In 1934, a French police inspector tries to prove that an arrogant prosecutor wasn’t responsible for the murder of his young mistress.
The spirit of Georges Simenon is alive and well in this novel. Chief Inspector Arthur Gambrelli of the Metropolitan Police is sent from the city to the island of Q, where the murder of a young woman named Annette Cuomo has taken place. The obvious suspect is her lover, an arrogant senior prosecutor at the Justice Ministry, Jean Michel Bertrand, with whom Gambrelli has a combative relationship. Despite this, the detective doesn’t want to see the man railroaded, and he embarks on his own investigation. As he travels back and forth between the island and the city, Gambrelli’s list of suspects widens to include Bertrand’s wife, Adele, who knew that she was about to be thrown over for the younger woman; the victim’s sister, Lisa Cuomo, who goes missing and becomes the subject of an intense police manhunt; a drug smuggler who operates out of a fruit warehouse; and an array of other tough guys. Complicating the investigation is Gambrelli’s superior, Chief Superintendent Wilhelm, who tries to make his life a bureaucratic hell and is not above taking credit where it isn’t due. Although there’s nothing new in this murder mystery, the author nevertheless manages to make it a compelling story, mainly through the vivid cast of characters he assembles. Gambrelli is a wonderful personality, a civilized man doing an uncivilized job as best he can. His interactions with other characters are highly charged, especially with those who are less than forthcoming about their roles in the murder. The mystery itself is cleverly worked out, although there isn’t a lot of urgency in solving it. And rather unnecessarily, occasional newspaper clippings about the rise of fascism in Europe provide a context that is paradoxically missing from the story itself.
Gambrelli and his crew are such a delight that readers
will hope the author is diligently at work on a sequel.