on 12 October 2007
Having enjoyed Claude Izner's first book published by Gallic Books, Murder on the Eiffel Tower, I couldn't wait for this one to be published.
I was not disapointed at all. Victor Legris, bookseller turned detective has really got into the swing of solving mysteries, but not without him almost getting killed in the process. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, with not a single wasted paragraph.
Bravo to the 2 sisters who write under the pen name of Claude Izner and bravo to Gallic Books for making these novels available to the English speaking world.
on 8 January 2008
Having been a little luke-warm in my review of Claude Izner's first book, 'Murder on the Eiffel Tower', I approached this book with a `I'll give it one more chance...' attitude.
This is better. Much better. The pace is faster and all in all it's a cracking good yarn with memorable characters and good descriptions that together produce a strong story line.
Legris's character (as with those of Tasha, Jojo, his mother and others introduced in the first book) are developed further. New characters are fleshed out to a greater degree than previously.
The same meticulous attention to 1890's Paris (which I loved) is still there but without the feeling of being quoted chunks from a guide book or encyclopaedia (which I disliked).
It looks as if Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre (the sisters behind Claude Izner pen-name) are going from strength to strength and I await 'The Montmartre Investigation' - Victor and Jojo's third investigation - with renewed interest and enthusiasm.
I'd never heard of this French writer before but saw a book review that praised this book. It's well written, for which the translator must take quite a bit of credit, and the story romps along at a good pace with quite a bit of period detail about Paris at the end of the 19th century. It falls into the Agatha Christie mode of detective fiction with an amateur sleuth solving the mystery, but the story has its lighter side describing the foibles and love life of the main characters.
on 6 August 2012
I loved the first book in this series so I continued right away with this, number two in the series, and to all that think one can read murder mysteries out of order, that is not the case with this series at all. This is so much more than a murder mystery. It's a historical novel, showing Parisian society in 1890 and each novel seems to have it's theme. At the end of the books, you get the historical facts and social history, around which the story has been built up.In the first book we get acquainted with book shop owner, Victor Legris, 30 years old in this book, who just ends up an amateur sleuth in all the books. He doesn't intend to get involved but does so anyway. In book one he lived with routines. Working in the bookshop with Joseph Pignot, the helper, whose mother sells vegetables and fruit from a cart, and with his foster-father, Japanese Kenji Mori. Kenji has know Victor since Victor was a little boy and only a naive reader does not start suspecting that he had some sort of affair with Victor's mother. When Victor inherited the Paris bookshop, they moved there, from London, and they live parallell lives. Victor knows little of Kenji's doings and inner life. Kenji makes sure that Victor does not get married to the wrong sort of girl. The result is that Victor has affairs with married women. But in book one, he falls for the single, independent Tasha, from Russia, who is trying to make it as a painter. He is bored with his mistress Odette de Valois, and soon becomes the lover of Tasha.
When this book starts in November 1899, a mysterious man dies in Colombia. That is where Odette's husband was in book one, and it seems like he is the one that has died. In a letter found on him, we get to read that Odette tells him how the terrible Victor took up with an immigrant slut, five months earlier, who poses naked for artists. In the next chapter, four months have passed and Odette has not taken to widowhood in the normal manner. She goes to mediums and has gone overboard in mourning clothes and how she has decorated her house. She brings her maid Denise to the mausoleum at Pére-Lachaise, the cemetery. Denise gets lost while walking around waiting for her mistress. WE know that Odette's head has been bashed in and that she has been put in a wheelbarrow. At home, Denise get frightened when someone tries to get in to her room during the night. She runs to Victor's bookshop in the morning and asks him to find her mistress. He goes to the flat and realizes that something is not right. So he comes up with a delightful plan. He has long tried to get Tasha to marry him or move in with him, to no avail. Now he asks Tasha to move in with him so Denise can stay in Tasha's rented room. The plot thickens when Tasha's room is broken in to, Denise goes to an interview and is found drowned in the river. And at the same time, the garbage "collector" living in an old court building, makes an awful discovery, a dead woman in his wheel barrow! It does not do anything for his sanity that was already questioned.
Things do not happen quickly in these books. The solution comes at the end and it is always surprising. But I love to follow the story. Not just how Victor and Joseph discover little by little who might be the murderer. But the interesting people that frequent the book shop, the books read in those days, and the inter-action between Victor and Tasha that is a story in itself. Victor getting jealous of her artist friends and the fact that she keeps so much of herself and her life away from him. And Kenji's comings and goings, and the fact that he has smuggled someone named Iris to Paris that Victor must never meet...
on 29 May 2012
It is 1890, and Odette de Valois, ex-lover of Left Bank bookseller and amateur sleuth Victor Legris, has disappeared whilst visiting her husband's grave at Père-Lachaise cemetery. Her maid, Denise, fears the worst and, in a dreadful state and knowing not a soul in Paris who can help her aside from her mistress' ex-lover, enlists Victor's help. At first reluctant to become involved, believing that Odette has probably gone off to some romantic assignation with her current lover, Victor tries to reassure Denise and pays little attention to her claims. However, when Denise's body is pulled out of the Seine the bookseller becomes determined to discover the truth about Odette's disappearance and the young maid's death, this time with the help of his assistant, Joseph, and the hunt for the killer begins in earnest.
Once again the atmosphere of fin-de-siècle Paris is conjured up wonderfully. A little darker than the first book in the series, it is equally suspenseful, just as fast-paced, and no easier to put down than its predecessor. I did manage to uncover the identity of the killer before Monsieur Legris, during the final quarter of the book, though I couldn't for the life of me figure out the motive.
A well-researched, suspenseful and tightly plotted mystery, and an immensely enjoyable read that I just couldn't put down. I'm very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series and following the adventures of Victor Legris and his book-loving comrades.
on 5 April 2013
The Pere- Lachaise Mystery is a "good read", fast moving, action packed and exciting. It is the type of book you might want to take on holiday. Although the story was well told I personally found it a little confusing and felt it left ends untied but for pure entertainment it was quite good.
‘Claude Izner’ is the pen-name of Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre, two Parisienne booksellers whose books feature the fin-de-siècle bookseller, photographer and amateur detective, Victor Legris. This one, the second in the series, translated by Lorenza Garcia and Isabel Reid, was published in 2007 by the enterprising Gallic Books, a company whose aim is to make the best classic and contemporary French and Francophone writing available to English-speaking readers.
The great strength of this book is its recreation of the atmosphere of late 19th-century Paris and the translators have added an Appendix, ‘A few historical notes on France in 1890’ as well as Notes that explain biographical and other references in the text. Plans of the Cemetery and ‘Victor Legris’s Paris’, showing the main locations mentioned in the book, are also included.
The plot, somewhat convoluted, involves the disappearance of Odette de Valois [no relation to Dame Ninette], one of Legris’ former lovers whilst visiting her husband's grave at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Legris is approached by her frantic maid and, rather against his better judgement, agrees to look into the case. This is unwelcome news to his current lover, the Russian émigré artist, Tasha Kherson. Legris is assisted in his quest by his assistant, Joseph, and before long the corpses are piling up. The story involves the Panama Canal, confused old soldiers, a will, mediums, much grime and jealousy and considerable eating and drinking.
The artistic and literary life of the period is an integral part of the story as is the hustle and bustle, and filth of the city. Not having read the first book, ‘Murder on the Eiffel Tower’ was no disadvantage except for not completely understanding the backstory of the bookseller’s inscrutable Japanese adoptive father and mentor, Kenji Mori. When first met he has just returned from visiting his lover in England and so is ‘dressed in a maroon smoking jacket with white spots, and grey pinstripe trousers.’ Izner is very good at suggesting often unspoken animosities, as between Kenji and Tasha, or some of the bookshop’s aristocratic customers and Joseph.
As might be expected from the period, this is a light and enjoyable read - especially so for lovers of France and French history and [given Legris’ occupation] literature, although the detail might put off some general readers. There is mention of the bookstore selling Emile Zola's novel ‘La Bete Humaine’, first published in 1890, and Anatole France makes a couple of appearances. Indeed I was disappointed not to find the teenage Marcel Proust munching biscuits in a corner of the crowded bookshop.
The authors’ style is rather cinematographic with quick cuttings away at the end of key scenes, often involving killings. The reader is often provided with information that is not yet known to Legris and his colleagues. The killer, when identified, is rather too keen to provide details of why and how, but despite this I enjoyed the charm of this book and will certainly look out for others in the series.
Who says Parisians aren't book lovers! As a "Literary Gazette" reader once wrote, "If the French can love escargot, then they can certainly love books!" And booksellers! In The Pere Lachaise Mystery we find the second in a series of period thrillers set in fin de siecle Paris by a duo of French sisters writing under the pen name of Claude Izner. And we meet Montmartre bookseller Victor Legris.
Legris becomes involved in investigating the disappearance of widow Odette de Valois, his former lover, after a visit by her panicking maid, Denise. Young, naïve, and superstitious, Denise is terrified after Odette vanishes from the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise while visiting her husband's grave. Eerie and spooky, indeed!
Victor is, of course, rather skeptical and assumes a logical reason for Odette's disappearance. He much prefers working among the pages of his books--he's a bookseller! But when Denise is found murdered he realizes that the situation is more serious than he first thought. Izner (both of them!) gives us an interesting parallel plotline, as well as some very interesting characters, such as the slightly crazed and indigent war veteran, Pere Moscou, who witnesses some rather suspicious events as the novel opens.
Employing some of the mediums Odette had frequented, Victor carries out a covert investigation. And cue in the romance element: Victor is romantically involved with a young female artist, Sonia, to the disapproval of his partner and mentor Kenji. Kenji, however, is soon distracted by his own budding romance with a mysterious new artist friend of Sonia's. (Remember, this is a French novel!)
The characterization and plotting are skilful and to the point in this period novel and are actually as much of a feature as the actual mystery itself. Particular attention is paid to the artistic and cultural life of the Montmartre quarter, which adds more than just a little "taste of France" in this series, which, admittedly, has its "slow moments"! That said, later episodes in this series seem to pick up the pace a bit. Still, the French have established that the British authors aren't the only ones who can write a "cosy"! And if this is the type of mystery you are looking for, you'll be pleased. If you're looking for something more cerebral, say P.D. James or Donna Leon, you might be disappointed.
Claude Izner is the pen-name of two sisters, Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefevre. Both are booksellers on the banks of the Seine, and they are experts on nineteenth-century Paris. "The Père Lachaise Mystery" is their second book, was first published in 2003 as "La disparue du Père-Lachaise" in France. (By the looks of things, it has also been published in English as "The Disappearance at Père-Lachaise"). It sees a return for Victor Legris, the hero of "Murder on the Eiffel Tower."
The book opens late 1889, with a brief prologue in Columbia - with the last moments of a man, who will probably be identified as Armand de Valois. (His colleague, who seems quite healthy, is planning a rapid return to France). Armand was the husband of Odette, Victor's ex-lover - and, when the book switches to Paris some four months later, she is every inch the grieving widow. (In truth, with her apartment's new `look', she has taken it a little too far). Armand had been working in Columbia on the construction of the Panama Canal and, officially, he died of yellow fever. Oddly, the dying man in the book's prologue had been shot in the back.
Odette makes her first appearance on her way to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, to visit her husband's memorial. She'd travelled there with her maid Denise, who's a little skittish about being in the graveyard after dark - but Odette, more or less, laughs at her fears, and tells her to wait near the gate. Unfortunately, Odette should have been a little more careful...she's attacked at the de Valois family plot, and robbed of a painting she'd brought along for her husband. (On her medium's advice, she'd brought 'The Madonna in Blue' along to Père-Lachaise...well, at least, she thought she had).
Odette doesn't make it home, and Denise becomes more and more frightened. Eventually she goes to see Victor - Denise, originally from Brittany, doesn't know anyone else in Paris. She tells Victor what's happened, though initially he's not too bothered - he's assumes that Odette's just devoting herself to some new lover. (He's a little more concerned with his new girlfriend Tasha - who he hasn't seen in two weeks, after an argument). However, he agrees to help Denise out...but primarily because he sees a way of manoeuvring Tasha out of her apartment and into his.
Unknown to Denise and Victor, Odette didn't actually survive her attack...her body was dumped on a cart belonging to Père Moscou, a tramp who spends a lot of time at the cemetery. Moscou is old and confused, and his memory problems are compounded by his fondness for a drink. When he unloads his cart the next day, he has no idea who Odette is or where she came from...though he's pretty sure he didn't kill her. Panicking, he buries her close to where he lives, in the ruins of the Palais d'Orsay. Later - wondering if it all really happened - he can't find where he buried her.
An easy and enjoyable read, and a book that seems to give a historically 'accurate' description of Paris at the time. (There are a few notes at the end of the book, giving a little detail on some of the names and places mentioned - the Palais d'Orsay, for example, has since become the Musée d'Orsay). Having said that, it never gets too academic or bogged down in detail. Good fun, certainly recommended.
on 22 February 2013
first class service product in perfect order arrived on time and if you like Paris and its history plus plus simple detective stories then theses books are for you