on 19 April 2012
The Dying Minutes by Martin O'Brien, set around the azure coastline of Marseilles, is the seventh in the detective novel series featuring the very likable, Chief Inspector Daniel Jacquot. It begins with a gold bullion convoy being hijacked in 1972, of which part of the heist mysteriously disappears and becomes an unsolved case. Twenty seven years on, Chief Inspector Jacquot is recovering from gunshot wounds from a previous case (Blood Counts, book six in the series) and is on sick leave when he inherits a boat from an old fisherman who once knew his father. Jacquot is seduced by the elegant boat and life on the water, and it's not long before his inquisitive mind begins to wonder about its history and that of its ex-owner.
While Jacquot is discovering his sea legs and persuading his pregnant partner to keep the boat, his old flame Chief Inspector Isabelle Cassier, walks back into his life during the investigation of some brutal murders. The murders point to the missing gold and the involvement of two of the most feared gangland families on the coast. Isabelle seeks Jacquot's help with the investigation and he finds himself once again in close confinement with Isabelle as they work on the case together.
The Dying Minutes is beautifully written with a strong sense of place and atmosphere, transporting you right there to the South of France. It's a pure joy to read. The words create a realistic feel for life on the boat and in the harbour and villages around Marseilles, and you can almost taste the salt in the air, the exquisite wines and delicious food.
There are a lot of characters in this novel, which I found a little difficult to keep track of at first, but the chapters are short and introduce the well-defined players quickly so it wasn't long before they all slotted into place. The pace of the novel is steady and doesn't race along the pages but it's woven with mystery and an underlying sense of foreboding and is all together an exciting and unpredictable read.
I really liked the characters and how they interacted, especially Chief Inspector Jacquot. Above all, it's beautifully written, with a plot and characters that have been well thought out and delivered with a perfectly timed pace. I highly recommend this book, and now have an impatient need to check out the rest of the series.
I was sent The Dying Minutes a week or two ago and noted that this was 'A Daniel Jacquot Novel' and is all about an ex-rugby playing French detective and set in Marseilles. Gallic shrug from moi and Que? I opened it and started to read and immediately found myself gripped (or should that be grippe...). I have not been to France for years and years and have never been to Marseilles, but after a few chapters of Martin O'Brien's book I had this overwhelming desire to catch a flight and fly there immediately. My French is of the La Plume de ma tante et sur la table de Mon Oncle variety, I know how to order a cafe au lait, can say Merde with the best of them and that is it, but I had this vision of moi sitting at a table on the waterfront knocking back a cafe, a Calva, eating freshly grilled fish and Danielsmoking a Galois, none of which I would dream of doing in real life. The book reeks of France and the sea and I simply loved it.
Two deaths occur. One is that of Philo, a fisherman known among his friends and acquaintances as le Philosophe, not because he was particularly clever or wise, but because he always had a book in his hand (my kind of homme) and there were not many fishermean who lay back on their drying nets to read a book. He leaves his executor to give his boat, Constance, to somebody who will love and appreciate her and thus it comes into the hands of our Hero, Daniel Jacquot recently recovering from being shot (an earlier book one presumes).
Second death - that of a convicted felon, Pierre-Louis Lombard. On his death bed he asks for his lawyer, Claude Dupont, to visit him and gives him a packet to take away. This packet contains the key to a long term left luggage locker in the Gare Saint-Charles and he is given instructions to take out its contents and deal with what is there.
"The first things he saw was the gold. A dull yellow glimmer at the bottom of the case...one by one he lifted out half a dozen linen drawstring bags....wads of banknotes bound in paper collars and rubber bands....a walled stack of currency twenty centimetres high. Then the black velvet pouches....diamonds, maybe thirty or forty stones, emeralds, green as wet moss and in the third pouch a spill of deep blue sapphires..."
Also in the bag are packets of documents and photos all of which are of prominent people in compromising situations. Dupont decides to use these photos to bring about retribution and starts sending them out to selected recipients all of whom react in different ways (one is a priest with a penchant for choir boys who commits suicide when he opens his morning mail and see what is inside).
Starting this process unfortunately starts a chain of events which soon lose control and it is not long before Mr Dupont and Mrs Dupont receive some very unpleasant visitors...
In total contrast, we hear of a refuge for battered wives receiving a large donation, in cash and anonymously, which will help keep them going for years; a small shabby cinema also receives money, enough to refurbish and to keep going and other charities and good causes find themselves blessed with unexpected largesse.
So two deaths, two different legacies - how are they tied together?
The answer is: gold. As we learn in a short prologue at the start of the book there was a gold heist, daring and well planned some thirty years before. Most of the gold was recovered but one lorry load went missing and somebody is still determined to find out where it went.
A great read, packed full of wonderful characters, danger, romance, sex, greed, excitement and culminating in an action packed boat chase and shoot out which I can imagine would make a stunning finish if this was ever filmed. Had me on the edge of my seat (several books have done that to me lately, it's getting a bit worn) and could not put down and was up till after midnight last night finishing it.
Off now to hunt out the rest of this series.
on 25 February 2013
For any of you who haven't yet discovered this series featuring the Marseille based, ex rugby playing detective Daniel Jacquot you are in for a feast, the books ooze french charm and intrigue, whats more they keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, I thoroughly recommend buying the whole lot of them and settling in for winter....mmmmmmmm
on 3 April 2015
My first impression was - The story opens with a gold heist. A woman and two male accomplices. Nothing is mentioned about who, what or where so by the first few pages you automatically want to know the connection these three people have with the rest of the story. As the timeline changes to present day and Daniel Jacquot becomes involved, a mystery is afoot but what?
As I got to the middle, I felt - Deaths have already occurred but again, the thread of connection is only just forming. Jacquot's inheritance is something any of us can only dream of but suspicion lingers. Martin O'Brien does an excellent job at building suspense and keeping you hooked. The appearance of Isabelle Cassier becomes another mystery. She has been romantically involved with Jacquot in the past and sets a goal to win him, pregnant partner or not. Which brings me to one reservation I had about this book. Why the author chose to describe a pregnant woman smoking or drinking bothered me a little bit.
As I neared the end, I thought - The gold heist of 1972 is explained. More than twenty years later, betrayals come to light. Hatred revived. Daniel Jacquot and the reader are both caught in a web. The plot becomes intricate and you won't be able to put the book down. Amidst a serene Marseilles backdrop, shots are fired and blood is shed.
My final impression and recommendations - This is the first Daniel Jacquot book I have read and it was impressive. Martin O'Brien's attention to detail is admirable and I definitely want to read other books in the Jacquot series. For instance, the way Philo hid the location of the stolen gold with his bookmarks was crafty. Highly recommended book.
Disclosure - As a Quality Reads UK Book Club member, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my book review. This book review is based on my thoughts, opinion and understanding of the book. This book review does not reflect the opinion of other book club members.
Chief Inspector Daniel Jacquot is a detective working in the South of France. One day quite out of the blue he receives a surprise gift, bequeathed to him by a fisherman, known as Philo, a recently deceased resident of Marseilles. Meanwhile, lawyer Claude Dupont also receives an unexpected package from one of the criminals he defended in the past, Pierre-Louis Lombard, who is now dying.
A robbery occurred in 1972 along the coast from Marseilles, we learn, and gold bullion was stolen, which has never been found since. Nor has anyone ever been arrested for the crime. The novel opens with a scene from the robbery, and then takes us forward to 1999 where we meet Jacquot, and Dupont. Jacquot is still carrying injuries sustained in his previous investigation, and is off work recouperating. During this time, he receives the aforementioned gift, a boat, and he quickly develops a strong affection and attachment to the vessel, Constance. He then has to explain this new aquisition to his partner Claudine, who is expecting their baby.
Meanwhile, his former police colleague, Isabelle Cassier, reappears in Jacquot's life, asking him about an old acquaintance, and seeking his help with her current murder investigations, as the search for the missing gold intensifies and involves two very violent criminal gangs from the area. Dupont's gift leads him to a left-luggage locker at the station, and a holdall containing many secrets. Jacquot looks amongst the many books left in his possession on the boat, and there is a lovely, evocative description as he visits one of the bookshops where he believes Philo purchased some of the books:
'As Jacquot went deeper into the shop the darker the passage way between the bookshelves became, the dustier and more valuable the stock: leather-bound collections, fine gold lettering on scarlet squares, spines ribbed and rubbed, the dusty scent of the centuries.'
This is a very well-written, intelligent and intriguing crime story, with an involving plot. Jacquot is a charming character, with a keen eye for clues, a quick mind, and a skill for putting the elements of evidence slowly together: 'It was always like this at an initial crime scene. Who? How? Where? When? Why? All you ever had were just a few loose pieces of a very large jigsaw...The trick was to find new pieces, and then fit them all together. Slowly to start with, then picking up speed.'
I felt that the atmosphere of the setting comes across so vividly, it really transports the reader over there, with the mention of delicious foods and fine wines, the boats on the water; the author conjures a very attractive sense of place for us as a backdrop to Jacquot's life, the criminal activity and the investigation. The chapters are short and the novel moves along at a steady pace. Though there are quite a number of characters introduced fairly early on, and this was a challenge at first, as you read on, they all begin to fit into the story as a whole. Similarly, it is quite a lengthy book but the storyline and different characters all maintain your interest.
The Dying Minutes is the seventh novel in the series to feature Daniel Jacquot. It is the first installment of the series that I have read, and I didn't find this a problem, indeed we pick up some aspects of his history as this novel progresses, such as the fact that he was formerly an international rugby player. He is a likeable lead character, and this is an absorbing story. Reading The Dying Minutes has made me want to pick up the earlier novels in the series and discover more about Inspector Jacquot's previous investigations.
on 27 September 2014
I have been a fan of the Jacquot series since the first book - The Waterman. In my opinion The Fifteen is the best so far, though Blood Counts is also good.
This is a rather darker book. We still have the affectionate descriptions of Marseilles and surroundings. Readers can hear the cicadas and savour the bouilliabasse. Jacquot is a well rounded character. The mystery at the heart of the plot is compelling - what is the true story behind Jacquot's nautical legacy?
However as the pace picks up in the second part of the book, the mystery story turns into an old fashioned chase. The book's many villains are rather one dimensional sadistic gangsters. The torture scenes do not take the story forward. The loss of subtlety is a pity and elements of the plot become rather contrived. Jacquot's impulsivity seems rather out of character.
In conclusion, though this is an enjoyable read it does not match the high standard of some of the other books in the series. Four stars rather than five.
on 14 April 2012
Anybody who reads the Jacquot novels will know to expect the unexpected - the assumption of the detective genre.
Martin O'Brien's latest delivery does much more than that. Daniel Jacquot, taking recuperative leave as a result of injuries sustained in the last novel "Blood Counts", becomes embroiled in the search for a ton of gold which was hidden following a major heist twenty years before. The organisers were never caught and neither was the gold bullion which becomes the centre of a chase by two of the most violent gangs in Marseilles, competing with each other and the local police to wrest the gold from its hiding place. They're ruthless, unpleasant and determined to be first.
Martin's unique style of descriptive writing, transports the reader to the South of France, its warmth, its smells, its atmosphere and of course its food. He has written yet another winning novel - one of his best yet.
This is an adventure story par excellence which should be made into a film. In the meantime, it will provide any reader with several hours of inescapable absorption in a "can't put down" novel.
on 26 April 2013
the Inspector Jacquot series makes entertaining reading. It's best to try and read them in order, since Martin O'Brien retains a thread running through the whole series, although each individual story stands on its own. The descriptions of Marseilles and surrounding country are evocative.
on 19 June 2012
The only complaint I have about this latest Jacquot adventure is that, like the earlier Jacquot books, it's over all too soon. And that is simply because it's impossible to put down. I had to ration myself in order to make the novel last any length of time.
Martin O'Brien's attention to detail and his skill in prolonging suspense and weaving mystery prevail again. Although the plot has rather more of a Hollywood action element to it than previous Jacquot novels, this presents without being too out of character. As usual, for the reader there's the bonus of having been engrossed in an action-travelogue as the author's knowledge of the area of France provides a rich backcloth for the context.
And O'Brien integrates sufficient take-off points for the next adventure. So come on, Martin, get writing!
on 6 June 2012
O'Brian has created a hero who is a tough French cop, irresistibly sexy and very lucky. There is a real sense of place and a good story line and the minor characters are well drawn. I just feel the ending lets it all down.