ISBN-13: 9781250045393
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 2015
Format: Hardcover,
Source: Library

At first glance one would think that this is a story about the mental patients and the horrific encounters they have gone through staying in the asylums. While it is indeed true at some point, what makes this book such a harrowing read is it is based on some true events which happened from the 1930s. 

Let me start off with the fictional part - Martine LeDuc, the heroine of this story, works as a public relations director for the Montreal mayor's office. Her job is basically to make sure that the name of Montreal city is kept well at stake and to make any necessary amendments should a PR related issue arises. Like all other PR reps, they always have a fear for any PR disaster and in this case it became a nightmare for Martine as there were four women being brutally murdered and shockingly posed on park benches throughout Montreal. Montreal becomes unsafe and Martine's boss appoints her as liaison between the mayor and the police department. Martine will work together with a young detective named Julian Fletcher as they go around asking questions surrounding the victims. It is a challenging task as the victims appeared to have nothing in common, varying from ages, backgrounds and body types. The police speculates that they are random sexually motivated serial killings but yet the macabre presentation of their bodies hints at a connection. They then began to dig into the city's past and uncovered some dark secrets hidden during the 1950s, involving orphans and how they were being admitted to hospitals for the insane. 

Now comes the factual part (as stated under the author's note) - There were indeed orphans who were shipped from orphanages to asylums back in the 1940s. Back then, a scheme was developed to obtain additional federal funding for the children, most of them "orphaned" through forced separation from their unwed mothers (they were called as the Duplessis orphans, under the leadership of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis.) The federal government offered more monetary support (primarily financially) for asylums than orphanages and medical experimentation soon overrode the mere fiduciary rewards (You can learn more about Duplessis orphans here.)

While there is indeed a mystery to be solved here, what made this book such an unforgettable read to me is the characterisation of Martine and Julian and not to mention the disturbing facts of the Duplessis orphans. Martine may be a mere civilian but she was a courageous heroine in my opinion. Julian, on the other hand oozed charms but he was a competent detective when it comes to fishing information and making some necessary connections. He could also be witty at times. While I can't say I enjoyed reading this due to the true events, it was overall a very satisfying read with the mystery and the facts tied together. I will be looking forward to reading more of Jeannette de Beauvoir's books (the back cover flap mentioned that she explores personal and moral questions through historical fiction, mysteries, and mainstream fiction; which I think sometimes a factual story is best told through fiction.) 

14 Responses
  1. jenclair Says:

    This book made quite an impression on me. The horrifying facts behind the Duplessis orphans make you doubt both Church and State. De Beauvoir did a great job with both history and characters.

    I tried De Beauvoir's next book, but it didn't really interest me. I was really disappointed as I liked Asylum so much.

  2. I don't read a lot of historical novels but, this one does sound good.

  3. I would be very interested to read this book due to the fact that it has a basis in real events about which I know nothing - and I like the cover!
    Miss Cellany.

  4. The Bookworm Says:

    That cover is creepy. And this sounds gripping, even moreso because it is based on real events. I'll have to check the link out about the Duplessis orphans, I hadn't heard of that before.
    Great review!

  5. Lark Says:

    Wow. Intense. And the part about the orphans being sent to an asylum: that's so awful! But the book sounds like a good read. I like psychological thrillers/mysteries. I'll be adding this one to my wishlist. :)

  6. Conditions back then were horrific. I can only imagine what a powerful book this was to read, Melody. It's one I am curious about, but haven't yet read.

  7. Iliana Says:

    Oh this sounds super interesting! Isn't it hard to believe the awful conditions of so many mental institutions from days back? Horrifying.

  8. Melody Says:

    Jenclair - Yes, I agree the author has some a great job with history and characters. It was an unforgettable read to me.

  9. Melody Says:

    Diane - I hope you'll give this book a try, Diane. It has a good mix of mystery and history so it might work well for readers who rarely read historical.

  10. Melody Says:

    Cellany - That cover is creepy yet it attracts one attention, isn't it? Hope you'll enjoy this book when you get to it.

  11. Melody Says:

    Naida - Thanks, Naida! Although this story is a fiction, it still saddened me after knowing that certain parts are based on true events.

  12. Melody Says:

    Lark - It was a good read but a grim one. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts if you do read it. :-)

  13. Melody Says:

    Wendy - Yes, it was indeed a powerful book to read, not to mention unforgettable as well. What the orphans had gone through then was all so sad and heartbreaking.

  14. Melody Says:

    Iliana - Indeed it was horrific to learn of such awful things happened back then. What really pained me is learning that many of them were healthy and sane. *sniff*

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