9780679311454 / 0679311459

Forty Words for Sorrow


Publisher:G. P. Putnam's Sons



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About the book:

Forty Words for Sorrow should come with a frostbite warning. First Giles Blunt precisely captures the cold of a Northern Ontario winter, then he penetrates his villains' even chillier hearts. Teenagers are turning up dead and missing in the small town of Algonquin Bay, and Detective John Cardinal soon realizes there's a serial killer at loose on his home turf. This is far from another run-of-the-morgue serial killer thriller, though. Its literary skill and compassionate empathy lift Forty Words for Sorrow far above the limitations of the genre. The sense of compassion can be seen in the very choice of title. Upon meeting the mother of young victim Katie Pine, Cardinal wonders why, if there are 40 different Inuit words for snow, there are so few synonyms for sorrow. "Grief. Heartbreak. Desolation. There were not enough, not for this childless mother in her empty house."

The reader's suitably suspenseful ride centres on the search for the killer. But in the middle of the chase Cardinal must also face family troubles, including a mentally ill wife and suspicions of corruption, which his new partner, Sergeant Lise Delorme, may or may not be investigating even as she helps him track the murderer. These subplots initially seem a touch contrived and distracting. Soon, however, they have helped Blunt establish Cardinal as a fully rounded and sympathetic character, adding to the book's resonance. The author's depiction of the killer is similarly incisive, and the combination of convincing characterizations and riveting storytelling makes Forty Words for Sorrow a genuine triumph. --Kerry Doole

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