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Carousel (The St-Cyr and Kohler Mysteries) (English Edition) Format Kindle
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A kinky murder drags the two cops into the murk of the wartime corruption and several other unsolved murders which may be related. A young woman is found raped and murdered in a hotel room she has rented under an assumed name, with several weird clues left behind. She's known to have been meeting an older man there. Family relationships going back decades are involved. As usual there are shadowy and sinister ties reaching to the top of the Nazi regime. At one point, Kohler and St. Cyr end up truffle-hunting in the countryside.
Janes' stylized writing creates the sense of fog surrounding Kohler and St. Cyr, but it also contributes to a certain amount of confusion. Their conversations with those who know something are often so elliptical as to leave the reader wondering what just actually transpired. Internal dialogue often emerges in fragmentary form without clear signals as to whom it belongs. It can be tough to follow, particularly as his plot is so complex. The web of German agencies competing to loot the city, with their personal and organizational rivalries, the shifting stew of French characters likewise at each other's throats, all make this book, like others in the series, dizzying to follow. The climactic scene, with most of the principals gathered in one place so that Everything Can Be Revealed, is a bit hokey that way.
Although his writing is heavy in atmosphere, I don't think Janes successfully evokes wartime Paris quite as well as another writer who strains at it less - Alan Furst. Several of his wartime espionage novels are located in Paris. Janes' books are weighed down by the murder mystery format, and by the somewhat overheated characterizations of St. Cyr and Kohler. He gives you as much wartime detail as Furst does, but somehow Furst's details seem both quirkier and more authentic. Janes tells us about ersatz coffee, and about women with drawn lines on their legs suggesting the seams of stockings that cannot be had amid the wartime scarcity, but somehow he never breaks through to the truly unique observations that would get the book fully into three dimensions. When St. Cyr notices a certain scent of perfume that seems to tie several characters together, I can't decide if this is a fine subtle touch or if Janes is playing the stereotypically-French card a little too strongly. I may be comparing apples and oranges here; this is a police-murder mystery, with its various conventions usually to be observed, while Furst's books are espionage but not really tied to the page-turning conventions of that or any other genre.
I don't want to bash "Carousel", though. For one thing, Janes does well developing the Kohler-St. Cyr relationship over the series. I've read three of the them, not in any chronological order, and this last one has me thinking I should start at the beginning and do them in order. In this particular one it's unclear why Kohler is so alienated from Nazidom in general, but rather than see this as a failing, it makes me want to read the other books to find out more.
Still, there are times in this book when I have no idea what just happened, why some conversation was important, who is talking or what is implied about the relationships of various characters to each other. In other words, I was sometimes lost, and had to just hang on and keep reading. At the end Janes brings it together - more or less. If you like the series, this is a respectable part of it.
Janes writes very well, with richly-detailed descriptions of the characters and settings. At times this borders on excessive, and tends to distract one from the thrust of the story. This may or may not be a strength in a mystery. It depends on the intent of the author - to prevent the reader from prematurely deducing whodunit, or simply as a matter of overattention to detail. Janes' prose is written in a European style, reminiscent of 19th century classics. This can be awkward to the experienced reader, and downright alien to the literary novice. Again, this may or may not be a strength. With respect to the story itself, it is very complex in its evolution and excecution. I found it extremely captivating, particularly in later parts of the book, to see the strands of facts begin to coalesce into webs and sheets of truth. At times, a real page-turner, and at others a real headache. Janes successfully re-creates the atmosphere and aura of WW2 France under the Nazis. The undercurrents of fear, terror, and conquest are interwoven throughout the book, particularly in the interplay between St. Cyr and Kohler - conquered and conqueror.
All in all, these elements, while they may seem countercurrent to one another, come together to brilliantly tell a tale of murder and intrigue in Vichy France. The major detraction is, as I've said, the fact that this book demands one's undivided attention, and meticulous attention to everything that is written. Not for casual reading!
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