John Cardinal is a detective in the small police force, in Algonquin Bay, Ontario a small rural town in Canada. The local mayor keeps reporting his wife missing, when everybody else in town knows exactly what she's up to. Rather than just try to convince the poor delusional husband what's really going on, Cardinal is sitting in a car, with the mayor, outside the local motel, when there's a call over the radio about a body.
As Cardinal pulls up outside the location, a part of him is wondering about the car that looks just like his wife's and a part of him is wondering why somebody would die outside a mostly uninhabited, new building in Algonquin Bay.
Cardinal's wife, Catherine, is a photographer who has had problems most of her life with manic depression . She's been in and out of hospital, but she's been regularly taking her medication and when she was heading out earlier in the night with cameras, there'd been nothing in her manner that caused her husband any concern.
But it's her at the foot of that building, and there's a suicide note.
The opening few chapters of THE FIELDS OF GRIEF are heartbreaking. Cardinal struggles to understand why his wife has killed herself, and he just can't bring himself to believe that she has. That she'd stood in front of him only a few hours earlier and he hadn't picked up anything in her manner or her behaviour that indicated what she was about to do. The coroner thinks it was suicide, Cardinal's companions think it was suicide, John Cardinal can't agree.
A young man heads into a local laundromat, shotgun in hand and despite new CID member, Larry Burke's best efforts to talk him out of it, puts the shotgun to his head and kills himself. It's Fall in Algonquin Bay, the place is at its most beautiful. Suicide's sometimes happen there, but if they do, they happen in the dead of Winter, not in Autumn.
Detective Lise Delorme has her own confrontational problem. Graphic photos of a young girl being sexually abused have been discovered and the backgrounds of the photos show that some of the abuse occurred in Algonquin Bay. She's trying to track down the victim and the perpetrator.
Slowly a connection between the victims appears and somebody who should be trying to help vulnerable, sad and damaged people, is even more damaged. The problem is Cardinal knows that there's something a lot more to his wife's supposed suicide, but what is it? When he knows what it is, is there really anything he can do about it?
THE FIELDS OF GRIEF is a raw study in grief: Cardinal's reactions to his wife's suicide, his daughter's feelings about her mother. The mother and sister of the young man in the Laundromat, the reactions of Larry and Lise are all so different. It's also a shocking portrayal of what happens when the helper needs help. Deeply affecting and very compelling: highly recommended.