Morgan Turner's grief over her sister's brutal murder has become a rut, an everyday horror she is caught in along with her estranged parents and chilly older brother. In search of a way out, she delves the depths of a factory abattoir, classic horror cinema, and the Canadian criminal justice system, as it tries her sister's killer and former lover, who is arguing that he is "Not Criminally Responsible" for his actions because of a mental disease. Whatever the verdict, Morgan -- with the help of her Chinese immigrant coworkers, a do-gooder, and a lovelorn schizophrenia patient -- uncovers her own way to move on.
Jennifer Quist was born in northern mainland British Columbia and raised all over Maritime and Western Canada, the eldest daughter in a close family of seven children. She has a BA at the University of Alberta with first class Honours in Sociology and has worked with Alberta First Nations, as a freelance researcher, a reporter, and columnist. In 2012 her “Fish Story” was nominated for the Writers' Guild of Alberta’s Howard O’Hagan Award. Her fiction is published in Filling Station, in NorthWord and in The 40 Below Project (forthcoming November 2013), her poetry in The Prairie Journal, commentary in The Globe and Mail and The National Post, essays in Maclean’s, Today’s Parent, and Alberta Oil, and she has written and voiced introspective personal essays for CBC Radio One’s Definitely Not the Opera and Tapestry. Love Letters of the Angels of Death is her first novel. Author website: www.jenniferquist.com.
"What everyone knows is that Morgan's sister--the victim, slain Edmonton woman, Tricia Turner--is dead. Everyone has seen the footage on the newscasts, the to the headlines, the blurry colour pictures on the front pages of Sun newspapers, all of them showing the heavy blue tarp draped over winter-dry alfalfa, the place where Tricia's bones and hair and clothes were found. A needle in a hayfield--that's what she was, in the end."Female remains located near Innisfail, Alberta, in May of this year have been positively identified as those of missing person, Tricia Turner, of the city of Edmonton. Incidents surrounding Ms. Turner's death have been deemed to be of a criminal nature. Twenty-four-year-old Brett Finnemore, also of the city of Edmonton, will be arraigned at the Court of Queen's Bench on charges of second degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body. Ms. Turner and Mr. Finnemore were known to each other. These events were not random and there is currently no threat to public safety." A police communications officer read the statement into a microphone at a press conference. Positively identified--Morgan still doesn't know why it was written that way. "Positive" usually means someone is happy about something, or at least relieved. Everyone said the family must be relieved now Tricia was dead in a box instead of dead in a field. No, of course they meant positive as in being perfectly sure about it. Morgan asked her brother Tod what it would have meant if female remains had been negatively identified as their older sister's. What he said was, "Morgo--what the hell?"What no one knows is the truth of why Tricia was killed. It matters enough to be decided by strangers, with a public trial of the man who killed her. Today, on the couch in their mother's living room, Tod is watching for the news, spearing Cheezies out of a plastic bag with a fork to keep the greasy orange powder from his fingers and pants. On someone else, it might be dainty. He eats, Morgan wipes at crumbs in the kitchen. They continue the wait that began the night something happened at Tricia's sketchy walkup apartment building, something bad between her and the person she loved. It is one of those stories. Tricia can't tell it for herself, but she doesn't have to. Stories like hers are like old horror movies, the kind people call classics, as if they know them well and the movies are part of them even though all that most people remember are highlight reels, one or two famous scenes. Everyone knows the shower scene from Psycho, recognizes it shot by shot. Lesser known are the film's other scenes--the ones about money and secretarial work and bad boyfriends. No one knows that Psycho anymore. Over time, the entire movie has contracted to not much more than close shots of wet skin and threads of chocolate sauce in running water, swirling down a drain in black and white."News is coming on," Tod calls to Morgan from the couch. He means the noontime broadcast where their mother will be appearing. Their mother is dimly famous in the city, a figure from local news clips, dressed in black and grey, squinting in daylight. She will be standing on the steps of the bleak, brown courthouse downtown. Someone once said the entire building is supposed to be a Brutalist rendition of the scales of justice. Morgan still hasn't found anyone who can tell her how to see it that way.For the news people, Morgan and Tod's mother is a sound-bite machine for outrage at the criminal justice system. They film her near the sign that reads "Law Courts," spelled out in black metal letters that leech their colour into the concrete behind them in wet weather. On television, the news directors print Morgan's mother's full name beside their station logo, tucked into the bottom of the screen."Sheila Turner, Mother of Victim." It took time for Sheila and Marc--her ex-husband, Morgan, Tod, and Tricia's father--to settle into their television personae. They began like people who win the lottery and are brought to face news cameras still in their stretch pants and ball caps and kitchen sink dye-jobs. The viewing public deserves to hear everyone talk about their fortunes, and bad fortune is still a fortune. Whenever Morgan sees her parents on the news, the colour of their eyes isn't right, and their faces are covered in tiny pock-marks and excess flesh."