BLACKFLY SEASON by Giles Blunt (Random House of Canada), 326 pages, $34.95 cloth. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Blackfly Season doesn't bring out the best in people. And in Giles Blunt's latest John Cardinal mystery, the bloodthirsty little devils are everywhere, driving people to do some crazy things.
It's spring in Algonquin Bay, a small northern Ontario town whose best years are behind it. A young woman wanders out of the bush covered in blackfly bites and with no idea who she is.
Turns out there's a bullet lodged in her brain, and it's up to Cardinal to find out how it got there.
Blunt, who grew up in North Bay and may be taking his revenge on it, cooks up a nasty brew of characters. We've got warring biker gangs and a mob of losers - a junkie poet, a pothead with a vicious streak and a doofus who'll do anything he's told - led by a drug-dealing shaman who calls himself Red Bear.
Blunt has written for television, and it shows in the tight prose and a plot that skips along at a good pace.
But I can't say I connected with our hero Cardinal, a hardworking, occasionally inspired cop committed to his job and his family.
Attempts to fill out the character - his wife suffers from bipolar disorder and he's got one big mistake in his past - feel a bit like devices.
More interesting is heroin addict Kevin, who obsesses about what he's going to say on David Letterman when he's a famous poet and how he's going to straighten himself out - come Monday.
Meanwhile, Cardinal and his partner trail events to Toronto's Regent Park and finally to a putrefying conclusion at an abandoned summer camp in the bush.
Where, like the weird goings-on, the blackflies never let up.
Write Books at firstname.lastname@example.org
Giles Blunt reads with Peter Robinson and Brad Smith at Hart House Library Tuesday (May 24).