Review: Murder in Montmartre

This review originally appeared on Buried Under Books.

Murder in Montmartre
Cara Black
Soho Press, 2006
1569474109
ARC from Creatures ‘n Crooks

On the wide, shop-lined Boulevard de Clichy by the Moulin Rouge, its garish neon now dark, plumes of bus exhaust spiraled into the air. A straggling demonstration blocked the street as loudspeakers shouted, “Corsica for Corsicans!”

Waiting passengers stood on the pavement with that particular patience of Parisians, the collective shrug of acceptance reserved for slowdowns and strikes. Newspaper banners plastered across the kiosk read STRIKE IN CORSICAN CONTRACT DISPUTE. Another said ASSAULT ON ARMORED CURRENCY TRUCK LINKED TO ARMATA CORSA SEPARATISTS.

She saw a peeling poster on a stone wall bearing a call to action and the Armata Corsa Separatist trademark, the tête de Maure, a black face with white bandanna, in the corner.

The strident Separatist movements in Corsica took center stage these days, elbowing out Bretons demanding school instruction in Gaelic and ETA, Basque Nationalists, car bombings.

Right now Aimée needed to speak with the person in the apartment with geraniums in a window box to discover if he or she had seen anything.

One January night computer security expert and private detective Aimée Leduc attends a retirement party for a former colleague of her father’s. Before the night is through a rookie police detective, a childhood friend of Aimée’s, is accused of murdering her partner. Continue reading

Review: 13, rue Thérèse

13, rue Thérèse
Elena Mauli Shapiro
Reagan Arthur Books, February 2011
9780316083287

These gloves haunt you.

But let us not be bothered with that now. Let us not slip onto our own body these accoutrements of the dead. Such a gesture would be a bit strange, a bit unsettling. Such a gesture is unnecessary when the object is before us and we can look at it at our leisure.

The gloves are flexible, strong, starkly black. They look like something to be worn to the funeral of a beloved someone; as you might have observed, they look like a widow’s gloves. The truth is that they are merely church gloves, worn every Sunday to holy offices. The color is so because white gloves are better suited to a virgin (or at the very least, a young and unmarried woman who could still plausibly undergo such a pantomime of purity). Black is the color of the true woman, one burdened with keeping a house and bearing children—a wife.

Louise has yearned keenly for the fulfillment of motherhood. She has been trying so hard. As of the day where our story hovers (Tuesday, November 6, 1928), she has not succeeded in this strenuous endeavor, though Lord knows she has been the most efficient puller of husbandly seed she had been allowed to be.

13, rue Thérèse is a delightful and clever origami box of a story. I’m probably not the first to make that analogy, nor do I think I will be the last, but it is an apt comparison: it is the kind of story that folds fiction and history, reality and imagination back and forth upon themselves until the reader scarcely knows which end is up.

Continue reading

Review: Bruno, Chief of Police

Bruno, Chief of Police
Martin Walker
Vintage Books, 2010
Originally published in the UK in 2008 by Quercus Books
9780307454690

Suddenly Bruno noticed something odd. After every previous parade, whether it was for the eighth of May, or the eighteenth of June, when de Gaulle launched Free France, or the fourteenth of July, when France celebrated her Revolution, or the eleventh of November, when the Great War ended, Jean-Pierre and Bachelot would turn away from each other without so much as a nod and walk back separately to the Mairie to store the flags they carried. But this time they were standing still, staring fixedly at one another. Not talking, but somehow communicating. Amazing what one bugle can do, thought Bruno. Maybe if I can get some Americans into the parade next year they might even start talking. But now it was thirty minutes after midday and, like every good Frenchman, Bruno turned his thoughts to lunch.

In the village of St. Denis, in the Périgord region of France, Bosnian war veteran and police chief Benoît “Bruno” Courrèges keeps the peace. Continue reading