"By the Time You Read This"
(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky FEB 25, 2007)
“The Planet Grief. An incalculable number of light years from the warmth of the sun. When the rain falls, it falls in droplets of grief, and when the light shines, it is in waves and particles of grief. From whatever direction the wind blows—south, east, north, or west—it blows cinders of grief before it.”
The title of Giles Blunt's By the Time You Read This comes from a suicide note left by Catherine Cardinal, wife of Algonquin Bay, Ontario, Detective John Cardinal. Catherine was manic-depressive, with a history of volatile behavior and a string of countless hospitalizations behind her. However, she was also a radiant beauty, a prize-winning photographer, a caring teacher, and the mother of a twenty-seven year old daughter. John and Catherine were very much in love throughout their almost three decades of marriage, and John remained a loyal and steadfast husband to the end.
Ironically, Catherine was taking her medication regularly and was very enthusiastic about her work right before she jumped or fell off a high-rise building. His wife's death leaves John in a state of shock, and he takes time off from work to grieve along with his daughter. However, John cannot shake the strong suspicion that since Catherine had not shown any signs of being suicidal during the past few months, only one other possibility remains. Someone must have killed her.
This is a searing psychological thriller that explores the darkest recesses of the human mind. There is a disturbing subplot about an unknown perpetrator who posts pictures on the Internet showing him (with his face hidden) repeatedly molesting a young girl. John's valued colleague, Detective Lise Delorme, tackles this case. The photos of this pervert robbing a child of her innocence sicken her; she eventually enlists John's help in tracking down the molester. The other villain of the piece is a monster whose repressed rage impels him to commit unspeakable acts of sadism. Since the reader knows this person's identity about halfway through the book, the only mystery is how long this twisted individual will remain at large to wreak havoc on his unfortunate prey.
By the Time You Read This has an elegant prose style, finely tuned dialogue, a tightly crafted plot, and incisive descriptive writing. Blunt delves into each character's innermost thoughts and he reveals the gap that often separates the public from the private face. Although the reader may not empathize with everyone in the novel, we gain some valuable insight into why so many people behave in irrational, cruel, and self-destructive ways.
The characters are all finely delineated. John is a good man who has suffered a monumental loss. He dreams of Catherine obsessively, and he repeatedly contemplates the moments of joy and despair that marked his long marriage. To him, closure is an impossible and meaningless concept. Lisa Delorme is an intelligent and tenacious French-Canadian detective who is a good friend of John's; she harbors hidden romantic feelings for him that she dare not disclose, even to herself. Another key character is Catherine's therapist, Dr. Frederick Bell. He treats patients who suffer from crippling depression, many of whom contemplate suicide as the only way to relieve their pain.
Blunt's novel exposes the predators among us, who walk around disguised as benign human beings. Their adversaries are the detectives who work tirelessly to stop them before they destroy even more lives. Like Peter Robinson, another master of this genre, Blunt gets under his characters' skin and digs deeply to reveal what lies beneath the surface. He also demonstrates how caring family and friends can help us through the worst of times, and how good people like John Cardinal and Lise Delorme are willing to move mountains to help the victims that society forgets.
- Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from By the Time You Read This at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Forty Words for Sorrow (2000)
- The Delicate Storm (2002)
- Blackfly Season (2005)
- By the Time You Read This (2006; February 2007)
- Breaking Lorca (February 2009 in Canada)
Movies from Books:
- Les Couleurs du dable (1997)
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- Official website for Giles Blunt
- CBC.CA interview Giles Blunt
- Trashotron review of Forty Words For Sorrow
- Chapter excerpt from The Delicate Storm
- BookLoons review of Blackfly Season
- BookReporter.com review of By the Time You Read This
- Seven Oaks review of By the Time You Read This
- Flogging the Quill review of By the Time You Read This
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About the Author:
Giles Blunt was born in 1952 in Windsor, Ontario and grew up in North Bay, Ontario (which Algonquin Bay is very thinly disguised North Bay). He spent over twenty years in New York City and has written scripts for the TV series including Law and Order, Street Legal and Night Heat.
The first John Cardinal novel, Forty Words for Sorrow, won the British Crime Writers' Silver Dagger, and the second, The Delicate Storm, won the Crime Writers of Canada's Arthur Ellis Award for best novel.
He once again lives in Toronto, Canada.