Author stays true to Canadian roots
By Derryll White
Giles Blunt (2003). The Delicate Storm
Giles Blunt brings that special something he has to ‘The Delicate Storm,’ a real sense of place and his own feeling of country. The first character we meet, Ivan Bergeron, pushes himself away from a traditional after-hockey beer hangover, out to his shop and immediately turns on CBC radio. Already by page two I am loving this novel.
I know I am in for a good read when I start laughing to myself and people on the Hot Shots patio give me slightly questioning glances. John Cardinal, lead detective, attends a bank robbery, picks up the crumpled note to the teller and declaims, “Oh my God, it’s Wudky.”
“What the hell is a Wudky” asks his partner Sergeant Lise Delorme. “WDC – or Wudky – short for World’s Dumbest Criminal. Wudky is Robert Henry Hewitt.” Blunt deals with the darkest of human nature, but the character never fails to make me chuckle several times in a novel in the Cardinal series.
The author is never far from his Canadian roots. The politics ring true, with Cardinal exhibiting social democratic tendencies in contrast to most portrayals of police as conservative strict law and order types. And again Blunt explores the social issue of depression sensitively and without labeling. For that matter, Blunt has cogent things to say on many social issues such as mental competency. John Cardinal breaks the mould of tough, hard-assed cop by coming across as a human being with feelings and understanding for those less advantaged in society and separating them from criminals.
There are moments of personal loss that are real. Blunt sets these inside a framework of police procedures, but the reader empathizes with the people in the room hearing the certainty of that final loss, the death of a loved one. In one scene he has the graduation picture of a victim sitting on the mantle with the mother slumped in loss, and the reader cannot help but empathize, cannot stop from thinking “Please, spare me.” He simply cuts to the heart of every parent’s worst fear. He is adept at delving deep into the human syntax of sadness (one thinks of his first Cardinal novel ‘Forty Words for Sorrow’).
If you want a crash course, quick and painless and interesting, on the October Crisis, Blunt will give it to you here. The birth of the FLQ and the Parti Quebecois, a speedy history of the origins of CSIS, the War Measures Act – Blunt offers a delightfully quick and dirty history of one of the major 20th Century Canadian issues that still haunts us.
I think Giles Blunt has the prerequisites to become a significant writer of fiction that touches our Canadian identity and humanness at every turn.
– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them. When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.