I gave up on mysteries a long time ago. It was hard enough winding through a novel’s plotline without trying to pick up clues and guess whodunnit. Too many of those and I was ready to head back to horrid Harlequin romances (shudder).
But this one was…intriguing. I’d never heard of this detective before now and a French one at that. Mazarelle is one of those detectives with quirks: a penchant for pipes instead of cigarettes, a gastronome (oh, well, he IS French) with a keen eye and nose for the best fruit in season and a tendency to attract oddball cases. So when a man is found hanging upside down like a figure on a Tarot card, both Mazarelle and I are curious.
The first few pages provide us with local color, with a gunman who’s a sad failure at assassination. It’s almost funny, a welcome departure from the lurid violence of contemporary America, where gunplay seems to erupt almost daily. Then it’s followed up by the aforementioned hanged man.
The shift in tone is startling and masterfully done, the grim sight of the victim juxtaposed by a ferry ride of tourists passing beneath him. The captain’s shaken call to his superior is also a kind of mini-comedy, as the ferryman explains to his offended superior that the crime had to be reported to the police—even if he did have customers. Ah, the French. C’est drôle.
This mystery promises to have other touches of comedy, making it a worthwhile departure from other murder mysteries.