Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Book #9: The Père-Lachaise Mystery

My ninth book done and dusted. And I'm only four books behind. Four? Four‽ If you're curious as to what that strange symbol is, it's a little used piece of typography known as the interrobang. I think I'll write a post about it. Yes, I'll get onto that.

The Père-Lachaise Mystery by Claude Izner is a murder mystery that follows a bookkeeper, Victor Legris, through the streets of nineteenth century Paris, trying to find the whereabouts of his former lover Odette de Valois. When I say we follow Victor Legris, that is not entirely true. And when I say through Paris, that's not entirely true either.

The story begins in Columbia, with a dying man being suspiciously buried in a remote village and then we sweep to the Père-Lachaise cemetry where a widow is visiting the tomb of her late husband. From here on in we explore the lives of the maid of Odette de Valois in her frantic response to the disappearance of her mistress; a strange old man; and Legris' employee at the book shop.

Throughout most of the novel you know more than Legris, yet obviously he still gets to the conclusion before you do, despite the fact that there is a very limited cast of suspects. As a matter of fact, you are never really presented with a bill of suspects like you do in other mysteries, such as by Agatha Christie. The distinction between who is a suspect and who is just an extra to place the novel in a dark, bleak Paris is never clear. I suppose that could be seen as a clever aspect of the novel, disarming the reader into not reaching the solution. I see it as annoying. I expect that is because I found the whole narrative style irriating. You spent too much time trying to work out who you were now following (Was it the nervous servant girl? Was it the guy with the dead cats?), and where abouts you were heading. They do provide a map at the front of the book, but that isn't really any help, I'd keep losing my page and then I'd not finish the book.

The book was quite feminine. Although it says it is by Claude Izner, it lies. It is infact by two sisters, Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre and it shows. It gets a bit Mills and Boon in some places and Victor Legris is obviously their fantasy man. Korb and Lefèvre are also booksellers, just like Legris, and they present an idealistic idea of what it was to be one.

If you are into slushy romances and want to read a murder mystery this is probably for you. However, I'm not a slushy romance kind of guy. You can make as many aspersions about being insecure in my sexuality as you want, but it is not going to change the fact, I don't like romances.

There is a series of Victor Legris mysteries (I think this may be the second).

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