I’ve long been a fan of novels containing French police inspectors, including Poirot, Maigret, and even the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther films. So when I saw that The Paris Directive by Gerald Jay was introducing a French inspector for a new series, I had to see if this one would join the ranks of my other favorites. As you can see from this review’s title, it did not disappoint in the least. Like a good police procedural, a good contemporary international thriller, a twisty tale of intrigue and suspense?
It’s 1999 and Inspector Paul Mazarelle is in charge of a rural area around his office in Bergeron. Having been a homicide inspector in Paris, this is a radical change for him and he’s quite frankly bored. He’s weighing his options. Should he take early retirement, return to Paris or stick it out in Bergeron for a while longer. It’s a little too comfortable but he likes the people. Still he despairs about whether some of his detectives, like Bernard Duboit, will ever mature enough to do their jobs well. It’s a good thing the area doesn’t see much crime.
“Not always good by a long shot, but Paris was Mazarelle’s city. Born and bred from its sounds, its smells, he had a career there, a job that meant something. It was the one place in the world where Mazi, as his pals called him, felt most alive…But when her [his wife’s] doctor found cancer and said ‘C’est grave,’ Martine told Paul that she was going back to Taziac, the village where she’d grown up, to die…She never asked him to transfer to the boonies.”
Assassin Klaus Reiner is hired by two men at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin to stage an accident for an industrialist who’s to be visiting the small village of Taziac in the Dordogne region of France. Accidents are Reiner’s specialty, so he’s looking forward to this job in a detached, professional way. Reiner looks at his assignment as a puzzle to be solved quickly and with innovation, leaving everything looking like a natural accident that could happen to anyone. The faster he gets it done, the faster he can get paid the balance of his fee and move on. What he doesn’t anticipate is that his target is not traveling alone.
“What they required was a man with his special talents. Above all, his discretion, ingenuity, and ability to remove someone so quietly that the sole question raised by the family and friends was where to send the flowers. The accident would have to occur before the end of the month, arouse no suspicion, and, most important of all, be terminal.”
Two couples, Ben and Judy Reece and Schuyler Phillips and his wife have rented a villa in Taziac for a much needed vacation. They’re old friends who go all the way back to college. Now Ben is an extremely successful American businessman and Schuyler is an extremely successful Canadian businessman. Unfortunately one of these people is Reiner’s target.
After several failed attempts that feel like massive blows to Reiner’s ego, he decides that he will have to do something more direct to accomplish his mission. It’s become apparent that he’s going to have collateral damage on this one so he might as well stage it to look like a different kind of incident. He hides out in a neighboring vacant villa and watches for an opportunity. When he learns they’re all going out to dinner one night, the time is right. He waits and catches them when they return home.
When Inspector Mazarelle is alerted to three murders, he wonders where the fourth person is. Mr. and Mrs. Reece, and Mrs. Phillips have been found tortured and murdered but Mr. Phillips has disappeared. At first the obvious conclusion seems to be that Schuyler Phillips committed the murders but that doesn’t make sense to Mazarelle. Then Schuyler is found where he had unsuccessfully hidden.
All of the clues point to an Arabic handyman, Ali Sedak, who was working for the Reeces on some renovation projects. Although Mazarelle has him arrested, he’s not convinced of the man’s guilt. Something isn’t right but he can’t quite put his finger on it. Mazarelle is determined to get to the bottom of these grisly murders.
When the Reeces’ daughter, a Manhattan attorney, travels to the area to identify and claim her parents’ bodies, she consults with Mazarelle about the case. She’s also convinced they have the wrong man, and decides to do some sleuthing of her own. She’s determined to find the real killer so her parents can rest in peace. Unfortunately that just makes Mazarelle’s job a lot harder. Now he has to hunt for the killer, stave off the press, and protect her from inadvertently getting too close to this ruthless killer and ending up like her parents. The cat-and-mouse game the killer is playing with Mazarelle just got a lot more complicated.
Inspector Mazarelle is one of those teddy bear like guys who children love and no one would suspect of having the steel-trap mind that he has. When the doomed vacationers first meet him, they mistake him for the local baker. He’s a bit on the hefty side and loves his sausages. He even has a grossly overweight and coddled cat, Michou.
“Suddenly out came a bear of a man with a great drooping mustache and eyebrows to match…Judy asked for a pain de champagne and a baguette. The big guy glanced around the shop, then, nodding, he took down the loaves and wrapped them up…he was tying it up, his big hands doing a surprisingly elegant job with the green ribbon, when the front door opened and Gabrielle, a pretty teenage girl, came rushing in. Straightening her apron…she said, ‘Oh – Monsieur Mazarelle…’ She appeared flustered…”
I love it when killers underestimate police inspectors, and Reiner’s massive ego is his greatest flaw as a killer. He is the epitome of arrogance and God help any client who doesn’t pay his fee on time. He literally can’t resist taunting Mazarelle, believing he is so infallible that no one will ever guess who he is.
Duboit is the perfect side kick who would cause anyone to throw up their hands in dismay. He’s not just rough around the edges but makes stupid assumptions about racial profiling, with catastrophic consequences, and is downright lazy. Still underneath his inexperience is someone who wants badly on some level to get it right.
Gerald Jay, the author, is not Gerald Jay. Gerald Jay is a nom de plume that I’d guess is for an experienced author, although I haven’t been able to discover who that person is. I could be wrong and The Paris Directive could be a debut novel; however, I don’t believe it is. What I do know is that The Paris Directive is Book #1 in a new series and I can hardly wait to read Book #2! I can also see this being developed into a film. I’ve added Mazarelle to my roster of favorite French Inspectors and I’m looking forward to what this cuddly but sharp detective is going to run up against next!
Can’t wait to read it?
The Paris Directive is being released on June 19, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it.
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