Death in Bordeaux, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)

Description

In the spring of 1940, the mutilated body of a homosexual is discovered in a street near the Bordeaux railway station.

It looks like a straight-forward sex crime, but when Superintendent Lannes is warned off the investigation, his suspicion that there is a political motive for the murder seems justified. In defiance of authority, he continues working on the case. And then another body is found...Meanwhile, the Superintendent has other troubles.

His eldest son, Dominique, is at the Front, his wife, Marguerite, is depressed, and when the Battle of France breaks out, Bordeaux is filled with refugees fleeing the war.

Suddenly civilian crime seems of little importance compared to the chaos that ensues.

As Bordeaux becomes an occupied city, Lannes' chief suspect is untouchable, protected by a relative in the Vichy government.

Lannes himself is threatened with blackmail on account of his Jewish friends and Dominique is taken prisoner.

Common sense should make Lannes abandon the investigation, but honour and a natural obstinacy lead him to pursue it.

However, as events turn increasingly bleak, Lannes begins to doubt it can ever be solved...

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Review by
3

Rating: 3* of five <B>The Book Description</b>: In the spring of 1940, the mutilated body of a homosexual is discovered in a street near the Bordeaux railway station. It looks like a straight-forward sex crime, but when Superintendent Lannes is warned off the investigation, his suspicion that there is a political motive for the murder seems justified. In defiance of authority, he continues working on the case. And then another body is found...Meanwhile, the Superintendent has other troubles. His eldest son, Dominique, is at the Front, his wife, Marguerite, is depressed, and when the Battle of France breaks out, Bordeaux is filled with refugees fleeing the war. Suddenly civilian crime seems of little importance compared to the chaos that ensues. As Bordeaux becomes an occupied city, Lannes' chief suspect is untouchable, protected by a relative in the Vichy government. Lannes himself is threatened with blackmail on account of his Jewish friends and Dominique is taken prisoner. Common sense should make Lannes abandon the investigation, but honour and a natural obstinacy lead him to pursue it. However, as events turn increasingly bleak, Lannes begins to doubt it can ever be solved... <B>My Review</b>: What exactly is this book supposed to be? Is it a murder mystery? Is it a novel of Fallen France? I've read it now, and I don't really know. I suspect Massie doesn't either, and therein my issue with the book. I don't think it's right to market as a mystery a novel in which the mystery isn't mysterious. I don't think it's right to market a novel of the fall of France in the framework of a mystery unless you deliver on your promise.So after close to 300pp in the company of Jean Lannes of the <I>Police Justiciare</i>, his friends Henri and Gaston, et alii, I am left with one certainty: Not one of these characters has done more than form wispily before my mind's eye. Marguerite, Jean's wife and mother of his three kids, is as wet as a tear-sodden hankie. She cries and glooms her way through the novel, almost driving Jean into adultery, and the funny thing is that I was wishing to goodness that he'd go on and do it. Poor bastard has awful, Babbitty superiors, collaborators one and all; men under him who need to be doing more than they're allowed to in the story; victims galore of one sociopathic, Nietzsche-spouting slimebucket. If anyone needs a good roll in the hay, it's this guy.And then there's the writing. “He felt ashamed.” Uhhhmmm...that is the classic example of telling, not showing, and it's repeated ad nauseam with reference to Jean. Similar bald statements are made of other characters' inner lives. The descriptions of meals are simply lists of dishes; it's a little bit like reading pieces of the index to <I>Mastering the Art of French Cooking.</i> “It was good,” reports the writer. Andrea Camilleri has no need to look over his shoulder for fear Montalbano's reign as sleuth/gourmand is challenged.So why give the book, which was so evidently only modestly satisfactory, three stars? Because the situation, the Fall of France, is intriguing, and the author's choice to explore it through the lens of police work and public order, however mediocrely executed, is very interesting. I won't say you should seek it out and gobble it down, but should it present itself to you in some free way, and if you're interested in WWII France, it won't bore you to sleep.A note on the book itself: I read the British publisher Quarto's edition. I know the English have a bizarrely proprietary attitude towards our American tongue, and even think of themselves as privileged to punctuate the language in odd and un-American ways with impunity. This is obviously complete bosh, so we needn't discuss it; but the copyeditor of this book needs a swift kick. The number of places there are no close quotes quite boggled my mind. The oddest thing, though, is the prevalence of this:“Henry, “he said, “There...”EEEEEEEEEE! Horrible! (Of course, for my example, I have used the self-evidently superior American system of double-quotes, unlike the silly Quarto people.) The capital letter beginning the rest of the sentence alone would cause me pain, but the misplaced quotation marks! Oooh owwww

Review by
5

A really good, proper novel, this.At an almost pedantically precise moment in time and space (France, 1940), Massie's detective is the sort of fully-realised character one would expect from this excellent novelist.The plot, while engaging enough, is not the reason why I'll be looking out for the rest of this projected trilogy: I find the period fascinating, and I feel I've learnt more from this great work of historical fiction than from any number of lesser authorities from the non-fiction department.

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