iles Blunt's Forty Words for Sorrow takes place during a dreary February on the Chippewa Reserve in northern Ontario, Canada. Blunt's bone-chilling description of the snowbound and desolate area is so crisp and concise that you practically need mittens to turn the pages: "All around them the snow fell away in shades that ranged from bone white to charcoal gray and even in the dips and scallops of the snowbanks deep mauve." In this frigid setting, a serial killer is on the loose, and Blunt depicts the crime scenes in particularly graphic, and frightening, detail.

John Cardinal, a homicide detective with the Algonquin Bay Police Department in Ontario, has a lot on his mind. He's obsessed with solving the case of several missing teenagers. In addition, he must simultaneously deal with a new partner, departmental politics, his wife's ongoing illness and the financing of his daughter's expensive education. While on the trail of the serial killer, Cardinal is a man with his own secrets. As a result, he himself becomes the target of an investigation. Who is investigating the investigator and why? Can Lise Delorme, his new partner, be trusted? More importantly, can Cardinal and Delorme stop the murderer from claiming another victim? Creating credible characters can be a challenge for some suspense writers. Not so for Blunt; he populates his novel with vivid and complex characters. The meticulous police work they employ is both plausible and convincing. Secondary figures, such as Jerry Commanda, the Ontario Provincial Policeman, come alive with the author's precise and energetic writing style.

Blunt skillfully alternates the action and viewpoint between the hunter and the hunted, all the while maintaining the momentum and emotional impact of the story. This technique gives us a terrifying glimpse into the sinister minds of sociopaths. And, as far as villains go, they don't come much more evil than this.

Forty Words for Sorrow is a gripping tale that delivers escalating tension as the detective and the killer speed toward each other on a harrowing collision course. C. L. Ross writes from Pismo Beach, California.

comments powered by Disqus