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Book set in Paris, France (murder, origami and music)

14th May 2014

The Lying-Down Room by Anna Jaquiery – book set in Paris.

Paris in a heat studded August. Everyone is wilting in temperatures above 30 degrees centigrade. As a reader I was absolutely there with the cast of characters,the descriptions of the strikes, the traffic jams and the hot, airless rooms with no let-up. From the Boulevard Saint-Michel… Neuilly… pastis and brioches on the way, the flavours, sights and smells of Paris deeply pervade this story.

IMG_1418This is a smooth account of Chief Inspector Serge Morel and his team, looking into the murders of older women. They are killed, then ceremoniously bathed and laid to rest in their beds, tucked in tightly, a cross in their hands, a red wig atop and plastered with grotesque make-up. A serial killer is definitely on the loose. For the team, the cleanliness quirk doesn’t sit well with the daubed make-up and the garish red wig (and, as an aside, this is the second detective novel, set in Paris, where hair washing of murder victims is the current fad. What’s this about, I wonder? Two books in two weeks for me so far, here’s our link to the other one). Prior to death each victim has been visited by a man accompanied by a young, mute child with a limp and this is the common factor upon which the investigators base their hypotheses.

The book is billed as the first book in a ‘stunning debut crime series’ featuring C.I. Morel. And indeed it has the fluidity and creativity that will see this author establishing a name for herself amongst the top writers of European crime.

She has created Serge, with his own little anomalies to make him stand out from the other European detectives – he is an organist; he beds Solange who sleeps with him with her own husband’s blessing; and he is still drawn to his ex, Mathilde, and occasionally he is to be found lurking outside her house (quite why, is never really explored).

The denouement in this particular book relies heavily on delving into the psychological profiles of the perpetrators and this is where things unravel slightly. The meaning of the Lying-Down Room becomes apparent and the psychological impact of this particular experience, will, of course have been phenomenal on the individual. The author brings together many of the grandes-dames of psychological upset: a dominant and cruel Mother, multiple abandonment issues, suppressed gay encounters… all the while Fauré’s Requiem bubbles along as a cultural Leitmotiv in the background; and of course there is religion as a running theme throughout the book. ALL these factors can be key when they collide in a warped way, and they will undoubtedly skew a person’s psyche and emotional balance. But the resulting events and threads of psychological trauma aren’t pulled together in an altogether cohesive way. Nevertheless this debut novel sews the seed for future crime writing that will, I am sure, really blossom.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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