Reviewed by Jim Napier
Martin Michaud is an established author whose crime novels are the basis for an award-winning series featured on Quebec television. Drawing heavily on his Montreal background, in his latest release, Michaud has woven an intricate tale that slides back and forth in time and is told from multiple viewpoints.
Michaud’s protagonist, Victor Lessard, is a middle-aged detective sergeant with the Montreal Police Service. At his roots an ordinary man with a simple commitment to justice, Victor Lessard is beset by personal challenges: his wife has kicked him out for a momentary infidelity, and he longs to see his children, one of whom is troubled. Not least among his aggravations is a boss who is an overbearing bully with less concern for justice than for avoiding scandal and burying inconvenient truths.
In Michaud’s latest work (originally released in French in 2010), Lessard is confronted by a series of brutal crimes that would baffle almost anyone, crimes rooted in memories that would shake most people to their core. Before the killing spree ends, several people are brutally murdered, maimed, or kidnapped. These crimes have seemingly nothing in common except the enmity of an unknown maniac who prowls the streets of Montreal.
The facts alone would challenge the cleverest of readers, but we also find ourselves in a tale that moves back and forth between narrators and times, slowly revealing the motive underlying the horrific events Lessard struggles to make sense of. Teasing the reader by not revealing the killer's identity until late in the story, Michaud weaves a compelling tale that will hold readers in suspense to the very end. At times, it seems as if the author is revealing a bizarre dreamscape; at others, he is, in the words of one of his characters, describing a parallel reality.
Without Blood is a genre-busting novel that lies somewhere between a traditional police procedural and a paranormal flight of fancy. There are clues, to be sure: a CD with a label consisting of a string of numbers, an anagram, a finger missing from one of the victims; but their meaning is enigmatic, and events in 2005 are interspersed with scenes from the late 1990s, often the identity of the players concealed from the reader. Is this a victim speaking and acting? The culprit? Someone else altogether? The reader is never quite sure until the very end. Without Blood will appeal to readers in search of a challenging puzzle and a gripping, atmospheric thriller.
Without Blood is published by Dundurn Press.
In addition to being a reviewer with over six hundred reviews to his credit, Jim Napier is the author of the Colin McDermott mystery series.