As the fashionable Riviera city of Cannes prepares for its annual film festival, newly appointed examining magistrate Cecile Galant is struggling with a series of brutal killings by an unknown assassin named The Mutilator—and an apparently stand-alone murder, the strangling of Rosie Cashel, a young Englishwoman living in the Villa Bleue. Except for her frequent companion Dr. Robin Durrant, most of Rosie’s nearest and dearest are far off. Her mother Anna, who owns the villa, is in an Australian nursing home, and her half-brother Charlie and her cousin Martin Hollingsworth, a lawyer in charge of Anna’s legal interests, are back in London. When the two men fly to Cannes to bring Rosie’s body back to London for burial, they’re interviewed by Chief Inspector Maubourg, but not until they’ve returned to London does Magistrate Galant release the body. Three months later, Charlie receives a roll of film sent anonymously from Cannes. The only clear exposure, which looks like a painting of an old cemetery, sends Charlie back to Cannes, where Galant is exploring the possible guilt of a local mobster named White Boy in the still-unsolved murders—and the more recent death of Dr. Durrant. Meanwhile, Charlie has paid a visit to the house of Rosie’s recently deceased neighbor, old Monsieur Artheus. There, he meets Susanna Washington and, with her, endures a series of life-threatening events before all his questions, and Galant’s, are answered.
Crisp, vividly evocative prose, interesting people, arresting plot, and unusual background: a fresh, absorbing debut.