The Asylum, by Jeannette de Beauvoir, A Book Review 

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A Tragic History, A Dramatic Story, an Intriguing Present Day Mystery

Asylum is a dark story that is sure to capture your attention.

Mystery surrounds us even as this book begins.  A mother surrenders her child to Sisters at a Montreal orphanage in the 1950’s. Why?  

In present day Montreal, Quebec, four women who appear to have nothing in common are murdered. The police assume a serial killer is on the loose.

In a well written style, the author takes us smoothly back and forth between the children in the orphanage and the present day murder investigation.  Both of which will have you wondering how they could be connected, so many decades apart.

The heart stopper in this story is that much of the picture the author paints of the past is true.  Tragically, many children turned over to convents or orphanages to be well cared for, were placed in asylums where children were used for experiments and died.  The Duplessis Orphans.  Do you remember the name?  It is nearly incomprehensible to think it would have happened.  Yet it wasn’t only Canada, was it?  During this period of time when the Cold War weighed upon nations, was the United States involved too?

The Story

While a young girl, decades past, learns how to adjust to her frightening new life, in current day the investigation heats up in search of a serial killer.  When the mayor orders his director of publicity to liaison with the police to get involved and report daily,  Martine LeDuc  is teamed with a young detective, Julian Fletcher. 

Together the two of them, questioning the randomness of the murders, seek a direction of their own. What if instead of a serial killer, it is someone with another motive entirely? That made for a suspenseful read.  I wanted to peek ahead a few pages, tensely waiting to see who would next be murdered.  At the same time  was the dread of what would next happen to the children.

Were There Still More Secrets?

With that mounting suspense for the past and the present, Martine and Julian seek answers.  What they find instead are many unwilling to talk to them, even after so many decades.  What connection was there between the women of such different ages and backgrounds?

Since the truth came out years and years ago, what is there still to hide after all this time?  Could there still be someone left who would kill to keep facts hidden?  

So many questions left to answer.  Meanwhile, someone is out there preparing to kill again.

A Story To Stay With You

It is well documented, and cleverly written bringing the two eras together.  You clearly sense the fears of the children.  It often seems unbelievable, considering how we might remember society in North America in the 50’s.  I think many of us remember it as a gentler time.

Perhaps what struck me the hardest was the lack of love.  Our expectations of sisters in a convent, of medical doctors treating children is not one of coldness or uncaring.   Where was the love?  What circumstances would have made so many close their eyes to what was happening?  How could so many not care?

It is a past that should not be forgotten.  Another of those horrors that should be remembered, lest it happen again.  We want to believe it never will.

A highly recommended read that brings history to life in a fictional novel.


Merry Citarella, often writing as Merrci, writes on a wide range of topics. Recently relocated to the Oregon Coast in the northwest United States, she frequently writes travel features on the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She specializes in health and aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, food, lifestyle, and book reviews. For more information you can see her on The Writers’Door. You can read more articles here or at her websites Mystery Suspense Reviews .

Author: Merry Citarella

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