Review: Forty Words for Sorrow

Posted 26 May, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Forty Words for Sorrow (John Cardinal and Lise Delorme Mystery #1)
By: Giles Blunt
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

When four teenagers go missing in the small northern town of Algonquin Bay, the extensive police investigation comes up empty. Everyone is ready to give upexcept Detective John Cardinal, an all-too-human loner whose persistence onlyserves to get him removed from homicide. Haunted by a criminal secret in his ownpast and hounded by a special investigation into corruption on the force, Cardinal is on the brink of losing his career–and his family.

Then the mutilated body of thirteen-year-old Katie Pine is pulled out of anabandoned mineshaft. And only Cardinal is willing to consider the horrible truth: that this quiet town is home to the most vicious of serial killers. The case as it unfolds proves eerily reminiscent of the Moors murders in Britain, as anunassuming young man and his belligerently loyal girlfriend scout young victimsfor their macabre games.

With the media, the provincial police and his owndepartment questioning his every move, Cardinal follows increasingly tenuousthreads towards the unthinkable. Time isn’t only running out for him, but foranother young victim, tied up in a basement wondering when and how his captors will kill him.

I found out about this book because it was recently adapted into a 6-episode television series, Cardinal, that aired earlier this year. I was intrigued by the trailer–set in Canada, that sort of thing. So I decided to check out the book first before watching it.

This book was quite the pageturner, I couldn’t put it down for long once I started really getting into the story. The crime is heinous and hard to read, especially when it gets into the details of what happened, but it does set a very taut atmosphere around the book. What really kept me going though was the characters, from the hardworking and over-burdened John Cardinal to tough Lisa Delorme walking a fine line between her many calls to duty to all of the secondary characters aiding the case and playing a role in the story. Cardinal and Delorme’s relationship was interesting in that they’re thrown together as partners for this case and yet there’s the cat-and-mouse tension about whether Delorme is also investigating Cardinal as well as other tensions. Cardinal clearly has a lot of issues on the plate and he was just fascinating to follow as he balances the case and all of his personal issues.

I only have one minor quibble about this book: people in this book refer to the Aboriginals as Indians. I don’t know if it’s a certain generation that still refers to them by that term or if it’s still a term in use up north but unlike in the US, we refer to them as the Aboriginals, Native Americans (not even this term so much these days), Indigenous People. So to see the term Indians used, it pulls me out of the experience.

Otherwise this book is pretty solid. Very moody, very tense as the reader follows Cardinal and Delorme’s efforts to find the killer, kept me reading and turning the page (even when I’m supposed to be sleeping after a night shift). I highly recommend this book if you’re a reader of the mystery genre. And now I can watch the television series; from what I’ve seen so far there’s been some changes to some of the characters, additional storylines, etc. but I’m nonetheless looking forward to finally watching it (I should also note that the show was picked up for two additional series, to be based off two of the other books in the series, so that’s cool!).

Rating: ★★★★☆

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4 Responses to “Review: Forty Words for Sorrow”

    • The tv show was great! Dunno if I’ll get around to typing a word about it here but it was a great miniseries despite of the slight changes here and there. It also got renewed for two more series which is great 😀

  1. I’m quite tempted to do a Canadian Crime display at work. People are so used to books set in the US, so Canada might be something a bit different. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Ooh, that sounds like a cool idea! If you need more ideas on who else to include, there’s the Detective Greene series by Robert Rotenberg (see author tag); I read 3 out of 4 of the books in that series and it doesn’t disappoint (set in Toronto too!) 😀

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