During an epic storm in the Gulf of Maine a lone woman racesfirst by car, then by a life-threatening sea crossingto the island of Grand Manan. Her father is dyingwill she make it in time?
Others also venture out into the maelstrom that night, including a mysterious band of men and women who gather on Seven Days Work, the sheer cliff that overlooks the wild sea. A housekeeper, a pastor, and a strange recluse are also wandering about out in the tempest. Who else risks being out in the turbulent black night? And how many murder victims will be revealed at the break of dawn?
Such questions will engage retired Montreal detective Émile Cinq-Mars. He and his wife seek shelter from the same storm as they make their way to the island for a rare summer vacation from both his police work and her horse stable. With a mounting death toll, a lengthy list of suspects, and a murder in the deep past that somehow affects the present, Cinq-Mars is drawn into uncovering ancient secrets that have led to murder. When the villainy turns against him, another race ensues, this time to solve the crimes before his visit to the island ends in tragedy.
John Farrow's Seven Days Dead continues the Émile Cinq-Mars series of crime novels, which Booklist has called “one of the best series in crime fiction,”; Die Zeit in Germany has suggested it might be the best of all time.
About the Author
JOHN FARROW is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, is a literary legend in his native Canada. He has written more than ten novels and several plays, all to extraordinary acclaim and was named Canada's best novelist in both Books in Canada and the Toronto Star. He makes regular visits to the U.S. to attend conferences like Malice Domestic and Thrillerfest. He is the author of The Storm Murders, the first book in his Storm Murders series.
Read an Excerpt
Seven Days Dead
The Storm Murders Trilogy
By John Farrow
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 John Farrow Mysteries, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Time and tide wait for no man and no woman.
And here, she reminds herself again, the tide is swift.
All day, waves kicked up across the Gulf of Maine, out to the Atlantic and into the Bay of Fundy, a waterway shaped like the opening jaws of a shark. Winds staggered ships. Surprised by a whole gale expected to track south but veering north instead, fishermen yearn for safe harbor, the family table, a lover's nudge. Yet no boat attempts landfall tonight, the tempest too wicked against these craggy shores, the combination a treachery.
Boats wait this one out at sea.
Ashore, deeper inside the bay, sirens wail to warn of the sea's return. A seventy-foot range in depth is a danger to the unwary. The story goes that a champion Thoroughbred with a top-notch jockey on its back cannot outrun this tidal bore. Not that any horse is out on the flats tonight. A sleek gray Porsche, though, running down a highway parallel to the inflow, also fails to maintain Fundy's relentless clip. The driver's vision is reduced by the deluge and ponds pooling on the road further impede the car's progress. Yet she accepts the challenge, her speed limited by the dark of the gale, the barreling funnels of wind, occasional hairpin turns, and sudden blind dips that in these conditions are life- threatening. Spurred on by the likelihood of an imminent death in her family, the night traveler perseveres and, against her better judgment, presses on.
Time will not wait for anyone, she knows, and certainly not for her.
Nor will the tide.
Nor will her dying father.
Yet the race to arrive before his death is on.
* * *
A man familiar with the driver's father, acquainted with his idiosyncrasies and failings — if not the depths of his depravity — endures the storm in the comfort of a church manse, his home. Rain pelts down on the rooftop and windows, forlorn hounds bay in the stovepipe, gusts clatter the shingles and shake the doors. Yet for all the commotion on the exterior walls of this old wooden cottage, inside, the Reverend Simon Lescavage feels quite snug. He sips a cup of English Breakfast. In the light of a frizzy oil lamp he's reading a book on cosmology. Complicated stuff. Hours ago the electricity went down and it's not likely to be up anytime soon, so lamps and candles are lit, a flashlight is handy, his tea is quite soothing, and the small fire in the hearth — not necessary in summer but needed to heat a beverage tonight — burns cozily, crackles. His book, a challenge, surely is just the ticket for the solitary evening.
Theories on the origins of the universe fascinate him. He reads more about quantum mechanics these days than about theology, and revels in the study of black holes and star formations. Not long ago, in grappling with notions concerning miracles in a sermon, he tripped up and embarked on a tangent that gave a nod to string theory and dark energy. His congregation was baffled. In his current phase, the minister neglects Biblical homilies, and reserves his adoration for scientific inquiries into the cosmos.
Not that a snippet of that expanse is viewed from his island home tonight.
Out there in the deeper blackness, islands stand as guardians to the Bay of Fundy. A few are rarely inhabited: Kent, Sheep and Hay, and Machias, where the puffins roost, and farther north there's White Head, Cheney, and Ross, the wee sisters of Great Duck, Gulf Islet, and a more northern, less well-known Nantucket. All of them, and Grand Manan, the largest and most populated of the scattering, where Lescavage is comfortably lodged, are being slammed without any echo of mercy. Waves roil also across the salmon farms. From near space, they appear as crop circles in neat, tight rows upon the sea, each wide enough to harbor a battleship as well as three-quarters of a million fish. Yet the salmon are secure within their cages tonight, and Lescavage assumes that across the Isle of Grand Manan everyone is secure enough as well, doing what he's doing, if not reading then huddling close, under a blanket or wearing earbuds to listen to music that mutes the bedlam of the storm.
He assumes that in nine months' time babies will bob to the surface, the final flotsam blown ashore by this wind and sea. Other wives, bereft of companionship tonight, fret about their men upon the deep, and Lescavage worries along with them.
Silently, secretly, he prays for their lives.
Old habits, as the adage goes, and he concurs, die hard.
His head is bowed when the phone rings, disrupting his peace. Tempted not to answer, he accepts that on a night such as this no one will believe that he's not home, so in that sense he has little choice. The phone goes on ringing. A persistence that's annoying, as it invokes his servitude.
Simon Lescavage maintains only one telephone in his dwelling. It squats on a small table in the kitchen, buried beneath a newspaper and packaging for spaghetti noodles he's neglected to toss into the recycling bin. He gets rid of the debris first, compressing into a plastic bag what he'll transfer outside later, then shifts the Telegraph Journal to one side and picks up the receiver after a dozen rings. He does not intend to sound gruff, but promptly betrays himself with his tone.
Rain, at that instant, drums more violently on the windowpanes.
He recognizes the woman's voice, as she's his housekeeper every second Tuesday and on Sunday afternoons sweeps out the church. She's explaining her situation at some length, with urgency but with no attempt to be concise.
He finally interrupts the spiel. "What is it this time, really?"
She continues to vent.
Grumpily, Lescavage interrupts, "I'm not all that impressed. Are you?"
She hardly takes a breath, and the pastor finds himself distracted by the beat of rain on the glass while she follows through on her rant. He already knows that if this conversation continues in its present vein, he's likely to be out in the weather himself momentarily. He's a slight man who at first glance looks unduly fit for fifty-seven. His 142 pounds comes across to most people as trim, yet five years ago he was 124, which had been his average for decades. The additional weight suits him. He's rarely called scrawny anymore. Women no longer shout at him from their doorways commanding that he enter their homes and eat something, to fatten up, although they may have stopped all that because he's older now. Or they are. Or because when he did eat in their homes, little came of it, he did nothing more than chow down. He's no longer quite so skinny, has never thought of himself as short and has refused to gauge his height as merely average. He hates that designation, a nod to vanity that in the overall scheme of his life is rare for him — although it's true that a buzz cut is meant to preempt impending baldness. Lescavage has never tried to pass himself off as tall, that would be absurd, yet along with his self-consciousness about being diminutive he's compounded the matter by denying what any tape measure and the attitudes of others contend. He flies in the face of that logic. Once only he put up a description of his attributes on an online Christian dating site, choosing to describe himself as "well-proportioned," which in his mind covered both his exceptional skinniness back then and a general lack of tallness. Otherwise, he's not notably vain.
"All right," he says, ceding to the housekeeper's request. Always the pushover, and perhaps resenting that about himself, his response to her next suggestion is strident. "No, Ora! Not a chance! I'll arrive in a huff. That's it, that's all. I reserve the right to be my petulant self. Tell him that. Say it to his face. Tell him —" Lescavage weighs what pithy remark he might charge the housekeeper to pass along to her current employer, a man on his last legs if that impression is to be believed, although Lescavage doesn't. "Ora, sorry, never mind. I'll tell him myself."
He nods, as if she can see the gesture through the phone line, and adds after she states some further opinion, "I agree with you. It is better this way."
She hangs up without a subsequent word. The Reverend Lescavage follows suit. For a moment he reads from the newspaper — a headline has grabbed his attention — but, disappointed in the story, he puts it down and blows out the wall lamp in the kitchen. In dimmer light he strides through to the front door.
The pastor snuffs a pair of candles and lowers the wicks on oil lamps.
In the vestibule, Lescavage lifts rain pants off a hook and bends to retrieve his boots. He's seated upon an antique pine bench, one that might have served a shoemaker eons ago or supported the ample backside of a fisherman repairing a net. Pausing, he considers that he may have been summoned out tonight to slog through the wet for another man's amusement, but he pulls the rain pants on over his trousers anyway and works his feet into the boots. He is the son of a clergyman, his mother a fisherman's daughter, and he takes particular pride in the maternal side of his lineage. He knows that the nuance has held him in good stead among his flock. His people, as he calls them, have generally been fond of him, even though lately they're not sure what to make of a pastor who's lost his faith yet still enjoys, and wants to keep, his job. When he explains himself, it's all so complicated. He stands, adjusts the pants' suspenders over his shoulders, slips on his slicker and rain hat, and braces himself for the wild, warm wind and the fearsome onslaught of the torrent.
He's unwilling to drive in this weather, or in this dark. Not on these roads. No matter, it's a short distance, and initially trees protect him from a portion of the bluster, their tops swaying, branches flailing the air. He's stunned by the volume of the wind's roaring. Away from his house, everything is so dark that he can't see the trees anymore, and when he holds a hand up, he can't make out his fingers. His feet barely discern the pavement. Like stepping on stones in a fast-flowing stream. Lescavage walks up Old Airport Road, then turns right onto Lighthouse Road, a simple intersection that tonight is maddening to locate. With a bend in direction, the wind hits hardest. He dares not open both eyelids in the gusts. His face stings. The Orrock mansion is farther along, but while the distance is not far — an uphill walk he's done a thousand times, often to take in the vista from the lighthouse — on this trek the required effort in the teeth of the gale is immense.
He leaves the lighthouse and its muted lamp behind.
Thanks to a generator, lights are on in Alfred Orrock's big house and across his yard, and Lescavage easily finds his way up the long, winding path. Standing under the porch light and a protective overhang, he shakes the rain off in a style not dissimilar to a dog's. He rings the bell, then readies himself for anything.
The young housekeeper has the door open in a wink and bounds outside.
"Whoa, whoa, Ora! Where's the fire?"
She's a step past him, but as he clutches her arm, she retreats. Although well dressed for the weather, she takes another look at the night. Hers will be a longer hike home than the distance Lescavage just covered, and the weather is more wicked than it appeared while she was safely ensconced indoors. The way the wind bellows over the cliffs and how the rain slams down from one direction, then another, give her pause. Protected by the porch overhang, she pulls her rain hat over her ears, holds it there with both hands. She crinkles her nose and, with her mouth in some odd contortion, remarks, "I don't need to watch him die, do I? I'm not paid for that."
Ora is pleasantly chubby, with a drooping nose, and quite a tall forehead above a round face the world regards as plain. She's a bright-cheeked young lady. Lescavage finds her cute in her way.
"I put in my hours. Anyway, I'm not a freaking nurse."
"Ora, he's not dying. Ask yourself, since when are we ever that lucky?"
Her eyes asquint, she retorts, "He says he is! Doesn't he? I wouldn't put it past the old prick bugger anyway. Sorry for my language there, Rev, but I've had it up to here with him." She frees up a hand to measure to the height of her scalp.
Lescavage removes his rain hat under the protection of the overhang, lets the water pour off. "Yeah, well," he concedes, "if the shoe fits."
"What's that supposed to mean? What shoe?"
"It's an expression."
"So aren't I the stupid mutt."
"It's a very common expression."
"So now I'm dumber than the dumb asses."
"Ora." He sighs. "You called him a 'prick bugger.' I've not heard that one before. All I'm saying is, I don't think it's unfair to call him that."
"Watch your language there, Rev."
She pulls her hat more tightly down her cheeks. An umbrella would not survive two seconds out here except in a lull, so the strategy of clamping both hands to her rain hat is wise.
"You won't stay?" His voice has gone falsely plaintive, coaxing, a plea.
"I'm gonzo, Revy. He's all yours. See ya on the flip!"
True to her word, she splashes down into the broad puddle at the base of the steps, cocks her head to the right and into her shoulder against the wind, and stomps through an enveloping blackness beyond the fringe of walkway lamps. Lescavage watches her go for longer than he can actually make out her form, but he knows what this caring gesture really means. He's putting off the inevitable. He goes inside through the open door, then shuts it tightly.
Amazing, he thinks, how much quieter this house is than his own in the midst of an onslaught.
He sticks his rain hat on the top hook of a shiny aluminum wall-mounted rack. His jacket, stuck to him by the wet, peels off slowly, like skin, and while trying to be free of it, he calls into the house. "Alfred! Upstairs or down?" He stays quiet, awaiting a response, but receives none. No sound is apparent other than the faint hum of the backyard generator and the underlying chant of the rain. "I know you can hear me!" he attests. "You might be dead but you're not deaf!"
An insult might shake loose a reaction, but not this time. He continues to strip off his outerwear and wedges the boots from his feet, dries his face on a sleeve, then admits himself to the house and stands there in his socks.
In the living room off the grand foyer, the La-Z-Boy is vacant. A snack that Ora Matheson threw together for either her employer or herself — cheeses and an assortment of crackers, bread slices, preserves, and a few green grapes — has gone largely untouched. Lescavage is instantly aware of his own desire for a nosh. He cracks a scone in half, slathers on butter and raspberry jam, and has a nibble. Before finishing, he prepares a second scone then carries his snack deeper into the house.
Opulence abounds, but he's used to all that and pays it no mind. Outside these walls, the house is legendary and valued to be more glamorous than it actually is. He and Ora entertained themselves one time by repeating stories they'd overheard glorifying Alfred Orrock's home. They are among a select few to be admitted, and due to the proprietor's frailty, both have been entrusted with keys. Yet their opinion of the place is never believed. Most islanders, preferring the imaginative tales, presume they've been intimidated into keeping mum, that they probably live under threat of retaliation if they speak. The stair railing is made of gold, so it's been reported. The chandelier of diamonds. A subterranean wine cellar the size of a submarine will double as a bomb shelter at the world's end. The upstairs master bedroom has its own indoor swimming pool, and when Ora scoffed at the idea, saying, "That's ridiculous!" she was informed about secret doors to secret chambers, and, of course, the secret pool. "You don't know more than nothing, do you? You're just the hired help. Billy Kerr's uncle worked on that house, it wasn't all mainlanders." She was excoriated for being dim, so unaware of the obvious. She simply didn't have a head for the plain facts, people scolded.
One plain fact that the Reverend Lescavage knows, because he asked Billy Kerr's uncle who was aging badly in Dark Harbour, is that the man helped build the chimney. Only that. No secret rooms. He never stepped inside the house while it was under construction, but he did see a floor plan. The layout for massive rooms. Only mainlanders built the interior, and what they said about it during the process was never believed, and, after they'd gone home, soon forgotten. The sadness of the rooms — the absence of life, of ceremony, of tradition, of people — leaves the more prevalent impression on the minister every time he visits, so all that is quite fancy here strikes him as unimpressive.
He climbs the wide staircase. Halfway up, it turns. If this were a daytime sojourn, or a moonlit night, the full-height window at this landing would show a seascape of shining beauty. The waves undoubtedly crash way below, unseen in the dark, their roar obliterated by the rain, wind, and, to a lesser extent, the generator.
The visitor goes straight on through to Alfred Royce Orrock's bedroom.
Excerpted from Seven Days Dead by John Farrow. Copyright © 2016 John Farrow Mysteries, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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