Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Seven Days Dead"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today", while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Seven Days Dead, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series, and reported the following:
Rather neatly, page 69 of Seven Days Dead provides a major clue to the novel’s title. I’ve replaced the name of the character in this excerpt to avoid a spoiler for readers.
The stark eyes, the flat hair, the slack jaw—it’s as though he’s not looking at the man he knew as Character’s Name, or even at his corpse. For some reason, out here on the edge of this field, it feels as though he’s looking at his skeletal remains. At his skull. As though the man’s been dead for a week. The pestering birds may have created that effect, but hanging on a tree trunk that way, he more closely resembles a scarecrow than a man. A thought that both creeps the officer out and causes him to feel particularly unnerved.
Seven Days Dead. “…dead for a week.” There’s that. More importantly, two characters are out on a cliff that is known to have the oldest exposed rock on the planet, and so has been named Seven Days Work. The condition of the corpse ravaged by birds and animals, combined with the name of the precipice, gave me the title.

One of two men in the scene is Wade Louwagie, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who suffers from a serious case of PTSD. He has more or less been banished to a remote island in the Gulf of Maine known as Grand Manan. The other man with him where a body has been located is Aaron Roadcap, a killer’s son, someone who lives off the grid, and who, despite alerting the police to the victim, is a suspect in the murder. On this page, Louwagie must request his suspect’s cooperation, which creates an unusual dynamic. He needs him to intercept those who are on their way to help, then guide them to the scene of the crime, while the officer stays behind to protect the corpse from further carnage. The two have a verbal joust over whether this cooperation is indicative of a man’s innocence or guilt, and the mutual distrust between the accused and the accuser is on display.

Naturally, I hope that any reader skimming the page will read on. The dynamic between the pair is an interesting one, and the eviscerated corpse is indicative of dire straits. The novel’s hero is not on the page, but the book depends significantly on island characters and their histories, and on how they get along, which is touched upon here.
Visit Trevor Ferguson's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue