On the cover of Blindshot is the silhouette of a crow, which is significant for, near the beginning of the story, a crow flies into the massive window of Valhalla, the country estate of Paul and Catherine Carignan, located in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. This can be taken as a bad omen, and Catherine quickly finds the injured bird and places it near the woodpile for it to either fly away if better, or die in peace. This is the same woodpile where her estranged husband Paul would later that night be struck by a bullet in his abdomen.
In his impressive debut novel, Denis Coupal appears to draw on Norse mythology to create some of the most striking aspects of Blindshot. First, there is the Carignan’s Valhalla:
Valhalla was meant to harmonize with nature, but the reality was that it was a massive dam of stone, wood, concrete, steel and glass, as immovable as the ancient hills of Beaufort, and it worked against nature.
Then there are the crows:
“You know what I’ve always wondered?” asked Catherine, looking up at the trees overhanging the road. “Why are there so many black crows in Beaufort?”
“You noticed that too, uh? Guess they just like the place?” offered Tom, watching Catherine move off down the road.
The crow figures heavily in Norse mythology, as the God Odin has two at his disposal for getting information to him. The website Transceltic says of crows or ravens: “The importance of the raven to Vikings is shown by how often the bird’s image is used. It features on armour, helmets, shields, banners and carvings on longships.”
Another nod to the mythological Valhalla (which was filled with warriors who had died in battle) is the fact that Paul and Catherine’s two sons, Jack and Noah are heavily into video games, particularly those in which warriors vanquish planets and worlds. In fact, Jack’s room is postered with images of these electronic warriors, and the two teens use their skills and intellect collectively to try and avenge their father’s shooting.
Take a rural Quebec county controlled by people who have always lived there and want it to stay secluded, pepper it with the nouveau riche from Montreal then add a drunken night hunting party and a shooting of a man that may or not be an accident, then you have some good ingredients for a mystery-thriller. Blindshot lived up to my expectations (and even exceeded them at times) but it’s not without its moments when one has to allow Mr. Coupal to test our limits of credulity in order for the story to progress (more on that in a moment).
Disappointed and angered by the loss of their father and the apparent nobody-gives-a-damn attitude of the townspeople, the boys decide to take matters into their own hands once they get away to Valhalla. (Now, what mother in their right mind would let their two teenage sons who have been expelled from school for two weeks to stay alone at their huge summer home in Beaufort? Catherine Carignan, that’s who! This was a bit of a stretch for this reader to comprehend, but in order for the story to unfold, it has to be.) Meanwhile, back in Montreal, Catherine has her own battle going on within the development firm she works for that is headed into a major project with a partner company with a less than savoury past.
Heroes & Villans
In Blindshot, the hero (and a reluctant one at that) would appear to be Tom “Brooder” Doran, Deputy Chief of Police. The chief villain without a doubt is Jeffrey Lennox, a bully of a man who drinks and shoots deer from inside his pick-up truck (and on private property) and has no respect for the likes of the Carignans. The action takes place almost exclusively in Beaufort and Mr. Coupal introduces many recognizable small-town characters into the narrative. He uses time-shifting techniques to dramatic effect, and the dialogues, while full of F-bombs (uttered mainly by Lennox) is crisp and non-intrusive to the flow of the story. The climax of the book takes place in Valhalla as both hero, warriors and villains meet.
When a respected publisher like Linda Leith Publishing labels a book as a “thriller” I had high expectations. I have reviewed several of their recent titles and have always been impressed by their high level of exceptional literary content. If you enjoy good mystery-thrillers, then Blindshot should be on your radar.
I am adding Blindshot to the 2020 longlist in the “Best First Book” category for “The Very Best!” Book Award.
Blindshot by Denis Coupal
Linda Leith Publishing
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