Fanatics : a novel /
William Bell.
[Toronto] : Doubleday Canada, c2011.
vii, 289 p. ; 21 cm.
0385670273 (Paper), 9780385670272 (Paper)
More Details
[Toronto] : Doubleday Canada, c2011.
0385670273 (Paper)
9780385670272 (Paper)
Garnet Havelock has just finished his apprenticeship in furniture-making, and has found a workshop for his new business in an old coach house on the isolated estate of recently deceased Professor Eduardo Corbizzi. Garnet signs a contract with the late professor's long-time companion, the eccentric and inscrutable Mrs. Valentina Stoppini, who presides over the mansion and is its only occupant. The terms of the deal are excellent, but there's a catch: Garnet has to repair the library's fire damage and keep all details about the estate confidential. Only after he agrees does Mrs. Stoppini inform him that the professor died of a seizure in the library under mysterious circumstances involving "an accident" and "a small fire." It isn't long before a distressing collision of past and present drags Garnet towards a horrifying truth he could never have imagined.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references
A Look Inside
First Chapter
It started on a Monday morning in early summer. As usual, I pushed through the alley door into the cramped room at the back of Olde Gold Antiques and Collectibles— the Mississauga Street store owned by my parents—where I was the official restorer, refinisher, and repairer of furniture. The store was closed the first day of the week, so I could toil away without being distracted by the tinkle of the doorbell. I slid anautorickshawcd into the player and began to repair an antique bird’s-eye maple chest. Somehow the upper-right drawer had been smashed—it takes a mighty blow to break a dovetailed pine drawer—and Dad had asked me to make a new one. He had sold the chest and promised delivery in a couple of days.
Soon I was lost in the fragrance of pine shavings and sawdust, the rasp of steel teeth on wood, the familiar vibration in the saw’s handle as the blade cut kerfs along the lines I had scribed to mark the dovetails. An up-to-date cabinetmaker would have used an electric router to make the dovetails, but I preferred hand tools.
When the dovetails were done, I chiselled out the slots that the drawer bottom would rest in, cleaned up the edges with a bit of sandpaper, then painted the corner joints with glue and fitted the drawer sides to the front. After I slid the bottom into its grooves—without glue—I eased the back into place and clamped the completed drawer, setting it aside to let the adhesive dry. Good for another hundred years or so.
I hung my apron on a hook beside the curtain that separated the shop from the showroom, brushed sawdust off my sleeves, and left by the front door, crossing the street to the sunny side to get a good view of Olde Gold’s display window and the small walnut cabinet I had designed and made myself. On the store’s sign, olde gold antiques and collectibles, there was room for another line of print: Fine Custom Furniture.
With the ink on my high school diploma barely dry I had spent most of the past year as unofficial apprentice to Norbert Armstrong, a well-known local cabinetmaker. I wanted to design and make furniture, not spend my life working only for my parents, and although it had taken Mom a while to come around, they supported my ambition. When I “graduated”—the ceremony was a picnic of ham sandwiches, potato salad, and Norbert’s foul-tasting homemade beer on the patio behind his shop in Hillsdale—Norbert had grumbled good-naturedly that for the first time in many years he might have some competition. I took his remark as a compliment.
I headed down Mississauga Street, bought a copy of the local paper from a box outside the Shepherd’s Crook pub, and re-crossed the road where it began its descent to the park on the shore of Lake Couchiching. TheMariposa Princess, a double-decker sightseeing boat, was backing away from the pier to begin its morning tour of the lake. I stepped into the Half Moon Cafe, with its fragrance of ground coffee and fresh baking. It was a popular place, with maybe a dozen wrought-iron tables, the original plank floor, and a stamped-tin ceiling painted light grey and crisscrossed with pipes and ducts.
I took a table near the coffee bar and opened the paper to the classified ads.
“Hey, Garnet,” I heard from behind the bar.
Marco Grenoble was not a good advertisement for the famous homemade pizzas he concocted in the little kitchen at the back of the restaurant or the tasty Italian pastries displayed in tiers along the bar. Tall, reed thin with a concave abdomen, he wore a T-shirt and an apron stained with pizza sauce.
“Hi, Marco.”
“The usual?”
“Sure. Thanks.”
“I’ll bring it myself.”
I went back to the ads for property rentals. It didn’t take long to see there was nothing there for me. I’d try some online sources later.
“You lookin’ to move away from home?” Marco asked, placing a mug of latte on the table and then, beside it, a plate with three tiny lemon tarts in the middle.
“Thanks, Marco, but I only ordered the coffee.”
 “You gotta eat somethin’. You’re too thin.”
I folded up the paper and put it aside. “Well, thanks.”
Marco nodded toward the paper. “So . . .”
“I’m trying to find space to rent,” I explained. “The shop at the back of our store isn’t big enough for the business I hope to start up.”
I went on to describe what I was after. I needed room for a few large work and layout tables, machines like saws and planers, a booth for spray staining, and an electricity supply that would take the strain of all that equipment. I didn’t have the machines lined up yet, or the money to buy or lease them, but I could at least search for a place.
“Latte okay?” Marco asked when I had finished talking.
“How big an area d’you need?”
I looked around the restaurant. “About what you have here, give or take.”
Marco turned his head from side to side, taking in the room as if seeing it for the first time. “I got this cousin,” he said, but didn’t finish the thought.
I nodded to encourage him, took a sip of my latte, said, “Uh-huh.”
“A distant cousin.” He smiled, making creases like parentheses on either side of his mouth, and ran his fingers through greying hair. “Real distant. From the brainy side of the clan— the Corbizzis. Heard of Professor Corbizzi? Never mind. Anyways, the old prof passed away some time ago. I heard that whoever takes care of the estate wants to rent out the coach house. You prob’ly know about the old mansion.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“It’s up the lake a ways. North of town. Sits out there on its own little peninsula. Course you can’t see the house from the water. Too many trees. Anyways, if you’re interested I’ll try to get you the phone number.”
“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”
“Might take me a day or so. It’s unlisted, and I don’t know who inherited the place.”
“No problem.”
“One thing, though,” Marco added, “there might be a string or two attached.” He smiled again. “With the Corbizzis, there always is.”

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