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Adult Fiction So This is Paris

SPOTLIGHT: The Shiro Project Le French Book

If you’re like me and you love Jason Bourne then you’ll like The Shiro Project by David Khara published by Le French Book.

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Here’s why I’m digging it in one word:

Prague

Have you ever been?

I have and it’s full of beautiful art and history. If you’ve not seen this clock, you’re missing out.

prague clock

Keep this clock in your mind’s eye as you read this:

Reporter Branislav Poborsky is running away from a bad marriage, when he witnesses the Czech army covering up the extermination of an entire village. Saved in extremis by the gentle-giant Mossad agent Eytan Morgenstern, he is thrown into a troubling race to defuse a larger-than-life conspiracy. After Eytan’s mentor is kidnapped, he must join forces with his arch-rival to put an end to a mysterious group that has weapons of mass destruction. Once again, the atrocities of World War II come back to haunt the modern world. What links exist between Japanese camps in China in the 1940s, a US Army research center in the 1950s, and the deadly threat Eytan faces today? From Prague to Tokyo, with stops in Ireland, yesterday’s enemies become today’s best allies and mankind seems on the verge of repeating the errors of the past.

Ready to catch the next flight to Prague, right?

Maybe pop on over to Ireland while you’re there, too and see what Branislav is up to. Tell Brani Pammy sent ya.

 

 

 

 

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Adult Fiction So This is Paris

Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay @LeFrenchBook

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Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay

Just how far would you go for your loved ones? It’s Christmas in Paris and Chief of Police Nico Sirsky is back, in love and rearing to go, when he’s handed an odd case. He and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil?

It’s Christmas in Paris. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He’s in love and rearing to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Dental students discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head. Is it a sick joke? Sirsky and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? This is the second in the prize-winning Paris Homicide series.

You know how much I love books from Le French Book right? Who doesn’t love homicides and Paris?

“Procedural fans will appreciate the fresh take.” –Booklist

“For readers who enjoy a low-key approach with detailed descriptions, Molay is just the ticket.” – Publishers Weekly

“A highly entertaining and intellectually stimulating read… unreservedly recommended.” –Thinking about Books

ON SALE NOW!

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So This is Paris

So This is Paris: a book review of The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier

From my literary vacation to Paris, here’s my book review.

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So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Treachery in Bordeaux

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Here we are with more of the winemaker’s mystery! This is the series that starts it all.  Here’s an excerpt:

The drive was short between Saint-Julien-Beychevelle, where Grangebelle was nestled, and the pier in the small port town of Lamarque. Benjamin drove the nine miles slowly to savor the crisp morning air and make the most of the always-comic show his quivering dog put on, his impertinent snout up to take in the view. The car was quickly loaded on the Médocain, a modern functional ferry stripped of all poetry. Benjamin felt nostalgia for the old captain, Commander Lemonnier, who skillfully piloted a straight-from- the-past boat called Les Deux Rives, an ancient pot-bellied tub whose curves became graceful when, in the hands of a real sailor, they caressed the sea foam. Lemonnier, a former Cape Horner and a formidable master mariner, had started piloting this fresh-water crossing between inland Médoc and the Blaye citadel when he was well beyond seventy. He was capable of steering his boat through fog and dark nights without using any sophisticated navigational instruments. All he needed was a compass, a chronometer, and a tide schedule to avoid the mud banks and skirt the treacherous islands of Île Verte and Fort Pâté, with its headlands. It took him barely twenty minutes to reach the other bank, and it was a pleasure to watch him in the wheelhouse, examining his little black Moleskine notebook, wherehe had noted maneuvering speeds and course durations, giving orders with a authoritative voice, and landing at the pier without even lifting his eyes from his chronometer’s silver box.

The other side was a foreign land, a place that you could reach with a cannon ball, if not with the lob of a slingshot. Like the kids from the Médoc, young Benjamin had dreamed of bloody attacks, galleys in distress, pirate raids, toothless buccaneers, and wild mutinies when he had spent summers here. And after a stormy night, when the current carried knotty peat, empty containers, and puffed-up plastic bags, he could still imagine combats and skinned corpses, their bellies filled with saltwater.

As soon as Benjamin landed on the right bank of the Gironde, he had the same feeling of adventure that had captivated him when his grandfather Eugène had taken him to visit Blaye. He parked the convertible in a downtown lot and headed toward the citadel. Bacchus barked and had already gone through the king’s gate when Benjamin started over the bridge leading to the ramparts.

Their walk continued for two full hours. Dog and master explored the fortress at great length: the Minimes Convent, the barracks, the prison and the powder magazine, the Dauphine counterscarp, the Liverneuf gate, the central pavilion, and the fortified flanks. Benjamin perchedon the Cônes stronghold, pausing for a long time to watch the estuary’s slow-moving muddy water. He stared at a swirling eddy in the distance, then set his gaze on a sailboat before eyeing some lone branches washing against the foot of the cliff.

Afterward, he climbed the Eguilette tower and took out his spiral notebook. He unscrewed the top of his fountain pen and jotted down some notes in his precise, swirled writing:

Vauban, a man from Dijon (develop this idea)… the two visits from the King (check the dates)… Fort-Médoc kids… fishing for freshwater river shrimp… plaice fillets, court-bouillon (recipe with fennel)… Roland de Roncevaux (be concise)… do not forget Ferri, layout of Fort Pâté… arms factory, troop housing… the water is yellow, brown even, flowerbeds of the houses on the right… shops without giving any details, clock above the bridge, stone watchtower.

He crossed out “stone” and replaced it with “suspended.”

It was nearly noon when he turned back toward the middle of town. Bacchus was thirsty and was beginning to show signs of fatigue. Benjamin walked over to a cast-iron fountain and knelt beside the running water, cupping his hands to catch it for his dog to drink. They had enough time before the next ferry to visit an antique shop downtown.

Thanks for traveling to France with me and Le French Book!

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Books So This is Paris

So This is Paris: The Paris Lawyer

The Paris Lawyer I’ve featured before so we thought it would be fun to visit some of the locations mentioned in the book!

My Creuse by Sylvie Granotier

The Paris Lawyer is a psychological thriller set in Paris, yes, but also in Creuse, a rural region in the center of France. Here are some of my favorite spots there, and inspiration for the book.

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In Creuse, there is not much in terms of public transportation, so you need a car. Wherever you drive, you’ll find beauty. There are small rivers, forests, grazing cows, sheep and lambs in the spring. The land slopes gently up and down. Stop, walk around and if you see a café, don’t miss a chance to stop. There are not many, which is strange for France, but that’s what it’s like here. Visit the churches also. They are all ancient—sixteenth century is banal.

route de Creuse

Creuse is not renowned for its cuisine. Still in Aubusson, I can recommend Le Lion d’or, which has great food and a pretty setting. Aubusson also has a fascinating tapestry museum.

Guéret has a municipal museum, with hidden treasures and the funniest assemblage of stuffed animals, snakes on the ceilings, sad lions and funny dogs, goats, wolves, chickens, birds, what have you.

There’s a book fair on a Friday in mid-August in Felletin. All year around every Friday morning, Felletin has a wonderful open-air market, with excellent produce, meat, cheeses and bread. It’s pretty and joyous.

Settings from The Paris Lawyer

And if you want to visit settings I used for my novel, take the road from Aubusson to Pontarion, turn left toward Chavanat, drive on towards Le Monteil Vicomte and you’ll find La Rigole du Diable—The Devil’s Wash, where the climax occurs. Catherine stays in a guesthouse in Aubusson. It exists and belongs to my friends Jean-Pierre and Nicole Dessemond.

There’s another one in a small village ten kilometers from there that is very pretty and comfortable two, owned by my friends Jean Claude and Anne Marie Arvez.

And, the prettiest village of them all, because no modern construction ever damaged its charm, is Chambon-sur-Voueize. It is worth the drive and has a lovely restaurant, l’Auberge de la Voueize.

Finally, a place to see very near my house is Moutier d’Ahun, a beautiful ancient church where in the seventeenth century, a passing woodcarver stopped and sculpted the most incredible pageant faces and fruits and devils. In that village, there is also a very unusual bridge over a lovely river.

And then there are the ruins in the woods…

Something both urgent and mysterious guides Catherine through this confusing labyrinth. She no longer feels worried or tired. She is going where she has to go. She stops in front of a bright yellow bush the color of the sun, shining with a luminous intensity reminiscent of springtime. She feasts her eyes on it before again sensing something that is simply out of synch. The burning bush marks the entrance to another world. Two steps are enough for her to discover the ruins of a mansion.

The details that remain indicate that this home once had nobility. The structure no longer has a roof, and the walls are crumbling, but there’s a small, elegant wrought iron balcony, a stone staircase with a subtle curve to it, and splendid window frames. These ruins are more romantic than worrisome.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA She decides that it is Sleeping Beauty’s castle and thinks about her mother, because, clearly, everything comes back to her mother.

(from The Paris Lawyer, chapter 17)

Sleeping Beauty’s house?

Yep, I’ll play along. Wasn’t that tour spectacular? Have you ever been to inner France?  I’ve never gone further South than Rouen and Caen, which were both lovely.

 

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So This is Paris

So This is Paris: The Bleiberg Project

Now that you’re intrigued by The Shiro Project, let’s see what’s up with it’s predecessor.

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Are Hitler’s atrocities really over? For depressive Wall Street trader Jeremy Corbin, absolute truths become undeniable lies overnight. He finds out his long-lost father is dead, he discovers his boss’s real identity, and he ends up boarding a plane to Zurich. He has a Nazi medallion in his pocket, a hot CIA bodyguard next to him, and a clearly dangerous Mossad agent on his tail. What was his father investigating? Why was his mother assassinated? Why are unknown sides fighting over him with automatic weapons? Can the conspiracy be stopped?

Inspiration for The Bleiberg Project

Where did you get the idea for The Bleiberg Project?

The whole idea came to while I was driving to my office, listening to the news. A pharmaceutical company was doing research on an orphan disease that touched fewer than a hundred kids in Europe. A man said that the study was being ended because the budget was 50,000 euros short. I was stunned. These companies make tons of money, amazing profits, and 50,000 euros is a drop in the ocean. When I got to my office, I started looking into the subject and found articles establishing links between Nazi and Japanese scientists during WWII and pharmaceutical companies. I also found information about how Allied governments were interested in the results of immoral and incredibly cruel human experiments. Through my research, I realized the world we live in rose up from the ashes of war, and was built on the corpses of 60 million victims. I wanted to write about it, using entertainment to make it more bearable.

What about your recurring hero?

The real hero of the Consortium thriller series came to me after reading and watching testimonials of Simone Lagrange, a woman who survived the Nazi death camps. Behind the entertainment, The Bleiberg Project, and the whole series, pays tribute to the victims of World War II, be they members of the resistance, or of course, victims of the Shoah. During my research, I found amazing, incredible stories, lived by ordinary, mostly anonymous heroes. After spending three years digging into madness and cruelty, you really need those heroes if you want to keep believing in mankind.

 

Excerpt (note, there’s strong language):

 

“Besides work and getting high, what do you do all day?”

No answer. You’re out of luck, pal. I’m pig-headed. “The journey will seem shorter if we talk, don’t you think?”

He sighs. “When I’m not on an assignment, I paint.” I can’t help laughing. “You think that’s funny?”

“I’m picturing you on a stool with your palette and brush, gazing at a green valley or a snowy mountaintop. Sorry, but with your look and build, it’s funny!”

“If you’re just going to make fun of me, the trip is going to seem very, very long.” He clams up.

“There’s no harm in a little fun. OK, I’ll stop,” I snort, laughing even louder. Why do giggling fits always hit at inappropriate times?

“What about you? Besides driving home from clubs dead drunk, what do you do?”

Bastard. That’s below the belt. On second thought, I guess I deserved it. “I try to survive. I thought about blowing my brains out, but I’m too much of a coward. So I drink. I smoke like a chimney. Every day, I destroy myself a little bit more.”

“Suicide isn’t a sign of bravery, but of giving up. We all make mistakes. You don’t judge somebody by the number of blows they can give.”

“What do you judge somebody by, Mr. Freud?”

“The number of blows they can take.”

His words hit home. “You’ve taken a lot, right?” I ask. A long, long beat.

“More than you can ever imagine.”

Why am I not surprised? This guy’s been around the block. I’d bet my life on it. “How do you do it?”

“Pardon me?”

“Blowing guys away like that. How do you do it?”

“Who said it was easy?” He sighs heavily. A long awkward silence.

 

Hmmmm. Thought provoking and not for the modest or easily upset.

See you next time!

Eiffel Tower Unconventional Librarian

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Adult Fiction So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Nightmare in Burgundy

Welcome! If you’re new here I’ve been featuring French books in honor of my daughter’s trip to Europe. You’re just in time to hear about Nightmare in Burgundy, part of the Winemaker Detective series.

His head nightmare_cover_480_300was spinning. For three hours now, he had been sitting at the table between the wife of the ambassador to the Netherlands and a film star whose name he dared not ask for fear of offending her. He vaguely remembered having seen her in a period piece where she played the harpsichord in a château full of mirrors and china. He had to lean in a bit to exchange a few words with the guests across from him. Bunches of red and yellow tulips cluttered the tables. People smiled at each other between the stems.

The dinner was sumptuous, as elegant as it was generous. You could read the satisfaction on the faces of the guests. As the feast continued, attitudes relaxed, looks of collusion replaced polite nods, and witty remarks cut the air with great panache. After savoring a duck pâté accompanied by a Bourgogne Aligoté des Hautes Côtes, perch supreme served with a chilled and fragrant Meursault, and crown loin of veal sprinkled with green peppercorns, along with a 1979 Côte de Beaune Villages, the guests thought the meal was finished. But this was underestimating the hos- pitality of the venerable knights of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. A cockerel and morel fricassee seasoned with Chambolle-Musigny added to the feast, and no one had trouble finishing it. Meanwhile, the Cadets of Bourgogne, decked out in black caps and wine-merchant aprons, had accompanied the arrival of each dish with a great many wine songs, comical tales, and jovial melodies. Beaming, with sparkling eyes and gleaming whiskers, they bellowed verse after verse at the top of their lungs.

Always drinkers, never drunk,

They go along their way

And thumb their nose at fools who grump.

Always drinkers, never drunk,

They happily proclaim

Their credo without shame.

Always drinkers, never drunk,

They go along their way!

The cheese course was announced. Platters arrived filled with creamy Epoisses washed in marc brandy and aged on rye straw, a soft farmhouse Soumaintrain cheese, mild Saint-Florentin that gave off the scent of raw milk, lightly salted and creamy Chaources, and supple La-Pierre-qui-Vire. Accompanying them were small rounds of goat’s milk cheese, including an especially full-bodied tomme du Poiset. To top it off and honor this Chapter of the Tulips, the hosts had elegantly slipped in some soft Dutch cheese with amber and orange hues. Benjamin Cooker pre-pared a nice plate for himself, enhancing it with a 1972 Latricières-Chambertin that sensuously tickled his taste buds.

Here come the Cadets of Burgundy,

Sowers of life and of sun;

Lovers of water are mad.

Here come the Cadets of Burgundy,

A bottle in each hand!

Open the door to some fun

Here come the Cadets of Burgundy,

Sowers of life and of sun!

 

The chamberlain stepped to the podium. The association’s slogan—Never whine! Always wine—was inscribed above it in gothic letters.

He tapped the microphone, waited for the brouhaha to subside, and greeted the assembly. He congratulated the chef for the excellent dinner and declared the meeting of the Chapter of Tulips open. Then, in a solemn voice, he briefly praised Benjamin Cooker, introducing him as the most recognized wine specialist in France and one of the most sought-after winemakers in the world. He spoke of the Cooker Guide, whose publication all vintners dreaded, and emphasized that the most recent edition had excellent evaluations of certain Vougeots. Finally, he invited the inductee to join him on the stage, next to the members of the association whose gold and red vestments shimmered in the spotlight.

There was a ripple of applause. Leaning on the edge of the table, Cooker rose slowly. He emptied his glass of water, discreetly loosened his bowtie, tugged down the jacket of his tuxedo, and made his way between the tables. He felt the weight of all the eyes turned toward him and slowed his pace a bit for fear of getting tangled in the train of an evening gown or tripping on a chair as he made his way to the dais. He was welcomed with a quotation recited with good-natured pomposity. The crudeness of its kitchen Latin made all the guests laugh.

Totus mundus trinquat cum illustro pinot Imbecili soli drink only water!

So, Brother Cellarer, fill our cup Because, as the saying goes: in vino veritas

Cooker was handed a chalice. He emptied it and proceeded to the dubbing, which fell somewhere between schoolboy farce and ritual solemnity. He swore fidelity to the wines of France and Burgundy and then bowed his head while the grand master of the order tapped his shoulder with a vine shoot.

By Noah, father of the vineBy Bacchus, god of wine

By Saint Vincent, patron of vintners

We dub you Knight of the Tastevin!

Cooker was then invited to take the microphone. He looked over the assembly, and a silence as thick as a wine coulis filled the room. One last clearing of the throat, and his voice resounded under the enormous girders of the wine warehouse.

“Grand Chamberlain of the Order of the Knights of Tastevin, Grand Constable and all of you, knights of the brotherhood, ladies and gentlemen, good evening!”

 

Wow. That’s some kind of party, non? Here’s the wine route in Burgundy.

Burgundy

 

The wine tasting room.

wine-tasting-valdeloire

Everyone has one of those, right?

Until tomorrow.

Eiffel Tower Unconventional Librarian

 

 

 

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So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Grand Cru Heist Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen

Here’s another fun title. Grand Cru Heist. In FACT I’m reading this title right now on the beach!

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Let’s take a peek inside and see what this little gem is about:

Renowned wine critic Benjamin Cooker’s world gets turned upside down one night in Paris. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover. There, a flamboyant British dandy, a spectacular blue-eyed blond, a zealous concierge and touchy local police disturb his well-deserved rest. From the Loire Valley to Bordeaux, in between a glass of Vouvray and a bottle of Saint-Émilion, the Winemaker Detective and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and a very peculiar heist. Who stole those bottles of grand cru classé?

Interested?

Bien, let’s read an excerpt.

At the bottom of the valley, the Indre River flowed through patches of reverent willow trees. It was January, but it felt like an aging autumn in this part of the Touraine region. Lazy cows grazed in the pasture, just as they had in the summer. From the terrace of the Château de La Tortinière, Benjamin Cooker stared at the blurry lines of the landscape. In the distance, the Montbazon castle showed off its tower from another era. The Virgin Mary that rose above the edifice would have been demoralized by the ruins of the fortress. Recently, city workers had pulled off the ivy that had overgrown the fortifications, perhaps offering some redemption to the copper statue.

“Rest.” Everyone—his doctors, of course, but also Elisabeth, Margaux, Virgile, and the others— kept saying the same thing. Sometimes Benjamin Cooker showed worrisome symptoms, with long silences that nobody dared to interrupt.

“This kind of attack is a violation, Mr. Cooker,” a psychiatrist had told him in the hospital. “You will need weeks, perhaps even months to move on.”

Cooker had closed his eyes. He was not convinced that Grangebelle, his retreat-like home in the Médoc, was the ideal spot for his convalescence. He needed new surroundings and new people.

He told Elisabeth and Virgile that he had chosen the Touraine because he still had a lot to learn about the wines in that region. He had visited the Loire River valley several times in the past. Vouvray, Bourgueil, and DomainedelatortiniereChinon had pleased his palate, and he had often promised himself that he would explore this area further. It was known as France’s garden, and the vineyards grew in the shadow of stone lacework castles. His stroke of bad luck had actually become an ideal pretext to wander the vineyards, even though they were bare at this time of year.

[…]

At Château de La Tortinière, Cooker knew he would find the solitude he needed to get over his fear of driving in cities and people asking him fora light. But he didn’t quite know how he would get through the weeks ahead of him.

He dropped into a rattan chair that beckoned in front of the balustrade. He wasn’t feeling faint, but he did need to catch his breath. Cooker was about to ask for a glass of water but thought better of it. The concierge, Gaétan, was right there, looking concerned.

“It’s nothing. I’d like a Bourgueil from the Domaine du Bel Air. Do you have some?”

He felt better when he saw Gaétan rush off, taking the stairs two at a time and then returning promptly. Cooker seemed to regain his sense of self before the wine glass was even full of the dark red liquid. He lifted the glass to his nose, while Gaétan, looking like a dignified Greek statue on a spacious estate, held the bottle, waiting for a verdict that would be brutally honest. The winemaker sniffed aromas of berries and spices and picked up a few woody notes before bringing the glass to his lips. He savored the Bourgueil with the mannerisms of an experienced wine taster. He rolled the mouthful like a billiard ball on a pool table, lining his palate so as not to miss any of the full, round, ripe tannins in this excellent wine. From time to time, he clicked his tongue to refine his judgment. The concierge waited for the final decision. Cooker patted the chair next to him, beckoning the young man to sit down.

[…]

domaine-2Cooker and Gaétan chatted until the sun had disappeared behind La Tortinière’s turrets. Cooker could no longer see Montbazon, and the cows had disappeared from the pasture as if by magic. The winemaker felt a chill and returned to his room. He would order dinner from room service before calling it a night. Tucked in his pocket was the hotel chef’s recipe for saffron honey ice that Gaétan had gotten for him. Elisabeth would enjoy it.

Cooker went to sleep with Madame de Mortsauf. He had stopped at an antique book stand in the city of Tours and picked up a leather-bound copy of Honoré de Balzac’s The Lily of the Valley that, curiously, had been used to dry flowers. Yellowed linden leaves and flower petals garnished every chapter, like exquisite bookmarks. The book gaveoff faded floral aromas, and Cooker devoured the novel. La Tortinière was his. He was alone in this manor that smelled of wax polish and holly. The owners lived in another building a hundred yards away.

I know, right? Can’t wait.  Aren’t the photos lovely?

Until next time, a bientot!

AngelicaPamvacation.jpg

 

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Books So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Deadly Tasting Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen

What fun I have for you today!

We get to experience another new title from Le French book. This title, Deadly Tasting750x1200, isn’t due to be released in print until October; but look at you: you get a sneak preview now!

Let’s take a look:

Drinking unsweetened Darjeeling tea was not a problem. Resisting the three crispy little biscuits taunting him from the white porcelain dish was another thing. The evening before, his wife had told him the time had come to shed the extra pounds that were making his shirts gape between the buttons. Benjamin Cooker had, indeed, filled out a bit over the past few months. He preferred to think that his heavy neck and chin, full cheeks, prominent belly, and belt hooked in the first notch gave him the look of a bon vivant, a well-off and satisfied man in his fifties.

Elisabeth Cooker, however, did not agree. The extra weight wasn’t good for his looks or his health, so she had taken matters into her own hands. She had gotten hold of a cabbage soup diet purportedly prescribed by the cardiology department of a large urban hospital for obese patients who needed to lose weight before surgery. Elizabeth had cut a large head of cabbage, four slivers of garlic, six large onions, a dozen peeled tomatoes,six carrots, two green peppers, one stalk of celery, and plunged them into three quarts of water with three cubes of fat-free chicken broth. The mixture, seasoned with salt, pepper, curry powder, and parsley, had been boiled for ten minutes and then simmered until all the vegetables were tender. Benjamin was supposed to eat this soup whenever he was hungry over the course of seven days. It was not meant to be the only source of nourishment, and to avoid nutritional deficiencies, he would be allowed fruits, additional vegetables, rice, milk, or a piece of red meat, depending on the day.

The first day promised to be especially grueling. Other than the soup, fruit was all that Benjamin was permitted. And that was limited. He couldn’t have any bananas. Benjamin surmised they were too tasty for this Spartan regimen. For drinks he could only have unsweetened tea, natural fruit juice, and water. The wine expert had initially rebelled, citing his professional obligations, upcoming wine tastings, and business lunches. Elisabeth had responded by giving one of his love handles an affectionate pinch. Surrendering, he had leaned over her and planted a grumpy kiss in the hollow of her neck.

There were only a few patrons on the terrace of the Café Régent in downtown Bordeaux, and the damp morning foreshadowed the first chill of fall. Benjamin drank his scalding-hot tea,reached for the small white dish without looking at the perfectly golden crust on the biscuits, and offered it to the person at the next table: an elderly lady with hair pulled back in a bun who was attentively reading the last pages of the local daily newspaper, the Sud-Ouest, which contained the weather forecast and the horoscopes. She thanked him and gobbled the pastries in three quick bites. He stood, nodded good-bye, and resolutely took off toward the Allées de Tourny.

He was about to climb the large staircase to his office when a digital toccata rang out from the cell phone deep inside the pocket of his Loden. He dug the device out, pressed the answer button, and Inspector Barbaroux’s gravelly voice assaulted his eardrum. Getting straight to the point without so much as a greeting, the police inspector asked Benjamin to come immediately to 8B Rue Maucoudinat. The detective had a clipped, authoritative tone, perhaps to give away as little information as possible. Irritated, Benjamin made a quick about-face and headed for the Saint Pierre neighborhood. He was not in the habit of complying so swiftly, and he was almost angry with himself for doing what the captain wanted without getting any explanation.

Arriving at the Place Camille Jullian, Benjamin spotted two police cars blocking the narrow street, their doors wide open and lights flashing. An ambulance was parked nearby. The street hadalso been cordoned off. A uniformed officer recognized Benjamin from afar and unhooked the crime-scene tape to let him pass. He explained that the captain was waiting for him on the third floor of the small building at the corner of the Rue des Trois Chandeliers. Other police officers were holding back a crowd of onlookers, many of whom were standing on their toes to catch a glimpse of whatever was happening behind the flowerpots on the balcony. Benjamin rushed up the two flights of wooden stairs without so much as holding onto the railing and made his way down the hall where two plainclothes detectives were talking with a woman in a white coat. They all turned and looked him up and down without a word.

“Hello,” Benjamin panted. “I believe the inspector is expecting me.”

“I don’t know if he can be disturbed,” said one of the men. “Access to the area is prohibited.”

“This way, Mr. Cooker,” Barbaroux bellowed from inside the apartment.

In the hallway, an empty gurney sat next to an umbrella stand, which was also empty. The wallpaper, with tedious rows of droopy floral bouquets, oozed a musty odor. Faded prints of religious scenes, shepherds on the heath, and dove hunters added little charm to the stuffy dark tunnel that opened onto a cramped living room furnished in birch veneer.

“Sorry to trouble you, but I needed to see you right away,” the inspector said, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his trousers. “Thanks for coming so quickly.”

“What happened?” Benjamin asked, overlooking the fact that Barbaroux hadn’t bothered to shake his hand. “It must be serious if you’ve blocked the road off.”

“Everyone says you’re the most brilliant wine expert of your generation,” Barbaroux said.

“Some even claim that you’re one of the best in the world. Is that true?”

“You didn’t bring me here to shower me with compliments, I hope.”

“Don’t think I’m being sarcastic, Mr. Cooker. That’s not my style. But it happens that I need your expertise right now.”

The woman in the white coat came into the room. Her hand was raised, and she appeared to be asking permission to cut the conversation short. Two morgue attendants wearing serious expressions were standing behind her.

“My team has finished, Chief. Can we remove the body now?”

“You haven’t forgotten anything?” Barbaroux growled.

“Everything’s ready to go. We have what we need.”

“What about those samples we rushed to the lab?”

“They should be getting back to you any minute.”

“In that case, get him out of here!”The men pushed a gurney through a doorthat Benjamin had not noticed before, leaving it open as they attempted to lift the half-naked and bloody body. It took several tries, and at one point they almost dropped the corpse. The wine expert averted his eyes and made a sign of the cross.

“Jules-Ernest Grémillon, ninety-three years old,” said Barbaroux. “Not a bad age to die.”

“Are you going to tell me what happened in this apartment or not?”

“Do you really want to know?” he asked, looking Cooker in the eye. “Well then, follow me.”

They went into the kitchen, which looked hardly bigger than a few square feet. The floor, laminate counter, and wall tiles were splattered with dark stains that looked nearly black, except where the dim ceiling light reflected ruby red spots. Cooker felt his stomach lurch, and he was grateful there wasn’t much in it. He frowned.

“Total carnage!” Barbaroux said. “The old man was butchered like a pig. What a mess! According to preliminary findings, the victim tried to defend himself before he was struck. Itlooks like the killer attacked quickly. Over there, the clean dishes on the drain board fell onto the dirty dishes in the sink. They’re all smashed. Andthere, the pans were knocked off the hooks. A box of macaroni is spilled all over the floor.”

Benjamin looked on without a word, trying to control the revulsion he felt in this ravaged, bloodstained kitchen, a repugnant cesspool where the most barbaric violence had mixed with the ordinary misery of everyday life.

“But the strangest thing, Mr. Cooker, is behind you,” the inspector said, touching the winemaker lightly on the shoulder. “Turn around. I want you to see this. Odd, isn’t it?”

On a small wooden table wedged behind the door, right beside the refrigerator, a dozen wine glasses were arranged in a semicircle. Only one, the glass on the extreme right, was full.

(cue scary music).

Wow. I’d better watch myself with my wine, right? See you next time!

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Books So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Crossing the Line (A Paris Homicide Mystery) by Frédérique Molay

So This is Paris: Crossing the Line (A Paris Homicide Mystery)

Today’s post is an interview with author Frederique Molay, author of the Paris Homicide Series (The 7th Woman and Crossing the Line).  Her latest book, Crossing the Line,  will be released in print (yay!) in September.

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Imagine Christmas in Paris and an uneasy feeling that something is very wrong in the case you are investigating. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He’s in love and rearing to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Dental students discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head. Is it a sick joke? Sirsky and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil?

What led you to be a writer?

I started writing when I was eleven years old. By that time, I was already passionate about reading and very intrigued by the mechanisms behind created suspense. I felt a need to create and recount my own stories and to share emotions with readers. And once I got started, I just couldn’t stop.

The 7th Woman won a prestigious crime fiction award. It is full of police procedure and forensics, with very detailed descriptions. What did you do to be able to go into such detail?

Before I started writing it, I did a lot of research in the field. I went to various sites, I interviewed police detectives, forensic scientists, coroners and judges, so that my characters would be credible. Writing gives me an excuse to meet people who share a real enthusiasm for their work with me, and I find that fascinating. And then my job as a novelist is to mix that reality with story.

In the second Paris Homicide mystery, Crossing the Line, there are just as many juicy details. It takes readers into the world of body donation. Did you actually visit the institutions mentioned in the book?

333x500-199x300Yes. I spent time haunting the halls of the medical school and attending dissections, and meeting some colourful personalities on the way. There were times what I saw sent shivers up my spine, but these things do exist in real life. Some people say that mystery writers are trying to come to grips with their own fear of death, and maybe that explains our fascination with it.

Nico Sirsky is a very likable character, who is both very human and good at his job with a strong sense of professional ethics. How do you create a character like that? Did a real person inspire him?

Nico Sirsky is certainly a novelized reflection of the police detectives I had a chance to meet at Paris’s mythic police headquarters. And, I’ll admit that I was certainly a little influenced by the positive comic book super heroes, which make me dream.

How do you work? Are you very disciplined?

I need to write on a regular basis. Writing requires a lot of effort and the capacity to question yourself permanently if you want to make any progress. Not to mention that the need to write is like a tidal wave you can’t resist.

Doesn’t that sound great? I can’t wait to read this title.  See you next time!

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