It’s 1967 in the vacation cottage community of Boundary; an idyllic place to bring your family for the summer. Until a teenage girl goes missing. And then another. Replacing the peacefulness of the place with terror.
Who is responsible? is it one of the community members, or the ghost of an old man who used to live in the woods? The detective on the case works tirelessly to solve the crime before another tragedy takes place.
Although this novel is centered around a crime, the heart of the story is about the community; how do you react when something like this happens so close to home? How does it affect you, and your relationship with your neighbours? Are you brought together as a group to support each other, or are you torn apart with suspicion?
Zaza Mulligan’s death had changed Boundary’s landscape, leading people who barely talked to one another to stand together, to slap each other on the back and offer encouragement.. trading languages and curses, exchanging recipes for Rice Krispies squares. Nothing would be the same from now on. You’d wave from one porch to another, you’d honk while passing Duchamp making his turn around the lake on his bicycle… you’d borrow screwdrivers and cups of sugar, and the children, come the night, would no longer whisper the name of Tanager, Tanager of Bondrée, in flight before the hissing of the waves.
At times I found the story thrilling, at other times more of a study of time and place, but either way I found it compulsive reading. I was just as invested in the reactions of the characters as I was in solving the crime. One thing that I think made it particularly effective was the periodic narration of a 12-year-old girl vacationing in Boundary with her family. Seeing it all unfold from the eyes of one of the children – whose parents attempt to shield her from it – involved but not involved – trying to figure out the adults’ secrets – not quite knowing for sure – but sometimes seeing things the adults don’t see.
My parents lives began with me, and I couldn’t conceive that they had a past. The little girl posing in black and white on photos stored in a Lowney’s chocolate box that served as a family album didn’t at all look like my mother, no more than the boy with the shaved head chewing on a wisp of hay near a wooden fence looked like my father. Those children belonged to a universe that had nothing to do with the adults whose immutable image kept the world on its steady course. Florence and Samuel Duchamp’s entire purpose in life was to provide, to protect, and to impose limits. They were there and would always be there, familiar figures for whom I was the only reason to be alive, along with Bob and Millie. / It was only that summer, when things got out of hand and I began to lose my bearings, that I came to see that the frailty of those little people shut up in the Lowney’s chocolate box had endured down the years, along with the fears buried at the heart of every childhood, fears that resurface as soon as it becomes clear that the world’s solidity rests on a foundation that can be swept away with a single gust from an evil wind.
… I thought of what I could do so that my little sister would continue to sleep peacefully, so that Gilles Ménard might go back home and spin Marie around under the greenish light of the trees that touched the sky, so that my mother would stop jumping every time a curtain flapped, so that life would go back to normal, that was all, the way it was before death got in the way. But there was nothing to be done, of course. Everyone knows that death stains, that it leaves marks everywhere it goes, big dirty tracks that make us lurch backwards when we’re about to step right into them.
I’m not a big mystery reader, but Boundary is the type of mystery book I can get behind.
Andrée A. Michaud is a Canadian novelist and playwright from Quebec. She is the author of ten novels and is a two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for French-language fiction, for Le ravissement in 2001 and for Bondrée in 2014. Boundary is also the winner of the Arthur Ellis Prize for best French-language mystery novel, the Saint-Pacôme Prize for mystery novels, and the Quebec Arts Council Prize for best literary work from Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
In an interview with Biblioasis, Andrée Michaud mentions that Boundary is the third novel in a trilogy that explores the “differences and similarities between French Canadian and American people through their languages, their sense of space, their culture, and also through the climate and the geography… In Boundary, I’m going further, because the story is set exactly on the border , where the differences disappear or, on the contrary, are accentuated by the proximity of the other.”
Thank you to Biblioasis for sending me a copy of this book for review. Boundary is the most recent addition to their International Translation Series, and is translated from the French by Donald Winkler.
Have you read any good mystery novels lately?