Forty Words for Sorrow

Publisher: Vintage Canada
When four teenagers go missing in the small northern town of Algonquin Bay, the extensive police investigation comes up empty. Everyone is ready to give up except Detective John Cardinal, an all-too-human loner whose persistence only serves to get him removed from homicide. Haunted by a criminal secret in his own past and hounded by a special investigation into corruption on the force (conducted, he suspects, by his own partner), Cardinal is on the brink of losing his career — and his family.

Then the mutilated body of thirteen-year-old Katie Pine is pulled out of an abandoned mineshaft. And only Cardinal is willing to consider the horrible truth: that this quiet town is home to the most vicious of serial killers. The case as it unfolds proves eerily reminiscent of the Moors murders in Britain, as an unassuming young man and his belligerently loyal girlfriend scout young victims for their macabre games. With the media, the provincial police and his own department questioning his every move, Cardinal follows increasingly tenuous threads towards the unthinkable. Time isn't only running out for him, but for another young victim, tied up in a basement wondering when and how his captors will kill him.

Evoking the Canadian winter and the hearts of the killers and cops in icily realistic prose, Giles Blunt has produced a masterful crime novel that rivals the best of Martin Cruz Smith and introduces readers to a detective hero whose own human faults serve to fuel his unerring sense of justice.


It gets dark early in Algonquin Bay. Take a drive up Airport Hill at four o'clock on a February afternoon and when you come back half an hour later, the streets of the city will glitter below you in the dark like so many runways. The forty-sixth parallel may not be all that far north; you can be much further north and...
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“The highest praise a writer can give another is to say he wishes he had written this book. I wish I had written Forty Words for Sorrow. Giles Blunt has a tremendous talent. If you miss Forty Words for Sorrow, you'll miss one of best novels of 2001.” —Tony Hillerman

"Forty Words for Sorrow is brilliant - one of the finest crime novels I've ever read. Giles Blunt writes with uncommon grace, style and compassion and he plots like a demon. This book has it all - unforgettable characters, beautiful language, throat-constricting suspense." —Jonathan Kellerman

Forty Words for Sorrow is a smart, superbly written novel which tests a likeable, fallible pair of investigators with some intriguing ethical questions as they use their considerable skills to solve a set of monstrous and disturbing crimes.” —Thomas Perry (author of The Butcher’s Boy, Death Benefits, Blood Money, Sleeping Dogs, etc)

“Intensely vivid characters, terrible crimes, and a brutal deep-frozen landscape all prove beyond a reasonable doubt that cold nurtures good and evil as readily as heat ... and that Giles Blunt is a really tremendous crime novelist.” —Lee Child

Forty Words for Sorrow satisfies right down to the marrow.” —Quill and Quire

“Blunt’s complex plot has history and a lot of nuance. His characters, particularly Cardinal, have the depth and resonance readers demand…don’t read it just because it’s a good crime novel and because once you’ve begun, you won’t put it down until you’re finished. Read it because it’s excellent.” —The Globe and Mail

“This highly readable combination of mystery and suspense (with a sequel already in the works) raises the bar of Canadian crime writing and is a dead certain nomination for multiple writing awards.” —National Post

“The clues unfold in convincing ways, with no impossible surprises, no flukey bits of luck to defy belief…the final pages present the sort of ending rare in crime fiction, one which compels readers to congratulate everybody in sight — themselves, the book’s characters and particularly the author, Giles Blunt.” —The Toronto Star

"A superbly rendered descent into modern-day hell…sensational." —Publishers Weekly

“Giles Blunt creates a frosty world of hidden agendas, prejudices and murder in this fast paced and thought-provoking thriller…Forty Words for Sorrow is a wonderful mystery about human character with murder as the compass.” —The Edmonton Sun

“Cardinal is not especially likeable (no one here is), but he is meatily complex enough to sustain a series. The several plots dovetail skillfully, red herrings and twists are well placed, the narrative has verve and humour.” —The Mystery Review

“[A] riveting tale of twisted minds…Definitely, Blunt is a writer-craftsman. Unlike many crime novels where the plot moves so fast you don’t have time to recognize the poverty of text, Blunt’s writing ability is obvious from the start. He lives comfortably in the world of descriptive, but not overworked phrases and has the ability to weave the elements of the crime into the plot so successfully that one feels one is getting a history lesson, a criminology briefing and a good story all in one…[The characters] are people flawed enough to promise some twists, yet solid and believable enough to move into your neighbourhood of fictional favourites.” —The Nugget (North Bay)

'Extraordinary for its psychology and tension. The market abounds with serial killer thrillers, which are mostly written by writers who people their lurid worlds with cardboard cutouts, and a book like this shows them up for what they are. Giles Blunt manages to inhabit the minds of killer, victim and investigator alike, a feat that very few writers can manage. It moves his work to a different level. Watch out, the Canadians are coming, in crime-writing now as well as in the conventional literary novel.' - Jane Jakeman, The Independent