Canadian novelist Trevor Ferguson’s sixth pseudonymous outing packs retired Montreal police detective Émile Cinq-Mars and his wife, Sandra, off to Holyoake, New Hampshire, where their plans to attend their niece Caroline’s graduation and Sandra’s dying mother are swiftly upstaged by a homicide spree.
Addie Langford, an international finance student at the Dowbiggin School of International Studies, which sits yearningly in the shadow of Dartmouth, has been so beautifully dressed and so carefully arranged on the stairs leading to the Dowbiggin clock tower that it’s hard to believe she was first raped, then strangled, then raped again. It’s even harder to believe that the same deranged lover who murdered her went on to shoot Dowbiggin custodian Malory Earle and her secret lover, professor Philip Lars Toomey, crossing the Vermont state line in the process of creating three separate, and most unequal, crime scenes. Luckily for Chief Alex Till, who’s unceremoniously elbowed out of the case by the FBI, Émile (The Storm Murders, 2015, etc.) is on hand to display his unmatched talent for talking himself first onto the bell tower, then further and further into the heart of the investigation. Talking, in fact, is the main thing the visitor from Quebec does, and his detective work, such as it is, is repeatedly upstaged by his fraught, overextended, unfailingly literate conversations with opponents from State Trooper Hammond, who’d love to see him go back home, to the architect of the triple murder, whose feigned astonishment at being accused faithfully echoes that of many readers.
“Truth is a bastard,” the motto of Farrow’s sage sleuth, couldn’t be more accurate this time. The revelations about the Dowbiggin community he ends up unearthing are as sordid as they are wildly implausible.