Giles Blunt’s The Delicate Storm is a book that will keep you almost on the edge the whole time. It’s like a classic Hollywood thriller – neither too dramatic nor too much action. The storyline, the strong characters, and the chilly Canadian ‘ice storm’ setting are the pulling elements for what is a rather understated novel.
Plot Summary of The Delicate Storm
The Delicate Storm is the second novel in the John Cardinal series, published in 2002. Set in the small city of Algonquin Bay in Ontario State, the novel revolves around two murders that seem to be interconnected – first, the gruesome murder of a mid-aged American chopped in the woods, and second, a young female doctor left naked in freezing cold strangled and ‘apparently’ molested. Detective John Cardinal and his French-Canadian partner Lise Delorme investigate the two murders, and as they start digging deep, a 30-year-old crime raises its head from the dark.
A male body chewed up by bears is found in the woods, which turns out to be a former CIA agent gone rogue. Following the trail, John ends up visiting New York, Toronto, and Quebec. The story involves the CIA and the CSIS, terrorist organizations, high-profile officials, and one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history – the October Crisis of 1970. Giles gives us a thorough narration of when the then prime minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War of Measures Act to curb the unprecedented terror activities carried out by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), a French-nationalist terror outfit.
As John and Delorme move closer to solving the murders, they face strong resistance from the secret intelligence, including evidence tampering and deliberately misleading the investigation. The author, though, did a great job of keeping the mystery alive till the very end, keeping the readers on the edge. The Delicate Storm also packs various elements like psychology, domestic relationships, carnal desires, and greed for power and money.
The Understated Cop
One of the fascinating things about The Delicate Storm is the portrayal of the protagonist, Detective John Cardinal. A man in his late fifties, Cardinal is ready to mend ways and take the roads untaken in order to get justice delivered. Cardinal’s character is sensitive, emotional, vulnerable, and imperfect, but is also strong and determined. Gilles Blunt doesn’t refrain from showing the weaker side of the cop, be it the past crimes, or his unusual attraction towards his partner Delorme Lise. The fact that Cardinal is beaten by a young 20 something man during an investigation is not only a great element of surprise but also humanizes his character.
Another strong element of the novel is the connection to one of Canada’s darkest chapters – the 1970 October Crisis. The Delicate Storm successfully manages to recreate what happens to be a reminder to the world about the dangers of extreme nationalism. The story seamlessly blends the present with the past and it turns out quite brilliant. It gives us a glimpse of an era where terrorists were not pictured only as having beards or turbans. A group of extremist French nationalists blowing up a city and then abducting civil servants, politicians, and foreign diplomats are something the millennials cannot imagine happening.
The CIA and Its Likes
If you have a major political crisis in any country, it is quite hard to not hear about the involvement of the CIA. May it is the mountains of Kabul or the streets of Quebec, the US intelligence service has its hand-painted red everywhere. Giles Blunt moves a step ahead and includes Canadian intelligence – the CISIS – into the political turmoil of the 1970s when the Canadian government imposed the ‘War Measures Act’ to suppress the rebellion. The novel highlights the role of secret services in geopolitics, especially of those of the NATO allies. The novel also highlights an apparent, yet often overlooked fact – the secret operatives are as much a threat to national security as the sleeper cells of terror outfits. If one of them goes rogues, the security of an entire government functionary is at stake.
Languages & Readability
The Delicate Storm is a beautifully written novel and I would easily recommend it to someone who’s just started reading. The novel is simple in its language for a young reader to comprehend, and the 450-page length assures that it has enough depth to quench an enthusiast’s thirst. That said, I felt that Giles could have given more meat to a few aspects, like the relationship between John and Delorme or the role of the obsessive lover of Dr Cates. I was expecting to see something more drastic happening on those two fronts.
What I Liked & Disliked
The only thing that I didn’t like was the fact that there were some loose ends on the story, which is more my fault than the authors – I haven’t read the first installment of the John Cardinal series. A few characters that were apparently carried over from the first novel, Forty Words of Sorrow, seemed abrupt and unnecessary. Apart from that, there’s nothing much to dislike about the novel. It is well written, well-paced, and keeps you turning the pages. The climax, though, is rather anticlimactic. While I was wishing for an action-packed end to a thrilling ride, it turned out to be too subtle. All in all, The Delicate Storm is an excellent weekend read.
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Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.