Perish the Day by John Farrow is the 3rd book in the Storm Murders Trilogy (available May 23, 2017).
In the third novel in John Farrow’s The Storm Murders Trilogy, retired Montreal detective Émile Cinq-Mars and his wife Sandra are in Vermont for their niece Caroline’s graduation ceremony at the Dowbiggin School of International Studies. There’s a big storm coming, but Caroline and her boisterous friends are excited about graduation and what lies beyond, and the excitement rubs off on Émile and Sandra. One of their gang, Addie, is missing, however, and when Caroline gets a text from Addie’s ex Vernon that a body has been found on campus, they’re terrified that it may be Addie. Émile is determined to infiltrate the scene:
Émile tugs on a ball cap, climbs out and slams the door behind him. His waist-length jacket is considered rain resistant, not waterproof, which in this torrent means next to useless. He does a quick trot through the blinding sheets to where an officer stands guard, uncomfortably.
“Sir?” the young man in uniform challenges. He must yell as the rain smacking the pavement is loud. Draped in clear plastic, his cap funnels water onto Émile’s ankles and shoes.
“I’m a homicide detective!” Émile Cinq-Mars shouts back.
“Sir? Who with?”
Bluff number one, tripped up out of the gate.
“Retired!” Cinq-Mars admits.
“I can’t admit you, sir.”
“I thought I might lend my expertise! Probably I’ve covered more homicides than all these men combined!”
“Who with, sir?” the cop asks again. He’s a good man, Cinq-Mars can tell. He’d welcome him on his own team, if he still had a team. He’d have to teach him, though, not to be tricked. Unofficially, the young cop may have confirmed, without being aware of it, that the investigation concerns a homicide.
“I’m from Montreal! Quebec!” loudly, the former detective declares. He knows how well that’s going to go over anywhere in the United States. In his experience, the smaller the town, the less an impression such a comment will make. He adds, rather helplessly, “Canada!”
His bluff doesn’t seem to be working, but he eventually tracks down the chief and tries his luck with him.
“Chief,” Cinq-Mars says, interrupting his sprint. The man’s rank is declared on his blue hat. Uncommon for municipal police, the hats are the Hanover department’s choice.
“Who’re you?” A bark of a voice. Despite that, he projects a pleasant, avuncular look, as though to indicate that his bark is worse than his bite, or that he doesn’t have much of a bark, either. He’s white, about fifty, and his eyes squint as he tries to bring another person into focus through the rain.
“Sir, I’m a retired homicide detective from Montreal.” Émile hedges on that point. While he’s solved a significant number of murders in his day, much to the chagrin of homicide detectives, he was never a member of their department. He doesn’t need to explain that here, his standing flimsy enough as it is.
“Congratulations,” the man remarks. If not actually dripping with sarcasm, the officer is not above avoiding the attitude. “On your retirement, I mean. I’m happy for you. Sorry, no time to chat.”
“May I go inside with you?”
“Actually, no. You can’t.”
“I may be able to lend a hand.”
“You’re not getting the message here, are you? How do you want me to say this? I know a few different ways. Let me think now. No, just two different ways. One you heard. Should I say the other one?”
“Seriously, I might be useful inside.”
“Why’s that?” The policeman is brushing past him, not waiting for an answer. Cinq-Mars matches his gait. Being a tall man, his stride easily keeps pace with the chief’s, and he takes two steps at a time.
“It’s my area of expertise, that’s true, sir. That’s not all. There’s something you need to know.”
“What’s that?” The chief stops. He means to prevent Cinq-Mars from taking a step closer to the front door.
“I’m here because my niece’s girlfriend is missing. She’s a student at Dowbiggin, she’s been gone all night. If you need to make a positive identification, if it’s the missing friend—I pray it’s not—then I can help with that.”
To Émile’s surprise, the Chief lets him through, and indeed, the body turns out to be that of Addie Langford. Émile notices that she has been strangled and that the body has been posed meticulously, suggesting planning and forethought. She also seems to be wearing a necklace that doesn’t belong to her. Caroline is, of course, devastated, and Sandra convinces Émile that he should try to solve the case. Thinking it might help Caroline work through her grief, he enlists her help. When another body turns up, he’s asked to come to the scene by Chief Till.
Stepping into the home, he’s struck by how one murder scene is so unlike the other.
He doesn’t have far to go.
“Answered the doorbell,” Till’s lead officer remarks, walking them through the obvious part. The cop is wearing casual clothes, which is a little disconcerting. “Backed up a few steps, the way I see it, away from the gunman, takes a bullet through the neck.
Nothing clean or neat about it. The bullet hit the far wall. Embedded there. The victim bled out. Or suffocated on his own blood, one of the two. Hard to say which came first. Not that it matters much.”
As the body count rises, including a woman who has been hacked to death, Émile is desperate to find the connection and stop a diabolical killer before he strikes again. At 66, Émile is no doddering senior, and this case will need his experience and sharp intellect even if the trooper assigned to the case doesn’t want his help.
Fans of old-fashioned puzzle mysteries will find much to love, and Émile is charming and dogged and determined to see things through. The achingly lovely scenery in Holyoake, New Hampshire, belies the evil that lies at the heart of these murders. If you haven’t discovered this fascinating detective, this third and final volume in Farrow’s trilogy stands well enough on its own, but all three books are a treat.
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