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By the Time You Read This    by Giles Blunt order for
By the Time You Read This
by Giles Blunt
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Giles Blunt introduced John Cardinal - a Canadian police detective who lives and works in Northern Ontario's fictional town of Algonquin Bay - in his award-winning Forty Words for Sorrow. Having enjoyed that first book, I looked forward to catching up with this thoughtful policeman's life and lovely wilderness surroundings in this fourth in the series, By the Time You Read This.

There are two main threads to the story - a spate of suicides, and child abuse. Cardinal's associate, Detective Lise Delorme, is assigned to the latter, after the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit discover a link to Algonquin Bay in child pornography posted over years on the Internet, starting when the little girl concerned was seven. Looking at the photos, Lise feels 'despair at the depths to which human nature could sink.' John Cardinal's connection to the suicides is, very sadly, up close and personal - he is called to a high rise where a body has been discovered and finds that the woman who jumped off the roof of the building was his beloved, troubled wife Catherine.

Giles Blunt does an impressive job of getting into Cardinal's head and portraying his heartfelt grief (as well as their daughter Kelly's anger and pain). The detective enters 'The planet Grief ... From whatever direction the wind blows - south, east, north, or west - it blows cinders of grief before it. Grief stings your eyes and sucks the breath from your lungs ... the atmosphere is composed entirely of grief.' Catherine, who had always suffered manic depressive swings, had been out of psychiatric hospital for a year now, was very involved in her photography projects and her community college teaching job, and seemed to be doing well.

Despite the fact that his colleagues rule out foul play and his boss vetoes an investigation, Cardinal finds it hard to accept that Catherine killed herself, and begins to dig. At the same time, he receives a series of very nasty condolence cards. He discovers that Catherine's suicide note - found with her body and beginning 'By the time you read this ...' - was written months before her death, and finds someone else's fingerprint on it. While suffering continually - 'home had turned into a house made of knives; there was nowhere he could move that did not hurt' - Cardinal calls in debts owed, works under the radar, and slowly a sinister pattern emerges.

Giles Blunt portrays the worst kind of villains - those who betray trust in relationships that should be inviolate. And, as before, he does an excellent job of empathizing with the victims, while tying together his plot threads and laying out a logical resolution for both cases. I highly recommend By the Time You Read This, and am off to track down the earlier John Cardinal episodes that I missed.

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