches the pulse-pounding heights of the best thrillers. If you have yet to discover Giles Blunt, start now!
This review was originally published in February 2007, and has been updated for the July 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
Discover your next great read here
I have lost all sense of home, having moved about so much. It means to me now only that place where the books are ...
Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!
Solve this clue:
and be entered to win..
Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.
Your guide toexceptional books
BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.