Reviewed by Ian Thomas Shaw
With his latest crime novel, the literary accomplishments of Hudson writer Trevor Ferguson (aka John Farrow) have now comfortably entered the double digits. The Storm Murders, the first in a three-part series, is Ferguson's eleventh work of of full-length fiction. And Ferguson is as talented a story teller as he is prolific.
The Storm Murders brings back to the stage Ferguson's favourite character, Émile Cinq-Mars, the Sûreté du Québec's most astute detective. Cinq-Mars, recently retired, is struggling to get the hang of leisurely life with his younger wife Sandra on a horse farm in the Quebec countryside. Their marriage is skidding toward a bad spot when Cinq-Mars' longtime partner, Bill Mathers, calls him up to take a look at a crime scene at neighbouring farm. During a record snowstorm, a sadist has lured two SQ officers to their deaths by using the bodies of a murdered couple as bait, and then vanished without a trace. Cinq-Mars soon learns that the request for his services has not come from the SQ but from the FBI, who see in the gruesome quadruple murder a direct link to several earlier murders in the States.
Despite a built-up urge to get back into the “game,” Cinq-Mars is wary about jeopardizing his already shaky marriage, and is distrustful of the secretive FBI. To his surprise, Sandra not only acquiesces to his involvement in the new murder case, but insists on joining him in solving it. There is one common thread to the Quebec killings and the early US murders—all the crimes occurred just after a natural disaster when the local police were overwhelmed with emergency calls.
Cinq-Mars and Sandra jump at the FBI's invitation to investigate the earliest murders, which occurred when Hurricane Katerina struck New Orleans. Barely arrived in the Big Easy, the couple is accosted by a team of pickpockets. Cinq-Mars manages to thwart the crime, but the thieves escape. And then within the hour, their hotel room is burgled, but nothing of value is taken. Among the local police who investigate the attempted crimes is Detective Pascal Dupree, the man whom Cinq-Mars has been asked by the FBI to meet about the first Storm Murders. When Dupree and Cinq-Mars step out to discuss the murders, Sandra is kidnapped from the hotel. Cinq-Mars is forced by the kidnappers to leave the city in exchange for his wife's release. Cinq-Mars realizes that there are dangerous forces at work, which are definitely beyond his comprehension. For Cinq-Mars, everyone becomes a suspect, including his new-found friends in the FBI and the New Orleans Police Department. Faced with the choice between the safety of his wife and continued involvement in the case, Cinq-Mars attempts to opt out, but the case just won't let go of him, and the Storm Murderer comes looking for him.
While Ferguson is adept at keeping the readers on their toes with a well-paced, suspenseful plot and expert descriptions of police procedure, his work really excels as a hybrid of crime and literary fiction. The Storm Murders weaves rich descriptions of the Quebec countryside and philosophical musings about life past sixty into the standard fare of dead bodies and mysterious coincidences. It is a top-notch read, with a special bonus for those of us who enjoy the rustic countryside of the Belle Province.
The Storm Murders is published by Minotaur Books in New York.