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BookBrowse Reviews By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt

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By the Time You Read This

A Novel

by Giles Blunt

By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt X
By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2007, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2008, 352 pages

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'The result is the most beautifully written, deeply felt page-turner of the year.' - Kirkus Reviews

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 bipolar disorder.

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 The BookBrowse Review in February 2007, and has been updated for the August 2008 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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