26 January 2008


Unusually warm weather in northern Canada just after New Year brings with it a dense fog that shrouds Algonquin Bay. The discovery of a human arm out in the forest sparks a search for other body parts, and eventually bits that appear to have been mauled by bears are discovered. John Cardinal and Lise Delorme become involved in investigating this and another case where a local holds up a bank, threatening the teller with a gun. The identity of the hold up man is easily solved, but the identification of the body bits leads Cardinal and Delorme into learning about separationist activities from the early 1970s when a hostage was killed, two separationists confessed to his murder, and one of the hostage takers vanished. Another strand is introduced when a young female doctor disappears.

THE DELICATE STORM received the 2004 Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, as well as being nominated for a swag of others including the Dashiell Hammett, the Macavity, and the Anthony.

So why didn't I enjoy it as much as I expected to?

For one thing, I think it moved from being murder mystery to crime thriller. A very large number of characters crowded its pages. There was a lot of background information, heavy use of acronyms where the meaning didn't readily stay with me, and some slow passages. These were mainly caused by descriptive bits that became pages of detail that the reader needed for some later event or piece of information to be significant. It meant that the book really was rather long, and there was always a danger you might miss something important. Sometimes you had to wonder whether crowding the reader's head with the detail was worth it for the one significant item.

However there were a number of issues raised which would have appealed particularly to Canadian readers: Canadian politics, separationist movements, male and female detectives working together, Canadian severe weather and its effect on daily life (including police investigations), dishonesty in police officers, tension between intelligence and investigation agencies both in Canada, and between Canada and the USA. But for me, the ending was unsatisfactory, but I won't tell you about that, because you will want to read it for yourself.

THE DELICATE STORM (and what is the significance of that title?) is the second in Blunt's Cardinal series. The first was FORTY WORDS FOR SORROW, and after THE DELICATE STORM comes BLACK FLY SEASON and THE FIELDS OF GRIEF (aka BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS)

My rating 4.3


Petrona said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy this as much as you'd hoped. I like the series -- but I think the first one is the best. Have you read that one? If not, this might have affected your enjoyment of the second, because the characters are established in the first book and I think (sorry, memory not that great) that quite a bit of foundation is laid in that book for what happens in subsequent titles.

Kerrie said...

I have read the the first FORTY WORDS FOR SORROW, and rather disconcertingly, the last in which Cardinal is dealt such a cruel blow. The only one I have not read is BLACK FLY SEASON and I still want to read that. I thnk perhaps in THE DELICATE STORM I was really affected by all the background information, and what ended up being a very complicated plot. I didn't like the way it ended.

Petrona said...

I found the most recent one very sad, given that we had come to know that character's struggle so well. And the villain was just so creepy, both as a person and the whole set-up of how and why he came to do that awful deed.

At the same time, I feel that the books have come to be written more carelessly now. The author does not seem to put in as much effort as he did with the first one or two. I wonder if this is the beginning of "big author syndrome" (ie Patterson, Kellerman et al)? Time will tell.


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