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Forty Words for Sorrow Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Blue Moon: Mundy's Landing Book Two by Wendy Corsi Staub
"Blue Moon" by Wendy Corsi Staub
New York Times best-selling author Wendy Corsi Staub returns to Mundy’s Landing—a small town where bygone bloodshed has become big business. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It gets dark early in Algonquin Bay. Take a drive up Airport Hill at four o' clock on a February afternoon, and when you come back half an hour later the streets of the city will glitter below you in the dark like so many runways. The forty-sixth parallel may not be all that far north; you can be much farther north and still be in the United States, and even London, England, is a few degrees closer to the North Pole. But this is Ontario, Canada, we're talking about, and Algonquin Bay in February is the very definition of winter. Algonquin Bay is snowbound, Algonquin Bay is quiet, Algonquin Bay is very, very cold.
Read the evocative opening of Giles Blunt's novel and you may begin to understand why Tony Hillerman says this is the novel he wishes he'd written. Keep reading, and you may wonder why other authors haven't joined the vicarious narrative line. With devastating precision, Blunt effortlessly weaves together strands of lives both led and taken in this tiny Canadian town, limning a hauntingly paradoxical picture of isolation and community, two sides of a fragile bulwark against violence.

John Cardinal was taken off homicide investigation after a fruitless and expensive quest for 13-year-old Katie Pine, a Chippewa girl who disappeared from the nearby reservation. After months of insisting that Katie was no runaway, Cardinal receives the cold comfort of vindication in the form of Katie's corpse, discovered in an abandoned mine shaft. But the case, when reopened, becomes a Pandora's box of horror. Katie's body is only the first to be found, as Cardinal uncovers a pattern that links her death to those of two other children. When another boy is reported missing, Cardinal knows he is in a race against time to find the killer (so trite a phrase, while technically accurate, does radical injustice to Blunt's razor-sharp plot and eerily pragmatic balance between the cop and his prey).

His new partner, Lise Delorme, is trying to uncover her own pattern. Drafted by the RCMP to find proof that Cardinal has been accepting money from drug runner Kyle Corbett to derail the Mounties' investigations (three attempted busts good for absolutely nothing), she sifts through the minutiae of Cardinal's life. Proud father, loving husband, dedicated officer--at what price has this edifice been constructed? Suffice it to say that Cardinal's past and present link him in ironic counterpoint to those people for whom he is inevitably the bearer of bad tidings, leaving them "trying to recognize each other through the smoke and ashes" of grief.

Blunt has created a world in which every conversation can seem as ominous as the moan of the wind and the bullet-like report of shifting lake ice ("It was a new art form for Delorme, picking shards of fact from the exposed hearts of the bereaved. She looked at Cardinal for help, but he said nothing. He thought, "Get used to it."). But it is also a world whose bleak landscape is touched with unexpected humor. Witness this description of one of the many minor, but always beautifully detailed, characters who populate the novel's pages: "Arthur 'Woody' Wood was not in the burglary business to enhance his social life. Like all professional burglars, he went to great lengths to avoid meeting people on the job. At other times, well, Woody was as sociable as the next fellow."

Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, part exploration of a region's landscape and people, the novel is an astonishing, powerful hybrid-- worthy of far more than a mere 40 words of praise. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This brooding tale of a search for a serial killer in rural Ontario takes its title from the often-quoted fact that Eskimos have 40 words for snow. "What people really need is forty words for sorrow," thinks Det. John Cardinal, whose glum outlook aptly mirrors the mood of Blunt's atmospheric thriller. The story begins when the frozen body of 13-year-old Chippewa Katie Pine is discovered on one of the Manitou Islands near Algonquin Bay, Ontario. Cardinal, whose obsessive search for the missing girl when she first disappeared six months earlier got him kicked off the case, ends up back in the good graces of his superiors. Or so he thinks. But his new partner, Lisa Delorme, fresh from the Office of Special Investigations (think Internal Affairs), has been paired with Cardinal so she can covertly investigate him at the same time. Dogging Cardinal's record is his connection with drug dealer Kyle Corbett. Each time the police tried to bust Corbett, he was warned by someone on the inside; Cardinal, who is burdened with a guilty secret and a wife who's in and out of mental institutions, is the prime suspect. Focusing initially on Cardinal, Blunt (author of the praised Cold Eye) opens up the plot by chronicling what happens to the next potential victim of what the newspapers are calling the Windigo Killer. While the plot is formulaic (combining both a least-likely-suspect twist and a you-may-think-it's-over-but-it's-not finale), the plangent atmosphere gradually and effectively permeates the reader's consciousness. The characters achieve dimension slowly, like figures in a developing Polaroid, and then become vivid. Sorrow is palpable, and readers making their way through the book will feel like they're walking hunched over against a steady, chilling wind but the final destination, like Cardinal's final redemption, is well earned and well worth the trip. Agent, Helen Heller. (June 25)Forecast: Glowing advance praise from the likes of Jonathan Kellerman, Tony Hillerman and Lee Child augurs well for this deserving, intelligent thriller.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reissue edition (March 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425185168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425185162
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,598,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Algonquin Bay in northern Ontario is not just bitterly arctic---it spends the long winter snowbound and the cold is a living force that invades like a sledge hammer. Could-be, dirty cop John Cardinal has spent a fruitless, expensive five months trying to locate missing 13-year old Katy Pine. His credibility is suspect with his superiors. When Cardinal finds the missing girl brutally murdered in a mineshaft near an isolated lake, he is given the dubious honor of leading the investigation of this clueless, highly publicized crime. He is assigned a partner who may or may not be investigating his background. The killings increase in number along with the frustrations of the police force.
The pace picks up a bizarre momentum when the killer is brought into the narrative. His machinations always are two jumps ahead of the authorities, and he seems hopelessly invincible. This tale is for the steely of heart, for the violence is graphic and horrific. Yet there are light moments as when the police are questioning a well-known burglar and asking him about his known associates. Burglar says in tones of disgust "If I wanted to MEET people, I'd be a mugger." One of Cardinal's fellow detectives is a constant complainer, and his rants about everything from the Mounties to his ex-wife are brilliant, ferocious and unending.
"Forty Words For Sorrow" has an "it's not over till it's over" gambit that enchants me every time. The suspense becomes well nigh unbearable, and entirely unpredictable. I'd nominate this book for best title of the year and certainly one of the very good reads.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
An excellent police procedural that takes place in one of the most overlooked locales in the genre. Here in the states, we're quite familiar with the top British and American mystery writers, but Australian and Canadian authors tend to be ignored unless they have American or British publishers. Consequently, it's not often that icy, small town Canada is used as a fictional backdrop. Blunt's descriptions are so well done that the climate itself plays a role as an obstacle in the investigations. In addition to the nice character work that the author has accomplished, the ending ties up all of the loose edges quite neatly, thus setting the stage for the next book in the series.
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Format: Paperback
To those of you who thought the villains were too black-and-white evil, consider that this story is obviously based on the Homolka-Bernardo killings. Details like the video tapes and sadism are very much the same. And Homolka and Bernardo were much, much worse. Edie is at least pitiful in her low self-esteem and craving for love in whatever ugly form it takes.

And Blunt deals with murderers much more, well, bluntly. Bernardo is still in prison, and Homolka served 12 years before being released. I think Canada is still scarred by the murders and furious over Homolka's release, so the novel serves to tie up loose ends rather neatly.

I liked very much that Cardinal wasn't entirely virtuous, and liked even more the resolution with his wife.

The detective characters and the corruption sub-plot reminded me of Louise Penny's Cruelest Month.
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Format: Hardcover
According to the brief bio in the back of this book, author Blunt has written scripts for such notable shows as Law & Order. It is clear that he brings a lot to the table: a fine sense of narrative timing, strong skill at characterization, and a crisp writing style. These gifts all come into play in Forty Words For Sorrow. From the outset, the wretched cold is as integral to the plot as the characters. Blunt succeeds in evoking the climate both of a mythical northern Ontario town and of the local police force, where personalities clash and collide and, ultimately, pull together to solve the mystery of who has murdered a number of missing kids. There are finely wraught characterizations with not a stock character in sight. The issue of mental illness is addressed with sensitivity and insight. And at the point where the narrative focus shifts from who the villain might be to the interior rationale(s) behind the crimes, the momentum moves into high gear and stays there. The tension is spread across several lines: detective Cardinal's anxiety over his secrets and personal sorrows; the heightened fears and sorrows of those related to the victims; and the ongoing investigation of Cardinal's past by his new partner, Lise Delorme, who is torn by conflicting emotions and relentless ambition. This is a can't-put-down book, lean and taut. I'll be eagerly waiting for the next in the series.
Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Truly nasty psychopathic serial killer? Check.
Dirty cop sub-plot? Check.
Internal police politics and interagency squabbling? Check.
Superb characterization and just a hint of misplaced romance? Check.
Magnificent, spot-on accurate description of an atmospheric setting with plenty of local colour? Check.
Some typical complementary Canadiana from a new Canadian author? Check, eh!

Algonquin Bay is a small city in northern Ontario and its young people are squarely in the sights of a skilled serial killer and his demented partner who are eluding the best efforts of an intensely focused manhunt. But, surprisingly, if you're looking for a nail-biting suspense thriller, "FORTY WORDS FOR SORROW" definitely won't fill the bill. On the other hand, if you're looking for a profound combination of psychological thriller and police procedural, Giles Blunt has definitely scored a home-run with this novel debuting the partnership of John Cardinal and Lise Delorme. They're not quite as angsty as Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch but they're definitely edgy with lots of quirks to build on. As you are pulled more deeply into the story, I'm sure you'll agree that comparisons like this are both inevitable and well-deserved.

And when you get to that first-rate ending, you'll understand (with considerable gratitude) that there's lots of mileage left in the Cardinal-Delorme partnership and more exciting novels to come.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
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