BookBrowse Reviews The Storm Murders by John Farrow

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The Storm Murders

The Storm Murders Trilogy (Volume 1)

by John Farrow

The Storm Murders by John Farrow X
The Storm Murders by John Farrow
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  • Published:
    May 2015, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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An enthralling first murder mystery in a trilogy which features extreme weather and retired Montreal Sergeant-Detective Émile Cinq-Mars.

John Farrow's protagonist, retired Montreal Sergeant-Detective Émile Cinq-Mars, is so believable and sincere, I just know I would like to hang out with him, chat over a scotch, and listen to a little Coltrane. Of course he speaks French. But he curses – which is rare – in English. When a suspect's preposterous alibi proves false he quips, "No shit. Excuse my, well, English." He takes his time, follows up on hunches. His former partner Bill Mathers notes, "I miss your hunches, Émile. When you left the force we were finally rid of them. I thought life would be enjoyable again. But I was wrong. I've missed them." He's honest too. I like that in a detective and yeah, in any human. And that's good for starters.

In this, Farrow's fourth mystery, The Storm Murders, featuring the Montreal detective, Cinq-Mars is recently retired and faced with the prospect of reinventing himself. I can relate. So can his wife Sandra. In fact rather than succumbing to a compulsory re-invention, she is ready to force the issue; telling Cinq-Mars that she wants to leave him. Still in shock over her sudden revelation he gets a call from Bill Mathers, who wants to visit and bring along an American colleague to discuss a recent homicide. Cinq-Mars knows he ought to decline, but like an old warhorse he just can't resist.

A terrible crime has been committed. It's not merely that there has been an alarming double murder of a man and his wife in a lonely, isolated Quebec farmhouse during which each cadaver had its ring finger amputated. It's the fact that the horror was compounded by the additional double murder of two policemen at the scene. Clues are minimal. No fingerprints of course. No footprints in the freshly fallen snow surrounding the home. Not. One. Hmm. The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) is stumped.

Cinq-Mars has read of the crime in the newspaper, but aside from mild professional curiosity he has thought little of it. Then Mathers introduces Agent Randolph (Rand) Dreher of the FBI who would like to contract with him as a freelancer to help investigate the case. Naturally Cinq-Mars is as curious as he is suspicious. The FBI has no Canadian jurisdiction and he is a layman now. Dreyer explains that this crime bears a striking resemblance to others that have taken place in the US – in Louisiana and Alabama, North Dakota and California. And now Québec. The FBI, he says, needs a French-speaking expert on the ground in foreign territory to see if there is solid evidence linking all the murders.

Dreher asks him, "Will you take the case, Émile?" Cinq-Mars smiles, "Well, sir," he considers, "that depends." Money is not the issue, well, not the only one. So Émile lets him know, "that I don't come cheap. But to be honest with you, I wasn't thinking of that. It's not the stickiest issue I have." The savvy Canadian continues, "[I]t depends on what you're not telling me." Following the FBI agent's protests, Cinq-Mars – who knows better – parries with his own terms. "[I]f I work things through and show you later what you are deliberately holding back from me now – and why – then my accommodation, as you so elegantly put it, doubles." Dreher agrees, in writing. Despite his misgivings, the notion of an international serial killer piques Émile's interest and appeals to his lawman's ego, overriding good sense.

From there the plot not only thickens, it gels into a teeming, delightful stew (sorry for the mixed metaphor) of clues, red herrings, and blind alleys – some in New Orleans, Louisiana where Sandra is kidnapped. There's even a point where, despite all the law enforcement involved from Montreal to New Orleans to Washington, DC, no one appears above suspicion. Mmm. Delicious. And just when I thought I had it all figured out – yes, Farrow is that tricky – everything I thought was going on was tossed into the air. The conclusion – like the chase – is curvy and complicated enough to satisfy the most avid conspiracy theorist.

As for Émile and his wife, Sandra? Well, the best may be yet to come in the next two entries in The Storm Murders series.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review is from the June 3, 2015 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Law Enforcement and Retirement

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