David Barrie's second Franck Guerin detective novel Night-Scented picks up several months after the first book Wasp-waisted left off. Guerin is still on temporary assignment at the Brigade Criminelle, a Major Crimes Unit in Paris. He's settled in a little more but still fairly desperate to get back to his former employment in the DST, chasing eco-terrorists. It's not essential to read these two books in order by the way. There are no crucial spoilers. You will get a better introduction to some of the characters in Wasp-waisted though.
There's a picture of the Alexandre III bridge on the cover of Night-Scented. It's an elegant looking bridge, pretty in the lamplight and underneath run the dark waters of the Seine. Less pretty but also an important location in the book is the Mirabeau bridge. They do provide a very potent image of a place where two worlds cross each other.
Franck's current case involves the murder of several prominent business leaders that have some connection, through investment, to the development of a new perfume called Night-Scented. Also linked are a colony of homeless vagabonds who inhabit the underside of the Alexandre III bridge. I don't know how much of the bridge symbolism I picked up on is deliberate or just coincidence, though I tend to treat coincidences with the same caution as our detective. "I don't like coincidences," says Franck. "They make me uneasy."
Barrie continues to impress with his descriptions of various locations in Paris, often off the beaten tourist path. His portrayal of the sometimes confusing world of big business is also very assured and authentic. We at last learn a little more about the infamous Corsican operation that was introduced in the first book as the reason for Franck's enforced secondment, though Franck remains, as far as his history goes, still a man of mystery. The narrative style, I suppose, doesn't really lend itself to flashbacks. I don't think we even make it back to his apartment this time round. Perhaps giving Franck too much history would add unnecessary baggage to the plot, which is a complex one. The characters are well drawn and their motives and psychology are well thought out. I like how with a line, a statement or detail the ground can shift under our feet and our line of inquiry has to turn to a new or previously discarded suspect. It all makes for a very pleasing and stylish detective/thriller experience.
Night-Scented will be published in the UK on the 1st of June 2010.
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