The Planet Grief. An incalculable number of light years from the warmth of the sun. When the rain falls, it falls in droplets of grief, and when the light shines, it is in waves and particles of grief. From whatever direction the wind blows–south, east, north or west– it blows cinders of grief before it. Grief stings your eyes and sucks the breath from your lungs. No oxygen on this planet, no nitrogen; the atmosphere is composed entirely of grief. [By the Time You Read This, page 37]
Catherine Cardinal, wife of Sergeant John Cardinal, is dead. Ruled a suicide, it comes as no real surprise to those who knew her. Catherine had suffered from manic depression for over twenty years. Long stints of hospitalization were followed by healthy periods permeated by worry and anxiousness that everything would once again disintegrate. Her last hospital stay had been over a year ago. Catherine had been finding peace and fulfillment in her photography and taking her medication regularly. From years of experience, Cardinal had taken all of these signs to be positive and hopeful.
So along with coping with devastating grief, Cardinal is confused. Although a suicide note in Catherine’s handwriting was found at the scene, Cardinal isn’t convinced that his wife was responsible for her own death. She was distracted when she left to take pictures the night she died, but she was nowhere near the despondent state she attained when she was ill. It wasn’t adding up.
Everyone in the department, even his partner, Lise Delorme, believes Cardinal’s refusal to accept his wife’s suicide is only the denial that comes with the agony of his loss. Even his daughter, Kelly, has accepted her mother’s fate. But when Cardinal receives a card with a typewritten note inside taunting him about his wife’s death, he is resolute that someone has murdered Catherine.
In Cardinal’s line of work, a man can pile up a lot of enemies. The first likely suspect that comes to his mind is Kiki B., an “associate” of a drug dealer, Rick Bouchard, who he had sent to prison. Kiki B. knew where Cardinal lived and he had an axe to grind–Bouchard had been killed while serving his sentence.
With Delorme wrapped up in a nasty sex crimes case, Cardinal goes it alone. When Kiki B. turns out to have made a career change, Cardinal moves on to other members of the criminal element he’d had the pleasure to put away. As he moves through a long line of suspects, Cardinal finds himself settling on perhaps the most unlikely suspect of all.
About the author
Giles Blunt grew up in North Bay, Ontario. After spending over twenty years in New York City, he now lives in Toronto. He has written scripts for Law & Order, Street Legal and Night Heat. He is the author of Forty Words for Sorrow, for which he won the British Crime Writers’ Macallan Silver Dagger; A Delicate Storm, winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel; and Blackfly Season, one of Margaret Cannon’s Best Mysteries of the Year.
Excerpt: By the Time You Read This (by (author) Giles Blunt)
Nothing bad could ever happen on Madonna Road. It curls around the western shore of a small lake just outside Algonquin Bay, Ontario, providing a pine-scented refuge for affluent families with young children, yuppies fond of canoes and kayaks, and an artful population of chipmunks chased by galumphing dogs. It’s the kind of spot–tranquil, shady and secluded – that promises an exemption from tragedy and sorrow.
Detective John Cardinal’s and his wife, Catherine, lived in the smallest house on Madonna Road, but even that tiny place would have been beyond their means were it not for the fact that, being situated across the road from the water, they owned neither an inch of beach nor so much as a millimetre of lake frontage. On weekends Cardinal spent most of his time down in the basement breathing sawdust, paint and Minwax, carpentry affording him a sense of creativity and control that did not tend to flourish in the squad room.
But even when he was not woodworking, he loved to be in his tiny house enveloped in the serenity of the lakeshore. It was autumn now, early October, the quietest time of the year. The motorboats and Sea-Doos had been hauled away, and the snowmobiles were not yet blasting their way across ice and snow.
Autumn in Algonquin Bay was the season that redeemed the other three. Colours of scarlet and rust, ochre and gold swarmed across the hills, the sky turned an alarming blue, and you could almost forget the sweat-drenched summer, the bug festival that was spring, the pitiless razor of winter. Trout Lake was preternaturally still, black onyx amid fire. Even having grown up here (when he took it completely for granted), and now having lived in Algonquin Bay again for the past dozen years, Cardinal was never quite prepared for how beautiful it was in the fall. This time of year, he liked to spend every spare minute at home. On this particular evening he had made the fifteen-minute drive from work, even though he had only an hour, affording him exactly thirty minutes at the dinner table before he had to head back.
Catherine tossed a pill into her mouth, washed it down with a few swallows of water and snapped the cap back on the bottle.
“There’s more shepherd’s pie, if you want,” she said.
“No, I’m fine. That was great,” Cardinal said. He was trying to corner the last peas on his plate.
“There’s no dessert, unless you want cookies.”
“I always want cookies. The question is whether I want to be hoisted out of here by a forklift.”
Catherine took her plate and glass into the kitchen.
“What time are you heading out?” he called after her.
“Right now. It’s dark, the moon is up. Why not?”
Cardinal glanced outside. The full moon, an orange disc riding low above the lake, was quartered by the mullions of their window.
“You’re taking pictures of the moon? Don’t tell me you’re going into the calendar business.”
But Catherine wasn’t listening. She had disappeared down to the basement, and he could hear her pulling things off the shelves in her darkroom. Cardinal put the leftovers in the fridge and slotted his dishes into the dishwasher.
Catherine came back upstairs, zipped up her camera bag and dumped it beside the door while she put on her coat. It was a golden tan colour with brown leather trim on the cuffs and collar. She pulled a scarf from a hook and wrapped it once, twice, about her neck, then undid it again.
“No,” she said to herself. “It’ll be in the way.”
“How long is this expedition of yours?” Cardinal said, but his wife didn’t hear him. They’d been married nearly thirty years, but she still kept him guessing. Sometimes when she was going out to photograph, she would be chatty and excited, telling him every detail of her project until he was cross-eyed with the fine points of focal lengths and f-stops. Other times he wouldn’t know what she was planning until she emerged from her darkroom days or weeks later, clutching her prints like trophies from a personal safari. Tonight she was subdued.
“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 favourite 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.
“An emotionally involving and intellectually challenging journey from night in to day. A fine and moving novel about bereavement.”
“Blunt writes a taut, gripping tale of suspense that is loaded with gritty realism. . . . Few can match his wit, wry observations and emotionally charged background sketches.”
“If Blunt ends the Cardinal series here, he has created a colourful parade of seasonal mysteries. But his readers will hope to meet Cardinal again, as a lion in winter.”
–Winnipeg Free Press
“Blunt, who has received Canadian and international awards for this series, once again proves he can set the scene better than almost anyone else in the crime genre. . . . There is something else Blunt excels at, and that is shedding light on the chilling inner workings of the criminal mind.”
–The Globe and Mail
“The most beautifully written, deeply felt page-turner of the year.”
–Kirkus (starred review)
“In a series that has already taken home numerous awards, this volume, Blunt’s fourth, stands out for its grace, compassion and the elegance of his writing. … It is a poignant literary work that nonetheless offers all the gritty satisfaction of a standard police procedural. This is, quite simply, a great book from a writer at the top of his form.”
Praise for Giles Blunt:
“Giles Blunt is one of the top crime writers around.”
“Giles Blunt writes with uncommon grace, style and compassion and he plots like a demon.”
“Blunt writes a taut, gripping tale of suspense that is loaded with gritty realism . . . Few can match his wit, wry observations and emotionally charged background sketches.”
“Giles Blunt has a tremendous talent.”
“Blunt should be considered among the new practitioners of crime drama’s elite.”
“[Blunt] can join the select group of writers – such as Ian Rankin and Tony Hillerman – who can locate their readers in a fictional universe as physically real as the chair they inhabit.”