on Tour September 12-21 with
The Madonna of Notre Dame
Release date: October 11, 2016
at New Vessel Press
ISBN: 978-1-939931-39-3 210 pages
Fifty thousand believers and photo-hungry tourists jam into Notre Dame Cathedral on August 15 to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. The next morning, a stunningly beautiful young woman clothed all in white kneels at prayer in a cathedral side chapel. But when an American tourist accidentally bumps against her, her body collapses. She has been murdered: the autopsy reveals disturbing details. Police investigators and priests search for the killer as they discover other truths about guilt and redemption in this soaring Paris refuge for the lost, the damned, and the saved. The suspect is a disturbed young man obsessed with the Virgin Mary who spends his days hallucinating in front of a Madonna. But someone else knows the true killer of the white-clad daughter of Algerian immigrants. This thrilling novel illuminates shadowy corners of the world’s most famous cathedral, shedding light on good and evil with suspense, compassion and wry humor.
“Gérard, there’s a bomb alert. In the ambulatory. Serious stuff this time. Big.”
His shoulder wedged in the doorway, a huge bunch of keys hanging at the end of his arm, the guard watched the sacristan fuss around, open all the sacristy cupboards, and pull out rags, sponges, silverware polish, while muttering expletives of his own composition at regular intervals.
“Gérard, are you listening? You should take a look, really. Fifteen years on the job, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s enough to blow up the whole cathedral.”
Gérard interrupted his search and finally appeared to take an interest in the guard. The latter had just hung the keys on a single nail stuck in the sacristy paneling.
“Later on, if you like, I’ll go see. Is that all right? Are you happy?”
“What’s going on today, Gérard? Haven’t you got time for important things anymore?”
“Look, you’re starting to really piss me off. Thirty years I’ve been working here and it’s the same thing every year: every August fifteenth they have to make a goddamn mess in the sacristy. And I can never find anything the next day. I have to spend two hours cleaning up. I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult. They arrive, they put on their vestments, they do their procession and their Mass next door, they come back, they take off their vestments, and see you next year … Why do they have to go rummaging in the cupboards?”
“Tell me, Gérard, what have you lost?”
“My gloves. My box of gloves for the silverware. If I don’t have them I wreck my hands with their shitty products.”
“You want me to help you look? I’ve got time—just finished opening up.”
“Don’t worry, here, found them. I don’t know why it’s so hard to put things back where they belong, I mean, Jesus H. Christ …”
The guard fumbled in his pocket, inserted coins into the slit of the coffee machine, and pushed a button. He signaled goodbye to the sacristan and then, a steaming cup in his hand, started to walk back to the interior of the cathedral. Gérard caught up with him in the corridor.
“So tell me about your bomb … Worth seeing?”
“The works, I promise: the ticktock, the time switch, and the sticks of dynamite.”
“OK, I’ll go see later, before the nine o’clock Mass. Might still be there. Where’s your explosive device again?”
“In the ambulatory, outside the chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. You’ll see—impossible to miss.”
It was a slow start for me, but this book was worth my patience. It’s been awhile since I’ve read any thrillers, and my last ones were books from translator/publisher Le French Book. (Their stable of authors includes Frederique Molay, Bernard Besson, David Khara, etc.) Once this book got going, I really couldn’t put it down. The first suspect seemed too easy, but I couldn’t identify another, and that questioning kept me reading. I like thrillers and mysteries where I can’t easily identify the killer(s).
What intrigued me the most, beyond the external plot, were the details involved in the running of Notre Dame, and of the ‘inside look’ at what it might take to organize and secure such a large and popular tourist destination. Locks, cleaning, security, filming, masses,… it all seemed to be there. I’d love to read a book solely on this background information.
Definitely an excellent read. I look forward to seeing what M. Ragougneau writes next.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is a playwright and
The Madonna of Notre Dame is his first novel.
He has worked in Notre Dame Cathedral
helping monitor tourist crowds
and knows well its infinite secrets
and the forgotten souls who linger in its darkest corners.
Buy the book: on Amazon
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