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Murder mystery set in France

3rd August 2020

The Sleeping Car Murders by Sébastien Japrisot, murder mystery set in France. Translated by Francis Price.

The ‘Phocéen’ overnight train arrives in Paris from Marseille. In one sleeping car, with berths 221-226, a woman has been found strangled. The investigating team now have to track down the other people who shared the compartment.

Importantly, the police need to find out more about the life that the murdered woman, Georgette Thomas, led. Is it usual for a woman to sew a “G” for Georgette into every item of clothing? Might she have had more than her fair share of lovers? Questions to ponder, indeed!

René Cabourg, who occupied Berth 226, just happens to see an announcement in the paper, where the police are asking for information and for the travellers on the train to make themselves known. He gets in touch.

As the story moves from one passenger to the next, we can see that the police – and specifically headed up by Pierre Grazziano (known as Grazzi) – always seem to be one step behind the killer and more deaths occur along the way. It is truly like a murderous domino effect with quirky investigating officers trying to hunt down the murderer. Can they succeed?

The author lays out the trajectory of the story with aplomb and grace. There are astute observations of people and place. I thought the ending was a little complex, rushing to bring all the threads together.  It is a short novel that has been well translated and is overall a pleasure to read. You could be in no doubt that this was originally penned by a French author!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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