[This ambitious mystery novel is a C4 Great Read.]
2012, Hard Case Crime
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|C4 Ratings...out of||10|
It’s pretty easy to write off a debut novel of 700ish pages that sets out to mimic 3 great masters of a genre. Indeed, I procrastinated for nearly a month, leaving my review copy unread while I kept pushing other books ahead of it in my never-ending reading queue. That was a mistake; this book is great.
I’m fairly new to reading mysteries, and I’m actually only familiar with one of the three authors being mimicked by Winter. He does a great job of emulating Raymond Chandler, though, and though I can’t speak to it directly, the stylization varies enough between segments that I’ve no doubt the same can be said about the mimicry of Georges Simenon and Jim Thompson.
Interestingly, though increasingly integral to the plots, the Rosenkrantzes, especially Clotilde, are not the primary players for the majority of these pages. In the first book, “Malvineau Prison,” Clotilde is Rosenkrantz’s teen bride, living in a village in France where Shem can work on his novels (and drink) in relative seclusion. Her father, an inmate in the local jail, turns up dead, face-down in a ditch and wearing civilian clothing. A mystery unfurls from there.
This story follows a Parisian inspector, Pelleter, as he works to solve the case. It’s a wonderful little mystery, reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot serials (and presumably the work of Georges Simenon). The less said about it, the less I can spoil. It is perhaps my favorite of the three books herein, but that is not to say what follows is not just as satisfying.
The third book, “Police at the Funeral,” I won’t go into detail of much at all, except to say that it varies greatly (and to a satisfying degree) from the first two. This one brings the Rosencrantzes to the forefront, and uses Shem to tie the three novels, along with their distinct mysteries, into a tidy thematic arc.
It’s very good, and a very fun read. While long, the book isn’t particularly demanding. Mystery fans of all ilks owe it to themselves to give this one a shot, or at least stash it away for their next vacation.
[A review was requested and a review copy provided.]