The Delicate Storm

by Giles Blunt
ISBN: 0679310584

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A Review of: The Delicate Storm
by Des McNally

It's foggy, it's ghostly, it's raining, a dismal January in Algonquin Bay, Northern Ontario, and Nigel Blunt has already convinced me that it may be a nice place to visit, but that I wouldn't want to live there. Another reason for my reluctance to relocate is the dismembered body discovered strewn throughout the woods on which bears have dined "al fresco." The body parts turn out to be those of an American whose identity proves to be an enigma. Blunt's hero, Detective John Cardinal, is assigned to find, not just the perpetrator of the crime but also his motive, and the true identity of the victim.
The pace at the start of this novel is somewhat leisurely, perhaps reflecting the pace of life in this small community. However, with the introduction of Doctor Winter Cates and the eventual discovery of her frozen corpse, the whole narrative becomes tighter and more urgent. Cardinal can see no obvious connection between the two murders and is stymied in his investigation by an assortment of individuals from other arms of the Canadian law system.
Still, as the case proceeds and the search for the truth continues, Cardinal's, and his associate, Lise Delorme's persistence causes them to become embroiled in Quebec's FLQ crisis of 30 years earlier-though what could be the connection between that unhappy time and the murder of two people in Algonquin Bay?
Hampered by the reluctance of witnesses, the deaths of more people, and the refusal of other agencies to share information, Cardinal and Delorme find the cases to be complex and success to be elusive. Nevertheless, undeterred they painstakingly reconstruct the clues from the past and present and deliver a solution, with a twist.
Although Blunt lived in New York City for 20 years, his familiarity with, and understanding of Canadian politics, is commendable. From the internecine competition between local and provincial police, the RCMP and CSIS, Canada's intelligence agency, to the views of right- and left- wing politicians, Blunt demonstrates his awareness of what is happening in Canada. His sojourns into Canada's troubled political past are addictive to the point where the reader finds that the murder cases practically taking a backseat to Blunt's description of that disturbing period. And it's surely no coincidence that Blunt's Ontario Premier is called Geoff Mantis? Would his nickname be "Preying"?
Throughout his book Blunt treats his characters, including the ailing wife, irascible father, and shady criminal characters with empathy, a treatment that heightens the cast's appeal. I was particularly drawn to Simone Roualt, an aging separatist turned RCMP informer.
The Delicate Storm is wonderfully written, with a seductive pace and narrative, surely a successful follow-up to Forty Words for Sorrow, which earned Blunt the British Crime Writer's Macallan Silver Dagger Award.
Blunt has successfully delivered another mesmerizing and imaginative thriller that is uniquely Canadian. I was almost surprised to encounter in this novel the imperial system of measurement instead of the metric.

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