Friday, April 16, 2010

Pre-revolutionary Paris 1774. Police Commissioner Nicolas Le Floche, a Breton native who resides in the city, finds himself under investigation for the murder of his lover socialite Julie de Lasteriux. The circumstances for Nicholas look particular bleak. At the best of times the relationship between Nicholas and Julie can at times be described as tempestuous. His friends, who command his upmost trust, are less than enthusiastic with Julie never the less rally around in his hour of need.

But Nicolas is more than a policeman in the city of Paris. Occasionally he finds himself in the service of Louis XV the ailing King of France. It is this service to his king which inspires jealously and contempt among the court of Louis. And it is when he is dispatched to London on a mission for the king that Nicolas faces the full intrigue of the court and its machinations.

Throughout the novel we are introduced to many historical characters which include the aforementioned King Louis, his mistress Madame Du Barry, the Dauphin Louis XVI and Nicolas’ boss Monsieur De Sartine Lieutenant General of Police in Paris. It’s always a danger when an author introduces historical characters, will he be able to transpose them from the dead pages of a history book to a vibrant work of fiction? Thankfully in this case Parot carries it off with aplomb and once more characters such as Louis XV with all their human foibles parade through the world.

Parot is an expert in the Paris of the 18th century. The detail in the city is both minute and baroque. We can visualise both the grime of the mud encrusted streets and the ornate palace of Versailles. The problems of Paris, the poverty, the corruption and sense of social injustice percolates away in the background. Sedition and revolution lurk in the side streets occasionally rearing their heads and raising their voices, attracting the attention of Nicolas and his colleagues in the police force. Also worth mentioning is the gastronomical nature of the novel as four or five detailed recipes are scattered throughout causing the reader to rush out to the nearest French restaurant.

As for the investigation Nicolas Le Floche carries it out in a well thought out methodical manner. The entrapment of the miscreants is detailed to great effect and all becomes clear in the end as Nicolas’ service to the king and the investigation become intertwined.

With such a detailed novel and such a broad array of characters it is quite easy for the reader to loose their way. However it is to the credit of both the writer and the publisher that before the novel commences a list of dramatis personae is published.

Previously adapted for French TV, The Nicolas Le Floche Affair is the fourth novel in the series to be translated into English.


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