In Provence, St-Cyr and Kohler investigate an old-fashioned murderThe train ride from Paris is supposed to take four hours, but a Resistance bomb has snarled the tracks, and detectives Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler are fourteen hours behind schedule. By the time they arrive in Provence, they are travel-weary but intrigued. Even in wartime, it’s rare to investigate a murder by crossbow. The woman was in her early fifties, with well-made clothing and opal earrings that indicate that, until war came, she was wealthy. The crossbow bolt was barbed, and as she tried to pull it out, it shredded her heart. St-Cyr and Kohler quickly learn why the villagers are loath to cooperate: The woman was a smuggler, killed to protect the black market that the inhabitants of this frigid, war-wracked countryside cannot survive without.
Where hide a leaf? In a forest. Where hide a body? On a battlefield. Such is the logic in this busy entry in the St-Cyr/Kohler detective series, first published in Britain in 1993. The date is December 18, 1942. The setting is Paris. In Provence, in the hills behind Cagne-Sur-Mer, the body of an attractive, well-dressed woman has turned up; she's been shot through the heart with a crossbow, the arrow equipped with a barbed iron tip. Enter the investigators, surely one of the most unusual partnerships in mystery fiction Jean-Louis St-Cyr, Chief Inspector of the S ret Nationale, and Hermann Kohler, Huptsturmf hrer of the Gestapo, drawn together in an uneasy alliance during WWII. The dead woman, Mme. Buemondi, was dealing in black market goods in order to buy medicines for her epileptic daughter; she was also helping escapees from the Nazi regime flee to Spain but this is only the beginning. Although some may find the novel overplotted situations and characters multiply at a dizzying pace tensions run high right up until the plausible but somehow unsatisfying ending. Canadian author Janes (The Alice Factor) is reasonably successful in delineating character, and he convincingly documents the wartime background of Nazi-occupied France. His writing style is crisp and starkly dramatic: "Blood had run from the corner of her lip and from her nostrils, but had long since congealed and darkened. The eyes were not blue as he had expected from the hair but that rather pleasant shade of greeny-brown which can sometimes overwhelm an unsuspecting man." The result, whatever its shortcomings, will definitely gratify fans of the series.