Review - THE CITY OF BLOOD, Frédérique Molay

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The third novel in the Paris Homicide Series, THE CITY OF BLOOD sees Chief of Police Nico Sirsky trying to solve a 30 year old murder, whilst his mother is desperately ill in hospital.

Readers of either of the earlier two novels will know that Sirsky is one of those wonderful grumpy, rumpled sorts of cops, who had a chequered love life, now resolved as his relationship with one of the specialist that solved his own health problems moves into something more permanent.

The investigation at the centre of THE CITY OF BLOOD's an odd one. Thirty years ago artist Samual Cassain held a banquet in a park. Influential people were invited to attend, and bring their own utensils. Once finished, the remains were to be buried, in a part of the park that originally used as slaughterhouses. The plan was always, after thirty years, to excavate the location, an archaeological investigation of a modern art installation. Nobody, however, expected to find a skeleton amongst those remains. Although very quickly, there's a sense of inevitability about the identity of the body, the reasons he died, and the location of his body is surprising to say the least.

In the middle of this bizarre scenario, and with a series of other deaths and an attack in the same area, Sirsky is juggling the investigation, and pressure from above for resolution, with the illness of his beloved mother. This keeps the pace and the tension up needless to say, with just the occasional wander into the developing relationship between Sirsky and his new love Caroline. Her inclusion in his family life, and in running interference between the medical system makes her somebody that Sirsky increasingly relies on. It's the personal aspects that don't quite jell as well as Sirsky the driven police officer makes sense. Sirsky the devoted son is slightly less convincing, a little odd; but Sirsky the devoted lover is almost off-putting. It might be that it's new love and it seems strange in a man of his age, and his work persona, but when this grumpy, tricky man suddenly gets all a bit gooey, it feels a little weird. Perhaps Molay is trying to make him seem like a more rounded man, a real human being rather than just a cop with an undivided attention span.

It's a minor quibble as so much more about this book works than doesn't. The plot is clever, and complicated, and the damage caused by the long wait for the first body to be found profound and quite moving in its portrayal. The escalation of the deaths, and the way that the case is investigated is believable and the manner in which the truth carefully and methodically revealed, seemed authentic. There are also some really interesting little tidbits of information about the French legal system - like the statute of limitations including murder. Having been lucky enough to read a couple of the books in this series now it's one that's well worth pursuing.

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When a major Parisian modern art event gets unexpected attention on live TV, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky and his team of elite crime fighters rush to La Villette park and museum complex. On the site of the French capital's former slaughterhouses, the blood is just starting to flow, and Sirsky finds himself chasing the butcher of Paris, while his own mother faces an uncertain future.

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