Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I spent some of the more clement days of spring's end and summer's start cooped up inside with a book as though there were a winter storm rankling the outdoors. The howling weather battering my interior windows was John Farrow's (aka Trevor Ferguson) latest installment of his Emilé Cinq-Mars series, The Storm Murders.

It just so happened that before I started Farrow's newest book I'd been reading an anthology of "locked room" stories – that is, those crimes that seem to happen hermetically, with a body found in a room locked from in the inside with no evidence of ingress or egress. In that tradition, The Storm Murders opens with two Montreal police officers responding to a rural call in the midst of a heavy snow storm. They find two dead in a farm house, no footprints leading in, none leading out. When the two officers are themselves later found dead, it's confounding enough that the involvement of the FBI isn't questioned, and serious enough to contact the much lauded, recently retired detective EmilĂ© Cinq-Mars.

Cinq-Mars first appeared in 1999's internationally acclaimed City of Ice, and carried on to Ice Lake in 2002, popping back up most recently in the time-trotting River City, where he appeared as a rookie cop caught up in a murder during 1955's Rocket Richard Riots with connections ranging back to Jean Cartier, all part of a conspiracy in which Pierre Elliot Trudeau is wrapped up in. Farrow has followed up that impressively sprawling caper with the drum-tight The Storm Murders.

Tempted out of retirement by both the curiousness of the case itself and the curiousness of the FBI's interest in a Canadian incident, Cinq-Mars becomes inveigled in cross-boarder conspiracies and departmental corruption, which might be a nice break from his daily crossword for him but turns dire when his wife gets involved.

Compared to the previous Cinq-Mars books, The Storm Murders is somewhat svelte, but don't take that as a lack of depth. Farrow's prose is taught, and confidently so, honed through experience (Ferguson has been hailed as one of Canada's best writers since the dawn of the 80s), mirroring the refinement of Cinq-Mars own ratiocination. Farrow is a deft, confident writer at the helm of a deft, confident sleuth, and the combination of the two make for a mystery that you won't want to put down, no matter how much the stupid sun in shining out there.

- Andrew

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