Magson, Adrian - 'Death on the Marais'
It's 1963 and a time of great change in France. As part of a police nationwide initiative Inspector Lucas Rocco is transferred from his comfortable Clichy, Paris base to the village of Poissons-Les-Marais, Picardie. Here he is answerable to his former army commanding officer now Police Commissaire, Francois Massin, last seen by Rocco cowering in a foxhole in Indochina. Rocco feels completely out of his depth in this village, which mainly consists of farms and is very sparsely populated, whereas of course Paris is full of people. He feels dressed for a Paris office whereas he needs to wear gum boots a lot in the village. But on his very first day he is called to investigate the murder of a young girl whose body is discovered in a cemetery, dead, but wearing a Gestapo uniform.
Before he can complete his investigation, he suddenly learns that the corpse has been removed from the pathologist's office by order of a magistrate. Rocco traces, from the paperwork, that the instructions originated from the girl's father, whom Rocco discovers is a former war hero but now a very rich industrialist. Rocco with the help of the village constable who knows all the individual farmers, owners of shops and the other locals and is a mine of local gossip, is able to investigate the connections the deceased girl made with the locals and also in Paris where she had a flat. All, in the sleepy little village that Rocco was posted to, is not what it seems and with the aid of some desperate policeman hunches and also some tempting of faith, the story lurches in a further upward spiral. Rocco has many further adventures in the pursuit of the answers to these very strange crimes.
This is a very gritty, down to earth new detective, unusually based in a French provincial town. He brings the extensive training and large city contacts he had in Paris to add to the small town viewpoint with great success. It is a sort of rebirth of a Maigret type detective for the 21st century but based in the 20th with a battered Citroen and other artefacts of that time. There is a real sense of action and melodramatic page-turning suspense until almost the last sentence. Fast moving and great entertainment - I look forward to reading more adventures of Lucas Rocco.
Terry Halligan, England