Thursday, 23 July 2009

A French detective

An intelligently written, tightly plotted detective story set in Paris. I do like a good detective yarn. Unfortunately many detective books are far from good. This book ticks a lot of the requirement boxes I look for when I'm selecting books. I like detective books that follow the detective almost exclusively; you walk in his footsteps, see what he sees, hear what he hears and match yourself against him with your deductive reasoning. This book never leaves the detective's side. So many detective books don't do this and you have to wade through chapter after chapter of scene changes following peripheral characters, sometimes even the killer, sometimes retreading the same ground with page after page of padded filler.
I was also impressed by how David Barrie managed to depict Paris. There is a city behind all the postcard views of Paris that we don't often get a flavour of in books and the author here is the guide that takes us there. I've read a few books set in Paris, the last was Louis Bayard's Black Tower, which featured one of history's first detectives, Eugene Francois Vidocq, but even that didn't really make you feel you were living there. I liked detective Franck Guerin. He's not flash, he's not hip, he's not on the make, he's just a straight down the line investigator, good at his job (although he's actually a disgraced spook on secondment), conscientious, a bit methodical but far from stupid.
I've got to say that I was as much lost at sea as Franck was amidst all the lingerie connoisseurs (who'd have thought there were such folk), models, photographers, artists, publishers and business people but the way we follow Franck's initiation into this region of the fashion industry greatly helped me find my way to dry land. Barrie's descriptions of the photographic clues, lingerie design and the models within them sometimes flirts with a mild eroticism that sometimes distracts both detective and reader.
I'd certainly be interested in reading any further books by Barrie and if they feature Franck Guerin well so much the better. Wasp-waisted is a surprisingly accomplished first novel. It deserves to find a wide readership.

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