Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mystery Book Review: By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt

By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt
A John Cardinal and Lise Delorme Mystery

Henry Holt (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-8050-8061-9 (0805080619)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8061-2 (9780805080612)
Publication Date: February 2007
List Price: $19.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): For years, John Cardinal's wife, Catherine, has battled severe depression. People are saddened when she finally takes her own life, but they are not really surprised. Cardinal, of course, is devastated. Despite the suicide note in Catherine's own handwriting and the coroner's finding that there is no evidence of foul play, Cardinal cannot bring himself to believe that Catherine has really killed herself.

When hateful notes about his wife's death begin to arrive in the mail, he begins to suspect murder - perhaps revenge from one of the many criminals he has put away over the years. But because the police have not opened a case, he is forced to investigate on his own. Even his longtime colleague Lise Delorme can't help him - she's wrapped up in a nasty case of her own.

Cardinal enlists the help of Catherine's psychiatrist to help him figure out who is behind the notes. And as he investigates further, he uncovers an alarming rash of suicides in Algonquin Bay - far more than would seem natural for such a small city. Is it possible that they are, in fact, murders?

Review: John Cardinal and Lise Delorme, detectives working for the (fictional) Algonquin Bay police department, pursue separate investigations in By the Time You Read This, the fourth mystery in this series by Giles Blunt.

Cardinal's case is personal. His wife, Catherine, who has been treated for depression for years, is found dead one night at the base of an apartment building, apparently the result of a suicide. He refuses to believe she could have taken her own life, and though the department never opens a case of suspicious death, Cardinal undertakes a private investigation using police resources to determine the truth. Meanwhile, Delorme has been assigned a case of child pornography involving a young girl spanning several years. Evidence suggests Algonquin Bay as being the source of the pictures, but little more is known. Cardinal and Delorme eventually team up to track down the pornographer and in the process uncover the reality behind Catherine's suicide.

By the Time You Read This is an exceptionally well-written, deftly plotted novel, but should not be read as a mystery per se. It is, in many ways, a police procedural in which the reader is aware of facts not yet known to the investigators. Though the psychological and physical crimes are horrific, Blunt manages to derive much of the suspense in the story from how Cardinal and Delorme will piece together the puzzle. That their cases are linked is never in doubt (to the reader); how they are connected remains a mystery until the exciting conclusion.

Blunt's character development is so well done that it's difficult not to empathize with Cardinal's loss, feel his emptiness at home, experience the void in his life. And it's equally difficult not to share Delorme's disgust with her pornography case, her rage at the loss of a child's innocence, her determination to find the man responsible. That the reader is drawn so completely into the story and its characters is just one measure of how splendidly it is written.

By the Time You Read This is a superior novel of suspense and is highly recommended.

Special thanks to Henry Holt for providing an ARC of By the Time You Read This for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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