Black Fly Season by Giles Blunt is the third novel in the John Cardinal detective series. It’s a Canadian author and so the character lives in the fictional Algonquin Bay, Ontario which is I believe actually Lake Nipissing. This was also made into a TV series named Cardinal and Black Fly Season is the title of Season 2 (they skipped The Delicate Storm which was Giles Blunt’s second novel in the John Cardinal series).
I enjoyed Black Fly Season less than The Delicate Storm but more than Forty Words for Sorrow which was truly depressing.
The story opens with a local First Nation Police Officer noticing a red-haired young woman at the local bar who is acting not quite herself. She’s covered in dirt, leaves, and dried blood. Upon closer inspection she can’t remember who she is, what day it is, or where she’s from. She’s also been shot in the head. Jerry (the cop) takes her to the hospital and calls John Cardinal and his partner Lise Delorme. Jerry has nicknamed the girl Red and so they call her that and ship her off to Toronto to undergo brain surgery to remove the bullet.
As always they begin digging for clues. (1) The bullet taken from her head turns out to be from one of two guns and they quickly narrow the gun down to a local who had it stolen by a friend named Dave Elkhurst who runs a marina where the guy docks his boat. (2) A grocery truck dropped her off at the bar and after questioning the driver they discover he found her near the trail head to a local popular trail called the Beaufort Hill Trail. (3) According to Dave’s employee Marcy, he’s been missing for two weeks. (4) Red’s doctor shows her slides of different local landmarks trying to jog her memory. She becomes frightened when seeing a beat-up old bus covered with vines in the woods but not at seeing Dave’s photo. The bus is near the head of the Beaufort Hill Trail. (5) They go to the Beaufort Trail and follow it to where it hits the waterfall where they find a cave. Inside that cave is plenty of blood, voodoo drawings chalked on the cave walls, and torso of a dead man with the head, hands, feet, and genitals removed. The torso has the same tattoo that Dave has. (6) The coroner determines Dave was murdered twelve days ago so he had nothing to do with Red’s gunshot wound.
Meanwhile, we get a look at the crew of killers. They are led by Ray, who claims to be the son of Moose Reservation’s Chief Northwind (we later discover he’s not even Native American). Ray is a follower of the Santeria cult. He practices human sacrifice and keeps an iron pot full of fresh human blood, hands, feet, eyeballs, and genitals of his victims. This is supposed to be so that those dead sacrifices can serve him in the afterlife. Hmmm, not buying that. Underneath Ray is a hillbilly titan named Leon who drives a black pickup and is the guy who shot Red and dumped her in that cave because he thought she was dead. He hasn’t had the guts to tell Ray she’s not dead. The third guy is Toof, a local guy who wants to get rich fast and Ray has a plan. The fourth is Kevin, Red’s brother. Ray’s plan is to take over a local biker gang’s drug ring. That biker gang is called the Northern Raiders and they supply the province with heroin. Dave happens to be the guy who is laundering the Northern Raiders’ drug money.
More clues evolve: (7) Dave was drained of blood and had his genitals removed BEFORE he died. (Not sure I wanted to know that.) (8) Eight months ago Dave was headed toward bankruptcy fast and was going to lose his marina. He became the money launderer for the Northern Raiders and it seems in a drug war the money launderer always goes first. (9) The head of the Northern Raiders gang is a guy named Scott LaSalle. His enforcer is Brian Gibling aka Wombat.
Switching back to the killers, Ray and his gang break into Wombat’s cabin, rob him of a huge bag of the Northern Raiders’ cash, and buys a huge stash of heroin to resell and get rich. Of course they dismember and kill Wombat in the same style as Dave. (It turns out Wombat was the third. The first Northern Raider killed was a dealer named Brandon.) After Wombat’s brutal murder, Kevin is getting cold feet. Toof convinces him to stay saying it’s easy money. Ray has only three rules, but the penalty for each is immediate death. Rule 1: Keep your mouth shut. Rule 2: Don’t lose control. Rule 3: Don’t use the heroin. Of course it isn’t long before Toof is breaking rule 1 and Kevin (who is a junkie) is breaking rule 3.
More clues as Cardinal and Delorme investigate: (10) They find blood in Wombat’s cabin and two people running, a Northern Raider named Zack and his girlfriend Rachel who happens to a CI (criminal informant) for a Narcotics cop named Alan Clegg. They claim that LaSalle sent them to Wombat’s cabin to find the money and find Wombat. LaSalle and Wombat are like brothers and he’s missing.
Ray figures out Toof has been bragging about taking over the Northern Raiders’ territory violating Rule 1. Leon takes him out to the “movies” for his 25th birthday with Kevin. Only they pull over on a road in the woods and Leon shoots Toof in the head twice. When that doesn’t kill him, he bashes his head in with a golf club. :0
If you’re with me so far this is everything that happens in the first fourth of the book and the first two episodes of season 2 of the series. It’s an interesting novel, not as good as The Delicate Storm in my opinion. Blunt has a lot of torture, dismemberment, and crooked cops in his novels. I think that’s probably why I enjoyed The Delicate Storm better than Black Fly Season. Considerably less gore.
The writing is impeccable. The story is disturbing. 8 out of 10 stars. The series is also worth watching.
Reviewed by Colleen