By The Time You Read This / The Fields of Grief – Giles Blunt

Blunt By The Time You Read This from Giles Blunt is available in the US from Feb 07, from Henry Holt.  (The novel was published in the UK by HarperCollins in December 06 with the title The Fields of Grief.)

Blunt’s series protagonist, Detective John Cardinal has seen so much deprivation and loss of life to date; but here, he faces an unaccountable loss, where his bipolar/manic depressive wife appears to have finally succumbed to the calling of her demons and commits suicide.  The opening scenes are harrowing.  Cardinal’s loss is also the readers’.  Although the scene forensics are watertight, Cardinal still has doubts.

In a nutshell: Detective John Cardinal’s manic depressive wife commits suicide.  But he’s lived with her for so long he knows her cycles of upward mania and downward slumps.  He just simply knows her too well to accept the verdict, even if the forensic evidence is conclusive.  He then discovers other cases that may shed some light onto his wife’s case and pursues them too.  But it’s all a potential dead end, as his colleagues believe he is in the depths of grief and his judgment is not to be trusted.  Cardinal’s out on his own…  Meanwhile his closest colleague, Delorme is actively pursuing a case to assist the Toronto police with an investigation into a child (or children) at risk.  Can she pin down the evidence fast enough?

Fieldsofgrief The (US) cover says that Cardinal “…will come up against a brand of killer neither he nor the reader has ever seen before”.  This is true.

But for a British reader this is far less the case and the apparent inspiration for the novel is perhaps all too obvious and definitely too close to home, making this novel a potentially uncomfortable read.

The novel is a page turner, but after the harrowing opening scenes there is also a feel that something is missing in Cardinal’s later emotional response.  Somehow, he feels too detached in pursuing his private investigations – he’s on a sort of auto-pilot mode.  The expression of grief and anger that we might expect does not seem to surface.  But some may react like that, seeking refuge from their grief in the comfort zone that work provides.  In Cardinal’s case, his work is to investigate and here it mixes with his inability to accept the evidence surrounding his wife’s death.

Delorme’s investigation has all the necessary tension required in saving children from paedophiles.  The timing, as facts of the story unfold, is perfect.

The novel makes for a chilling suspenseful read.

It’s also a turning point for the main characters of this series and it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Lastly, an aside re book titles – why the difference?  The US title is far more in line with the plot of the novel and brings the compelling edge of the story to the fore.   The UK’s title “The Fields of Grief” and a butterfly on the cover suggests something else.

(Note: the Henry Holt edition was read for the purposes of this review.)

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