Monday, August 10, 2015
REVIEW: THE HESITATION CUT
Two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel, and also winner of the British Crime Writers’ Macallan Silver Dagger, the Canadian novelist Giles Blunt is an elite crime writer. In 2000, Forty Words for Sorrow came out and wowed this reviewer with its chilling portrayal of a psychopath’s crimes and icy heart. The book was the first in Blunt’s bestselling John Cardinal series, set in Algonquin Bay, Ontario (a stand-in for North Bay, where Blunt grew up).
The Hesitation Cut continues, in a very different way, Blunt’s focus on – and flair for interpreting – wounded, violent characters. Although it’s a suspense novel, not a whodunit, this novel includes satisfying misdirection and plot twists for mystery lovers.
Ranging from monks living in Upstate New York to a famous (and suicidal) novelist in New York City, the characters are quirky. For example, Lauren Wolfe, the NYC novelist, will only write while she’s wearing an old football jersey with the number twelve on it.
Thematically, the book is a challenging one. From the character arc of protagonist Peter Meehan – a thirty-year-old monk who abruptly leaves his monastery – I see the theme as follows: loss of (or betrayal by) a parent in childhood can lead you to pursue dysfunctional and destructive relationships in adulthood. In the ways that Peter’s and his lover Lauren’s lives play out, the story’s overall message seems to be that some deeply wounded adults can heal and lead healthier lives, but others are just too damaged. I was impressed that Blunt avoided a feel-good platitude in favour of ambiguity, which seems more like real life.
For any reader – suspense fan or not – who wants complex characters and thought-provoking themes, The Hesitation Cut provides a suspenseful treatment of a difficult subject. Let me give fair warning: this novel contains some scenes of extreme violence, and some of extreme sex, but none of these are gratuitous. This is writing that pulls no punches.
Bob Young’s short stories have been published in the literary journals Other Voices, Postscripts to Darkness, and Great Lakes Review. He has completed his first novel, a mystery that partially involves the Grand River land dispute of 2006-07, and he’s currently submitting it to literary agents. Any takers? Visit his website: rbyoung.ca