A shake of the dark head, a shudder in the shoulders. Another tiny splash on the linoleum floor. Husband murdered, and now her daughter too. The Inuit, it is said, have forty different words for snow. Never mind about snow, Cardinal mused, what people really need is forty words for sorrow. Grief. Heartbreak. Desolation. There were not enough, not for this childless mother in her empty house. [Forty Words for Sorrow, page 42]
The mutilated body of a young girl has been discovered in an abandoned mine shaft on the desolate Lake Nipissing island of Windigo. Missing since September, Katie Pine has finally been found, encased in a block of ice as if preserved in amber. The intense police investigation when she first disappeared had gone nowhere, and Detective John Cardinal went from solving murders to investigating burglaries and petty crimes.
But now all bets are off. Cardinal is back on the case; this time with a new partner. Lise Delorme, a sexy and passionate former internal investigator, makes Cardinal uneasy. With a guilty conscience to fuel his suspicion, Cardinal wonders if Delorme isn't there to investigate him. And his suspicions are well founded. Delmore has made a deal with the devil: in order to leave SIU for good, she must gain Cardinal's trust and then betray it. There are allegations of corruption on the force, and Cardinal's "extracurricular" activities during a counterfeiting investigation are being called into question. Delorme is convinced that Cardinal is innocent of any wrongdoing and even when her investigation calls his integrity into question, she is reluctant to believe it.
When Cardinal makes the gruesome discovery of the bodies of two more missing teenagers, he doesn't spend time worrying about his suspicions concerning Delorme. His focus is on a more sinister concern-a serial killer hiding somewhere in this quiet northern town. That concern becomes laced with urgency when Karen Steen, a young woman from Guelph, arrives to speak to Cardinal about her missing boyfriend, Keith London. Cardinal begins to believe that Keith is the fourth young person to disappear in Algonquin Bay. But unlike the other victims, he believes that Keith may still be alive.
The question now becomes, what is the connection between the three dead and one missing teenager? Can Cardinal and Delorme find Keith London before it's too late?