Winner of the Prix Quai du Polar, Antoin Varenne is a rising star in the exciting new wave of French crime fiction. Hard-boiled Paris police lieutenant Richard Guerin thought he knew the depths of human tragedy and perversion during his years investigating suicide cases--not to mention his childhood, raised by his prostitute mother (who left him nothing but her foul-mouthed parrot).
But when a slew of cases that are way too bizarre to be straightforward suicides end up on his desk, Guerin begins to suspect that he is up against a nihilistic evil beyond anything he's encountered before.
First, there is Alan Musgrave, an American man who bleeds himself to death on stage during a sick S&M show in an underground Paris nightclub. Another runs naked into traffic with arms outstretched and is splattered to pulp by a heavy truck. Yet another hurls himself from a museum balcony to death by impalement on a whale skeleton.
Guerin's corrupt police colleagues ridicule his determination to find the connections between these horrifying deaths. Yet he presses on, plunging into the seamy sadomasochistic underbelly of the City of Lights that most never see.
Unexpected help comes from a friend of Musgrave's, an eccentric and resourceful rich American named John Nichols who has recently arrived in Paris toting a bow and arrows. The bloody trail leads them to the upper reaches of both the Parisian police force and the American embassy, while Guerin begins to suspect that the ultimate answer may lie somewhere in Nichols's past.
In Bed of Nails, Varenne does for Paris what James Ellroy did for vintage Los Angeles: He expertly throws a bright light on a fashionable city's hideous hidden face.
From the Hardcover edition.
French author Varenne makes his U.S. debut with this riveting noir. Demoted from elite homicide detective at Paris's CID for unwelcome whistle-blowing, Lt. Richard Gu rin discovers an unexpected respite investigating suicides, until the outsize brain perched atop his scrawny torso starts to discern suspicious coincidences in several deaths. Gu rin's emerging conspiracy theory gains traction when a fresh case that of the onstage exsanguination of American Gulf War vet turned fakir Alan Mustgrave during an S&M performance connects the detective with like-minded John P. Nichols, a Franco-American psychologist who doesn't believe Mustgrave's death was accidental. The accelerating, increasingly deadly action zips from Paris's Luxembourg Gardens to the bucolic Lot district, hurtling a passel of eccentrics sympathiques, including Gu rin's unflappable football-besotted sidekick Lambert, against the spiky reality of the human condition or, as the despairing detective describes it, a "complex mass alternating between hazardous free will and anarchic disintegration."