Izner, Claude - 'The Pere Lachaise Mystery' (translated by Lorenza Garcia & Isabel Reid)
THE PERE LACHAISE MYSTERY is the second in a series of charming period thrillers set in fin de siecle Paris by a duo of French sisters writing under the pen name of Claude Izner.
Izner's sleuth, Montmartre bookseller Victor Legris, becomes involved in investigating the disappearance of widow Odette de Valois, his former lover, after a visit by her panicking maid, Denise. Young, naive and superstitious, Denise is terrified after Odette vanishes from the Pere Lachaise cemetery whilst visiting her husband's grave. At first Victor is rather sceptical and assumes a mundane reason for Odette's disappearance; but when Denise is found murdered he realises that the situation is more serious than he first thought. Odette's fate proves less of a surprise to the reader than to Victor, as in a parallel plotline, the slightly crazed, indigent, war veteran, Pere Moscou, witnesses some rather suspicious events as the novel opens. Victor carries out a covert investigation amongst the mediums that Odette frequented to communicate with her dead husband. In addition, Victor is romantically involved with a young female artist, Sonia, to the disapproval of his partner and mentor Kenji. Kenji however is soon distracted by his own budding romance with a mysterious new artist friend of Sonia's.
Izner's characterisation and plotting are skilful and engaging. Period detail is as much of a feature as the actual mystery element in this novel; Izner pays attention to the artistic and cultural life of the quarter. Despite the charm of this appealing novel, there is sufficient grit (in the depiction of the struggles of some of the female characters) to take it outside the definition of a cosy.
Laura Root, England