How does a PR director for the Mayor of Montreal become involved in the investigation of four murdered women? The police believe the murders to be the work of a sexually motivated serial killer, but the women vary in age and in appearance and there is no way to predict how the killer is choosing his victims.
The mayor, afraid that the murders will affect the tourist industry, assigns Martine leDuc, his PR director, as a liaison with the police department. Martine is paired with Julian Fletcher, who has serious doubts about the direction of the investigation. Without intending to do so, Martine joins Julian in investigating whether the murders are a result of more than sexual psychopath. What if there is another reason for targeting these specific women, and if so, what could be the connection that ties these women, so different in age, appearance, and lifestyle, together?
What the two eventually unearth is a secret that lies in the past. Martine, the protagonist, has depth and complexity: happily married, but occasionally frustrated by her stepchildren; good at her job, but without much respect for her boss; initially reluctant to involve herself in Julian's digressive investigation, but compelled to see it through as they begin to uncover the connections among the victims.
It is the connection to the past and the dark secrets about the Duplessis orphans that proves most frightening and most fascinating. Of course, as soon as the orphans were mentioned, I began researching online. I knew I'd read or seen something about this horrific injustice somewhere before, but couldn't remember if it was fact or fiction. You can Google Duplessis Orphans and find a wealth of material. When I finished the book, I found that the author had also included much information and source material.
Here is the weird part: the murder mystery may seem fantastic, but the truth behind what went on in Canadian orphanages is more unbelievable, more tragic, and more dreadful.
"Truth is stranger than fiction" applies in this appalling historic episode. How the Church, the Government, and the Medical Profession could ever excuse or justify what happened is beyond understanding. Although this happened in Canada, there is a disturbing U.S. connection, as well.
Fiction often highlights events that many would prefer to forget, makes human what is often served up as dry statistics.
I found myself quickly engrossed in Asylum, and I am so pleased to have received it from NetGalley. The only complaint I have is that the portion that resolves the contemporary murders doesn't work as well as the rest of the book. Yet as bizarre as this resolution to the mystery might seem, what actually occurred with these orphans almost beggars belief.
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books
Crime/Mystery. March 10, 2015. 320 pages.