When Jacqui asked me to write a post for French Village Diaries, I thought it would be fun to share glimpses of France from the books I’ve most recently translated into English. I love mysteries and crime fiction, and all three of these books are in that genre, are by acclaimed French authors, and are set in France. For me, these books are more than just entertaining reading, they are a way to discover France differently.
Take The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier (http://www.theparislawyer.com). Our heroine, Catherine Monsigny, is a rookie lawyer in Paris, but a felony case takes her to Creuse. I’ve lived in France over 25 years and I didn’t even know where that was until now. Here, she’s talking to her father about her new case.
“I’d be surprised if you wanted to hang out there. It’s not such a great place.” “Just as well. I’m not a tourist. Isn’t there a slogan, ‘Creuse, where kids run free and happy’?” “Rivers. Where rivers run free and happy.” Yes. An old ad pops out of who-knows-where.
The author, Sylvie Granotier, splits her time between Paris and Creuse, and has told me about the nineteenth-century painting-like landscapes that inspire her writing.
In Treachery in Bordeaux (The Winemaker Detective Series) by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen (http://www.treacheryinbordeaux.com), you travel to French wine country:
The morning was cool and radiant. A west wind had swept the clouds far inland to the gentle hills beyond the city of Bordeaux…The Médoc was still wild, despite its well-ordered garden veneer, and it would always be that way. In the distance, a few low wisps of fog were finishing their lazy dance along the Gironde Estuary.
This book has a particularly heightened sense of place and you learn a lot about the whole winemaking world. It’s a fun, classic whodunit.
Then there is The 7th Woman (Nico Sirsky, Chief of Police) by Frédérique Molay (“the French Michael Connelly”), which gives a truly different perspective of Paris (http://www.the7thwoman.com). I lived in Paris for over 20 years and really enjoyed experiencing it the way I did in this book: on the end of my seat. It’s like the movie Seven meets CSI in the City of Light, with an alpha-male hero and a creepy killer. Here’s one of my favorite passages, which probably says something about me, but hey:
The Marais was part of the city’s magic, with it narrow streets lined with private townhouses … It was the preserved heart of the capital. It had a long history, and its well-preserved heritage let the mind imagine the unbelievable treasures it once held and the scenes with kings and courtesans that those stones had witnessed. He liked this enigmatic atmosphere. It was, after all, in the tower of the Temple Fortress that King Louis XVI had been imprisoned before being taken to the guillotine. It was also where the young King Louis XVII was killed under lesser-known circumstances. This was a neighborhood predestined for his crime.
Anne Trager founded Le French Book to bring France's best crime fiction, thrillers, novels, short stories, and non-fiction to new readers across the English-speaking world. The company’s motto is: “If we love it, we’ll translate it.”
Many thanks to Anne for joining us here.