A Review, a Delicious Excerpt, & a Giveaway! Frédérique Molay’s “City of Blood”

Giveaway!

At the bottom of the post is a widget to enter to win a copy of City of Blood. (US winners can choose a paperback or ebook, international winners receive an ebook.)

The City of Blood coverMy Review

Ah, more Nico Sirsky. I’m finding I can’t quite do without this French police chief, nor without the twists and turns as he tries to figure out the solution. I think “City of Blood” is quite possibly my favourite of the three books in this series (in English) so far.

My enjoyment began even before I started reading, as I chuckled over the French title for this book: Déjeuner sous l’herbe. I can understand why Le French Book renamed it for the English market, as I don’t know if the play on words would be apparent to someone who doesn’t speak French (or who isn’t familiar with the piece “Déjeuner sur l’herbe” by Edouard Manet.) And as the subject of the book was a dinner party buried and then excavated, it made perfect sense.

So, plays on words aside, let me talk about the book.

A French performance artist had a dinner party at La Villette park in Paris thirty years ago, and then buried it, as a sort of time capsule. When the banquet table and such is uncovered, a body (or what’s left of one) is discovered. It is up to Nico Sirsky and his team to figure out who it is, and how it happened. But, as he’s discovering clues, new murders are occurring in the park at La Villette, complicating matters.

It’s always difficult to describe a mystery/thriller novel without giving away too many details. The tension builds, the mind whirls with the possibilities, and the end is satisfying. I’m hoping that Le French Book will put out more from Mme. Molay, as I can’t quite get enough of her books.

The Synopsis

When a major Parisian modern art event gets unexpected attention on live TV, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky and his team of elite crime fighters rush to La Villette park and museum complex. There, renowned artist Samuel Cassian is inaugurating the first archeological dig of modern art, twenty-seven years after burying the leftovers of a banquet. In front of reporters from around the world, excavators uncover a skeleton. Could it be the artist’s own son? And does that death have anything to do with the current string of nightclub murders by the “Paris Butcher”? On the site of the French capital’s former slaughterhouses, the investigation takes Nico and France’s top criminal investigation division from artists’ studios to autopsy theaters and nightclubs in hopes of tracking down the murderer who has turned this Paris park into a city of blood. [provided by the publisher]

The Excerpt, from Chapter 1 (Enjoy!)

Footsteps, the stench of a cigar. Chief Nico Sirsky looked up from his files and glanced at his watch: 1:11 p.m. Deputy Police Commissioner Michel Cohen, his boss, walked into the office without knocking.

“If I were you, I’d turn on the news,” Cohen advised. No hello. It was an order. Nico grabbed the remote control and pointed it at the television. The news anchor appeared. Black eyeliner and smoky shadow accentuated her eyes. Not a hair was out of place. In a panel at the bottom of the screen, a reporter was clutching his microphone.

“Just watch,” Cohen said.

Directly behind the reporter was the Géode, the gigantic steel globe at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. The huge Cité complex in northeast Paris encompassed a science, technology, and cultural center, a museum, and much more. It attracted visitors from around the world. Nico raised the volume.

“I can only imagine the consternation there,” the newscaster lamented, a touch theatrically.

“Absolutely, Élise. This story has gripped people in France and beyond.”

“Arnaud, please bring those viewers who have just tuned in up to speed on this horrible discovery. I must warn those watching that this may not be appropriate for young children.”

The camera panned to an open pit next to the Canal de l’Ourcq in the Parc de la Villette.

“Here, at this exact spot, archaeologists, artists, and others started an extraordinary excavation three days ago,” the reporter said. “Now that dig has taken a strange and ghastly twist.”

The camera zoomed in slowly on the pit. It was pos- sible to make out dirt-covered tables, dishes, and bottles. The shot then turned into a full close-up of an inconceiv- able sight.

“You see what all the commotion’s about?” Cohen asked.

Several men in orange vests were pushing back spec- tators on the Prairie du Cercle meadow and forming a security perimeter.

The news anchor was talking. “Arnaud, we can hear the sirens. Is that the police?”

“Yes, Élise, officers are arriving now.”

Those were the local precinct officers, who would guard the crime scene and take down witness accounts. Normally, they would then call in the public prosecu- tor and his underlings—“the devil and his minions,” as Cohen liked to put it. That was in theory. But this was not a normal situation. The television news had already tipped everyone off, and Nico was betting that Christine Lormes, the public prosecutor, was putting on her coat at that very minute.

“Looks like we’re going to be on the news,” Cohen said with a note of sarcasm. “We’re set to meet the prosecutor in the courtyard. Which squad are you putting on this?”

“Kriven’s.”
Nico could forget about his sandwich. The week was off to a bad start.

About the Author
Crossing The Line-Frederique MolayCalled “the French Michael Connelly,” Frédérique Molay graduated from France’s prestigious Science Po and began her career in politics and the French administration. She worked as chief of staff for the deputy mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and then was elected to the local government in Saône-et-Loire. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursuing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven.

The first in the Paris Homicide series, The 7th Woman, won France’s most prestigious crime fiction award and went on to become an international bestseller, allowing Molay to dedicate her life to writing and raising her three children.

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About the Translator
Jeffrey Zuckerman was born in the Midwest and lives in New York. He has worked as an editorial assistant, a lifeguard, and a psychology researcher. Now an editor for Music and Literature Magazine, he also freelances for several companies, ranging from the pharmaceutical industry to old-fashioned book publishing. He holds a degree in English with honors from Yale University, where he studied English literature, creative writing, and translation.

The Giveaway!

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Guest Post & Giveaway from Frédérique Molay, author of CROSSING THE LINE, the new Sirsky novel

Crossing the Line cover

For the giveaway, skip to the widget below. Enter to win a paperback copy of CROSSING THE LINE (US residents only) or an ebook copy (international). And don’t miss Ms. Molay’s guest post, and my review of the book, the latest translated in the Nico Sirsky novels, known as the Paris Homicide Series, from Le French Book.

About CROSSING THE LINE

It’s Christmas in Paris and Chief of Police Nico Sirsky has an uneasy feeling that something is very wrong with the case he’s investigating. He and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil?

The Funny Thing About Mysteries
Frédérique Molay

Crossing The Line-Frederique MolayAward-winning novelist Frédérique Molay brings us another mystery in her Paris Homicide series—Crossing the Line, which hits bookstores on September 23. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He’s in love and raring to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? Here she talks about the mystery genre.

The funny think about mysteries is that although some misguided souls still sometimes consider the genre to be marginal as far as “literature” goes, mystery novels very actively feed all the other art forms from movies, television, graphic novels and plays to painting and so much more. They touch us in many way, have a long history and a bright future.

Traditionally, the genre’s paternity is attributed to Edgar Allan Poe, with his short stories written in 1841, Murders in the Rue Morgue. Some people, particularly the French, like to remind readers that Honoré de Balzac wrote Murky Business the same year. Bets are still open on Balzac vs. Poe, and academics still quarrel over it. What counts though is that the genre has been booming since the nineteenth century and today, authors around the world are inventing their own heroes based on their country’s history, social realities, culture and own literary genius.

Like the genre, heroes in detective fiction have evolved as well, mostly because the world around them has changed. There are more heroines. Macho, die-hard heroes are a thing of the past. Femmes fatales and docile wives are also long gone, and female characters are independent and determined.

Of course, crime novels have changed because crime too has changed. The transformation of heroes is on par with that of the villains. A new kind of criminal has arisen—they are as unpredictable and hard to grasp as the world they reflect. These psycho-killers choose their victims randomly, following their urges. Add to that the wide-spread growth of organized crime to the most unsuspecting places and benefiting from considerable protection and immunity, and there is a lot of inspiration. I could go on. Clearly, the mystery genre has a bright future ahead of it.

My Review

To take a line from Frédérique Molay’s post above, a new kind of criminal has arisen, unpredictable and hard to grasp. The villain in her first book fit this description, as does the one in this novel. But I don’t want to say too much about the villain, in fear of giving something away, so I will leave them be, and talk more about the book itself.

It begins with an anatomy lab and a class of dental students, learning how to do surgery upon cadavers (just the heads). Grotesque, but intriguing, becoming more so when a student finds a head with a very poorly done filling, and brings it to the attention of the prof and the anatomy lab. A closer examination reveals a piece of plastic embedded in the tooth; it reads ‘I was murdered.’ Now, if that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what would. ;)

Having been in an anatomy lab, and smelled that smell, the scene was quite vivid for me (though I had been there for an anatomical drawing class, and did not draw heads), and it reminded me partly of the anatomy lesson scenes in Lars von Trier’s ‘Riget’. Crinkling my nose remembering that smell, I read on, and found that I couldn’t put the book down.

The connections between characters and to the finale were artfully done, subtle enough that it kept me guessing. I love mystery novels where it isn’t obvious who the villain is, or how/why they’ve done what they’ve done. Slowly the pieces came together as Sirsky and his team investigated, and though I did guess a couple of chapters ahead of the big reveal, I was still quite satisfied.

I’m looking forward to the next in the series, and hope that Le French Book will continue to put out these fantastic translations.

Crossing The Line
[police procedural / thriller]
(translated by Anne TRAGER)

Release date: September 23, 2014
at Le French Book

224 pages
ISBN: 978-1939474148

Website | Goodreads

Giveaway!

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