Unable to sleep one winter night, I began reading this book at one a.m. while wind whistled and wailed outside the windows. At five a.m., I was nearly finished, having been completely entranced by Giles Blunt's story and its fascinating-yet-flawed characters. Granted, the real-life weather outside helped promote the story's atmosphere of relentless cold, but I think the keen writing and pace would have achieved the same effect had I been on a beach at high noon.
John Cardinal was originally assigned to the missing person's case of 13-year-old Katie Pine. Leads turned up no evidence of foul play, and, after an exhaustive search, Cardinal was told he had spent too much time and money on the case. As punishment, he was reassigned to work on burglary cases. The discovery of Katie Pine's mangled body sets him once again on the now-cold (literally and figuratively) trail of her murderer. The process of finding those responsible for her death, and the death of other children whose disappearance mirror Katie's is the path of Cardinal's vindication and absolution.
Cardinal is exactly the kind of protagonist a reader can relate to, yet pity. His interactions with his clinically depressed wife, his bright and talented daughter, and his would-be partner, Lise Delorme, are believably awkward, and his inner voice, rife, by turns, with turmoil, determination, and self-loathing, is painfully true. His need to find the killers is hypnotic; his quest becomes ours.
Blunt's decision to introduce us to the killers midway through the novel is a master stroke of suspense. Once we find out who they are, and we begin to understand their perverted obsessions, we become helpless voyeurs to their crimes.
Whether you're Canadian or from the Lower 48, it's well-nigh impossible not to become engrossed in this tale of serial killings in the dead of winter.