Loose-limbed by David Barrie sees Captain Franck Guerin of the Brigade Criminelle invite us once again to sit in on his latest investigation. The Paris Opera Ballet is preparing for the premiere of a bold new Ballet based on the Greek myth of Diana and Acteon. Franck is called in when the female lead dancer is found strangled in her apartment. Like me he knows next to nothing about the world of Ballet so he has to learn fast at a time that he has to cope with absorbing all the mass of information that the first days of an investigation throws up (interviews, crime scenes, forensics, etc). It's a formula readers of the first two books will be familiar with - one that works very well I hasten to add. I'm still enjoying Franck's company and I was happy to meet a few of the recurring characters from the series again, especially Sylvie and Sonia, though there is no shortage of strong female characters in the books.
It's hard to comment on the main aspect of the book, the murder mystery itself, without giving too much away. I really hate spoilers, so I'll just say that I almost put it all together before Franck did and leave it at that. I was impressed with David Barrie's attention to detail and thorough researching of the different aspects of the story. There's nothing worse than lazy researching or sketchiness to ruin the verisimilitude. The Parisian locations are as beautifully described as ever, not least the Opera de Paris itself, with all its myriad internal locations, its architecture and history. Although it's the focal location of the book the story doesn't spend all its time there. It acts more as a central hub for the story and we still get to visit the cafes, restaurants, parks, hotels etc that surround it as well as some more further afield. The author points out things of interest, often using his characters to do it, which helps to colour the narrative without it straying into pedantry. Loved the stuff about Dumas - it really has been too long since I last engaged with those musketeers.
A very good detective story, with engaging characters, an interesting puzzle of a plot, well executed from a hidden gem of an author who seems to be hitting his stride. Recommended.
Loose-limbed will be published in the UK on the 18th of March 2011.
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