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Bookends: Murder Returns to Algonquin Bay December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Murder Returns to Algonquin Bay

By Dan Davidson

October 30, 2013

– 831 words –


Crime MachineCrime Machine

By Giles Blunt

Vintage Canada

294 pages




There were four years and two unrelated novels between the death of Detective John Cardinal’s troubled wife in By the Time You Read This and Crime Machine. It’s not certain how long that time has been for Cardinal. In chapter 3 we learn that sometime after a six month stretch he decided to put the little house they had lived in together up for sale and moved into an apartment. He doesn’t like the apartment, but it was enough un-Catherine to help him move on a bit. It was also rather un-Cardinal.

“At one time he might have thought himself an urban type, back when he was living in Toronto, but not anymore. Now he was just a man whose wife had died and who had trouble seeing much value in his leftover life.”

If Cardinal seems a bit flat of affect in this story, I put it down to that. He and his usual partner, Lise Delorme, have fallen into a pattern of platonic movie nights. Lise is perennially unlucky in love. I keep expecting something to develop here, but it’s still too soon. Cardinal had twinges of temptation back when Catherine was institutionalized, but when she recovered from her chronic depression, and before she was murdered, straying never seemed to enter his mind.

We don’t start with Cardinal though. We start with Sam Doucette and Randall Wishart. Sam would rather have the life of Loreena Moon, her comic book superhero creation. It would be better than attending art college and working at the diner on some evenings. Randall has a beautiful wife and promising real estate practice, but he also has a thing for gorgeous young Native girls, and lots of empty houses to meet them in.

If he and Sam hadn’t met in the one on Island Road, and if he hadn’t left before she did once they had completed their tryst, Sam would not have been there when the three other people arrived, would not have been in the house when the younger man shot the older couple and cut off their heads.

Sam managed to escape with just minor injuries. Her story is just one of the threads in this tale, but we do come back to her and her story has its own points of interest.

Our two detectives have each been handed cold case files to try and clear during a lull in more pressing criminal activity, but the discovery of two headless bodies in a vacant home proves to be a relief from what seems to be a fruitless task. One of Cardinal’s files dated back to the 1970s and had been dredged through several times by other officers, but it finally turns out to have some bearing on a sudden spate of killings that seem to be tied together by the sameness of their means and methodology.

What the police don’t know is that a man who calls himself Papa, along with three young people he calls his family, has arrived in Algonquin Bay, and is using it as a base of operations. Papa styles himself a survivalist, a libertarian freedom fighter against the corruption of the modern world, but what he does is take impressionable, troubled young people and turn them into extensions of his own twisted world view. They are his family, and he is training them. Part of the training involves throwing gravel into the gears of the society he hates by stealing and by mysterious, motiveless killings.

It’s not a happy family. Papa holds them together by the sheer force of his charisma, which seems to be able to control all their impulses. His training is presented as a series of loyalty tests, moving from petty thefts to ATM robberies, and always culminating in a ritualistic murder.

Cardinal eventually learns something of Papa’s modus operandi from a freelance journalist named Donna Vaughan, who has been tracking a series of seemingly unrelated, but very similar, killings for quite some time, and who turns up in the city once the news of the Island Road murders gets out. The pair end up having a brief fling, but the things get complicated and don’t end well.

What seems like a rather slow investigation heats up rapidly during the last 60 or so pages of the book. Cardinal had a flash of inspiration that made me very glad I was reading an actual paperback book, because that made it so much easier to flip back through the pages and find out if I had it right at that point. Even then, I did not expect the twists that the last couple of chapters held.

I’m glad that Blunt has reopened this series, and I hope to see another installment sooner than this one appeared. According to his Wikipedia entry, I will soon get my wish.









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