I must confess, I wasn't quite so crazy about Giles Blunt's debut, Forty Words For Sorrow, as others were, even though it was certainly very good. However, now, after reading The Delicate Storm I'm quite tempted to revisit his first novel and be prepared to reassess my opinions, because The Delicate Storm is, quite simply, excellent.
It begins when a human arm is discovered on an unseasonably warm day in some woods near the town of Algonquin Bay. The search for other human body parts leads investigators John Cardinal and Lisa Delorme to a remote hunter's cabin that is clearly the scene of the crime, and which holds some useful information. The deceased is soon found to have been an American citizen, and so the Mounties are brought in to assist. But, it is when the Canadian Secret Service also start sniffing around the case that Cardinal comes to uncover something far deeper and darker.
Then, a few days later, a young doctor goes missing, and the glittering woods relinquish a second dead body.
Blunt paces his novel absolutely perfectly. It's not too slow, but nor is it so fast that, come the end, the book feels like sand having slipped through a net. He has also struck a perfect equilibrium between character and plot, giving the book power from both corners, and a nicely rounded feel. The characters are excellent, especially Cardinal and Delorme, who are fascinating (both when working together and apart), and, I am sure, capable of sustaining this series for many books to come. The plot itself is great (although possibly discomforting for those who don't like to confront the possibility of a "perfect" crime), and the plotting is slick, smooth and assured, all stemming from Blunt's excellent narrative control. He also examines, interestingly and convincingly, the past and present Canadian political scene.
However, possibly best of all is the setting, which the author describes brilliantly, giving the book a sharp, edgy and entirely chilly atmosphere that broods over the whole novel like some impetuous deity. The landscape creaks and shimmers under the ice and takes on a forbidding life of its own in a way which few writers can really create.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to everyone who likes a great crime novel, because there is no way you'll be disappointed with this. It's full of interesting characters with interesting lives, great plotting, and an atmosphere that shivers. Giles Blunt is tremendous, and surely the best writer to have emerged from Canada in many a moon. I'm looking forward to the next one already!