SALAMANDER by J. Robert Janes


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Two days before Christmas 1942, some 450 citizens of Lyon crowd into the local cinema to watch La Bàte humaine—a little proletarian crime drama to take their minds off the war. And before the film is over, a fire has claimed the lives of 183 of them. Visiting fire chief Karl Johann Weidling tells the investigating officers called in from Paris, the SuràtÇ’s Jean-Louis St-Cyr and the Gestapo’s Hermann Kohler, that the fire has all the earmarks of the work of the Salamander, who set three smaller blazes in prewar Germany before hitting the jackpot in Lyon. Despite the horrifying numbers of the dead—including the bishop’s personal secretary, a priest adorned with a suspiciously valuable bejewelled cross—Kohler and St-Cyr are drawn to three other casualties who weren’t even in the theater: Madeleine Aurelle, found dead in the apartment behind the theater; and Claudine Bertrand and her mother, gassed in La Belle êpoque, the neighboring brothel. It’s Claudine, in fact, whose “very special” perversion holds the key to the case. But each of the leading suspects, as in Janes’s three previous Occupation mysteries (Sandman, 1997, etc.), has close enough ties to sinister higher powers--in this case, to Klaus Barbie, of the Hotel Terminus--to keep the atmosphere alternately ablaze and achill. The most brilliantly unsettling of this fine series to date.

Pub Date: June 10th, 1998
ISBN: 1-56947-119-3
Page count: 322pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998


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