Friday, May 5, 2017

REVIEW: The Devil in Montmartre

Inspector Lefebvre 1:
By: Gary Inbinder

Genre: Mystery, Historical
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 12.8.2014
Pages: 266

Amid the hustle and bustle of the Paris 1889 Universal Exposition, workers discover the mutilated corpse of a popular model and Moulin Rouge Can-Can dancer in a Montmartre sewer.  Hysterical rumors swirl that Jack the Ripper has crossed the Channel, and Inspector Achille Lefebvre enters the Parisian underworld to track down the brutal killer.  His suspects are the artist Toulouse-Lautrec; Jojo, an acrobat at the Circus Fernando; and Sir Henry Collingwood, a mysterious English gynecologist and amateur artist.
            Pioneering the as-yet untried system of fingerprint detection and using cutting edge forensics, including crime scene photography, anthropometry, pathology, and laboratory analysis, Achille attempts to separate the innocent from the guilty.  But he must work quickly before the "Paris Ripper" strikes again.

I am a big fan of historical mysteries, especially ones set around the time of Jack the Ripper.  That's what drew me into reading this book in the first place.  Well, that and the list of suspects - an artist, a circus performer, and a gynecologist?  Seems like an interesting mix of characters, don't you think?

This book is written really well, and I'm hoping to soon be reading more by this author.  I especially would like to continue this series and see where he takes Lefebvre next.  

The story is interesting, with lots of twists and turns, and the characters are well thought out.  Lefebvre has a lot of things standing in his way as he investigates this murder - suspects not giving the full story, officers he works with not being completely truthful, a very opinionated mother-in-law, news sources that seem to be questioning his every move (and the kind of police officer he is), and not having all of the scientific investigating tools that we have today (though a few of them turn up in this story, and it's really neat to watch as he learns what he can from articles and such so that he can use them in this investigation, and how he has to defend them because they haven't really been proven as of yet).  (That was probably the longest run-on sentence I have ever written haha.)  

You don't really get to know Virginie Menard before she dies, but through conversations with characters, you learn quite a bit about her.  Even though she didn't always make the best choices or put herself in the best positions, through the love her friends have for her, you really care about her and want to find out who truly murdered her.

I really liked Lefebvre's wife.  She's understanding and loving, and when she does appear in the story, she always makes him feel better, especially since she believes in him without wavering, even standing up against her mother in defense of him.  
            I also like how honest he is.  He has the opportunity to back away from the case, or take the easy way out when it comes to suspects, but he sticks to his guns and investigates it to the fullest.  He did not know this lady, but you could tell that he cares for her as a person, as he cares for all people.

The artist Marcia has me intrigued and I wish I knew more about her.  She cared for Virginie quite a bit, though she really didn't know her, and I feel like a lot it was from an artist standpoint (though she considered it love) and how this beautiful girl could change her art into something completely different.  As she deteriorates through the story, I really felt for her as well.  Even though she had lived a long and interesting life, she has so much more left to give, and became a character I cared about.

The end is completely unexpected in some ways.  As with every mystery, I pay attention to the clues and try to figure out who the actual person that did it was.  There were several times that I had it, but questioned myself, then was absolutely sure, then questioned myself again... only to find out that I wasn't exactly right at all... or maybe just not completely right.  What saddened me most was the reason that she had to die... and how many people were affected by a "Moulin Rouge Can-Can Dancer."

"Even though we know it won't come in our lifetime, or the next generation, or the one after that, we should hope for an era of love and peace, we should strive for it."
            "Of course, Adele, but until that time I'll settle for just laws and honest, capable, and compassionate people to enforce them."

Date read: 4.10.2017

About the author:
Gary Inbinder is a retired attorney who left the practice of law to write full-time.  His fiction, articles and essays have appeared in Bewildering Stories, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Absent Willow Review, Morpheus Tales, Touchstone Magazine, and other publications.  Gary is a member of The Historical Novel Society and Mystery Writers of America.  He is also a member of the Bewildering Stories Editorial Review Board.  His Inspector Lefebvre Series - The Devil in Montmartre and The Hanged Man - is published by Pegasus Books.  The Flower to the Painter and Confessions of the Creature are published by Fireship Press.

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