34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Set in Paris, this thriller from Peter May is the first to feature forensic scientist Enzo Macleod. A Scot now living in Cahors in France, Enzo takes on a bet with some friends that, using new scientific methods of detection, he will be able to solve the mystery of the disappearance a decade earlier of brilliant university teacher Jacques Gaillard. What starts as an interesting intellectual puzzle soon turns into a full-blown thriller as Enzo begins to uncover a conspiracy involving some of the elite of French political and academic life.
While all the standard elements of the thriller are here - clues, conspiracies, chases, danger - what raises Peter May's novels above the average is the sense of place he conveys, based on what is clearly meticulous research. This book takes us on a journey through France and each place is described with a deft touch that lets us get to know it without being overwhelmed by unnecessary detail. Much of the book is set in Paris and, while showing us the city that any tourist will recognise, May also goes deeper, giving us insights into the workings of the structures and systems that produce the top people in government and commerce. He also uses his fine descriptive writing and eye for detail to paint a vivid picture of the catacombs that exist beneath the city.
As often happens in the first of a series, it took some time for all the characters to be introduced and for their back-stories to be filled out and this made the early part of the book a little slow. I also felt that sometimes the way Enzo was able to work out the clues in the plot seemed a bit too easy - coincidence came into play a little too often. I didn't enjoy this quite as much as I did May's China thrillers (the first of which is The Firemaker) or the first book in his new trilogy set on Lewis (The Blackhouse), but nonetheless I thought it was a good read with engaging characters and will certainly go on to read the next in the Enzo Files series.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
First Sentence: He finds himself in a cobbled courtyard, breath hissing back at him from buttressed walls.
Enzo Macleod left his first wife, daughter Katie and job as a career in forensics in Scotland and is now a teacher in Cahors, France and father to Sophie after losing her mother in childbirth. He is trying to reconnect with Katie, now living in Paris and is worried about 18-year-old Sophie and her boyfriend. He has accepted a high-stakes bet from his childhood friend, Simon, now a lawyer, to solve a 10-year-old closed case.
Jacques Guillard was a graduate of the prestigious Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), and an advisor to the Prime Minster when his book on the History of French Cinema caused him to be `instructed' to become an teacher at ENA. Then, he disappeared.
Now, due to construction in Paris, a tin truck has been unearthed containing a skull and several other items which lead him on a path to other trunks, more bodies and, possibly, his own death.
This is the first in a new series of Enzo File books by Peter May in which the protagonist works to solve cold cases. There were quite a few characters in the story. While each was distinguishable in their own right, there wasn't as much character development as I'd have liked beyond the protagonist. I did like that Enzo did not operate completely on his own but that others participated in uncovering the meanings behind the clues. I also liked that he wasn't Mr. Macho and occasionally had too-stupid-to-live moments, which added to the suspense.
The story is interspersed with delightful, humanly comedic scenes. There are a lot of coincidences but the story was engrossing enough that I forgave them. There is a graphic sex scene but it does serve a purpose. The story takes place in a lot of different locations around France, but I felt the sense of place could have been stronger. The author has included fascinating historical information without overpowering or disrupting the story. There is, however, a huge hole in the plot, which did bother me and a geographic inaccuracy which better editing should have caught.
There is some very good suspense, particularly toward the end. The story had some very good twists. I didn't realize the villain even though I probably should have. All-in-all, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more Enzo Files books.
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 20 June 2013
I fell across Peter May with a 65p offer on the first of his Lewis novels and was immediately dragged in to the culture and close community of the island. Here we have a book in a similar sort of vein with a slightly broader canvas for him to paint his story on; France. Knowing some of Enzo's haunts heightens the enjoyment and I must admit to following in his footsteps with the help of Google streets on at least a couple of occasions to help get my bearings. As with his other books, there's always some little known (well, to me at least) piece of cultural or social history which threads its way through the tail. The characters are finely drawn, the places, as mentioned, are well described and precise. An intriguing plot line with several twists makes for a very enjoyable story.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 22 September 2013
Found this book interesting, but not riveting. The main character was appealing and there was a smattering of humour to amuse the reader. May, as usual knew the country and people well and described the locations in great detail. However I felt the plot was pretty far fetched and hard to believe. I also felt the storyline was slow in places and found I was starting to skip pages. Not on a par with the Lewis Trilogy.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2013
If, like me, you are a Peter May addict, then you will have been waiting impatiently for the 'Enzo' series having read the Lewis trilogy and the China novels with huge enjoyment. Extraordinary People introduces us to the Italian Scot Enzo Macleod. In true Peter May fashion, Enzo is a character full of flaws with a complicated personal life, and who is of course an expert at solving murders. I found myself getting to know and to like Enzo very much as the book progressed, as well as loving the beautiful descriptions of France, from someone intimately acquainted with the country towns in the South West as well as possessing a superb knowledge of Paris itself.The plot is good, ingenious, sweeping one along until, on reaching the end of the book, one has become completely hooked and is desperate to purchase the next one! Enjoy :)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2014
This is the first volume in Peter May's series of novels featuring half-Italian, half-Scottish, Enzo Macleod. Enzo is a difficult character, generally considered as hot-headed, petulant and truculent by most people who encounter him. He also has a complicated family, having two daughters from different relationships. The younger of the, Sophie, dotes on him while the elder, estranged Kirsty purports to loathe him and refuses to see him.
Having trained as a forensic scientist and worked with the Metropolitan Police, Enzo now lives in the French town of Cahors and lectures in biology at the University of Toulouse. He has not entirely relinquished his former life and makes a bet with the local governor that he can solve seven 'cold cases' involving murders around France solely by using his forensic investigative skills.
The first murder that he starts to investigate is that of Jacques Gaillard, former adviser to the government and renowned film critic and bon viveur (sorry, I don't know the French term for such people!), who had disappeared tend year previously. With the assistance of Roger Raffin, an insalubrious reporter for one of the French national newspapers, Enzo becomes enmeshed in a tril that leads him all over France.
At times the book seems reminiscent of a Dan Brown story, as Enzo and Raffin decipher arcane clues, with tantalising references to the Knights Templar. The plot never loses plausibility, though, and the story is never less than gripping, and I also enjoyed the descriptions of the investigator's journeys around France.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed it. Far-fetched maybe, but it doesn't have to be 'real' to be a good read. This is very different from the Lewis Trilogy, but still intelligently written with a real sense of France. I am looking forward to reading more.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 August 2013
I read the first one of Peter May's Lewis Trilogy, and was completely hooked right to end of number three. Thought he couldn't top them - but then started the China Thrillers , and felt a real sense of loss when I reached the end of the final one in the series.
So I was really enthused by the thought of beginning another group of novels by one of my favourite writers. Sadly, my enthusiasm fairly soon evaporated. I just couldn't get interested in the characters or places. Perhaps my lack of interest in France as a setting is the main reason that I probably won't read any more of the Enzo Files.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2012
I'd never heard of Peter May before his Lewis series, but as I got through the Lewis Man in a weekend, I had a look for more books by him and came across the Enzo Files series. I have to admit that I started with these rather than any of his other books partly because it cost 72p, so there was little risk involved and partly because Kindle had the first book and I could start from the beginning.
Although the reviews hadn't been all that encouraging, this book engaged me from the start. It is character driven rather than procedural, i.e. it doesn't get into the science that much. Just enough to explain the conclusions.
It is true that some of the characters could be fleshed out more but there was enough about each character for me to understand their motivations and behaviour.
When I finished this book I immediately downloaded the next one in the series.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Not only is the premise of the plot absurd, for reasons which cannot be discussed without giving the whole thing away, but the development, from a reasonably promising start, is reliant on coincidence and on idiotic behaviour by several of the key characters.
The sex scenes are toe curlingly badly written, and the female characters are cartoon stereotypes, defined in a way which is very close to misogynistic.
The denouement is telegraphed, and utterly ridiculous.
All in all, one of the worst books I have read in a long time. I am slightly surprised because the same author's "The Blackhouse" is a decent read, albeit marred by similarly dodgy female characterisation.