8 Dec 2015



BACK COVER BLURB: Paris. In the stifling August heat, Commandant Serge Morel is called to a disturbing crime scene. An elderly woman has been murdered.

At first, this strange case seems to offer few clues; but as more victims are targeted, Morel finds his enquiries leading him back to the past, from the French countryside to Soviet Russia - and to two young boys with the most haunting of stories to tell ...

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue}: For a long time, he watches people in the queue.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 79}: After a moment's hesitation, she moved towards the window and looked out at the garden. It was dark but there was a full moon and it lit up the sky like a fluorescent beam.

The gardener had recently been to mow the grass. The trees seemed as attentive out there as she was inside, looking for the thing that had caught her attention a moment ago.

There. She hadn't imagined it.

There was someone sitting on the trampoline.

SOURCE: A Reading Group read.

MY THOUGHTS: The first in the Commandant Morel series. I'm not sure that The Lying Down Room - the reason behind the title eventually becoming evident, be warned, tissues might prove a necessity - would inspire me to read any further books in the series but then I'd not completely rule them out as a possibility.

Less of a who-dun-it - despite the culprit(s) being strongly hinted at early on and seemingly revealed come the end I finished the book not convinced. More of the 'life-experiences-that-led-him/her/them-to-do-it' (you won't get any clues as to who it was from me) though even then it seemed to take forever and a day, literally from France to Russia and back again, to get to that point. Several of the characters every thought and action gone into before you even began to understand what motivated them.  

A book in which almost every aspect of it proved to be both a blessing and a curse. 

Take for example the attention to detail. Put to wonderful use at times (the harrowing scenes of the Russian-born Dima's early life will I'm sure stay with me for some time) but at others, what I felt was merely excessive padding (did we really need to know which route Morel took to work, what he ate and where it was purchased, that people actually went to the toilet?), it made for really hard work. 

Then there were the relationships. The dynamics between main protagonist, Morel, and his father, though at times also bogged down in minute details, was interesting and had all the the potential to develop into something quite fascinating however .... 

I wasn't so sure about that between Morel and his fellow workers - was that sexual tension I sensed between him and his partner, Lila? Given Morel's odd fascination with his old lover (what exactly was that about?) and the dreadful sex scenes between him and the wife of his father's friend who he is sleeping with I certainly hope not.

Essentially, though way more flawed, Anna Jaquiery's French Commandant Serge Morel puts me firmly in mind of Donna Leon's Italian Commissario Guido Brunetti. As, when I think about it, do several other elements - the relationships, the food, the overall feeling of being in France/Italy - all of which, the crime aspect aside, play such a vital role in both the two series. 


Mary (Bookfan) said...

I'm sure some people will love it but I just haven't been able to love the genre - I get lost in the details and then frustrated. Maybe all will be clear in book 2? Having said all that, I enjoyed Louise Penny's first Inspector Gamache book. Go figure :)

Kelly said...

Hmmm. Well I love Donna Leon's Brunetti books (and have read all but the latest) and just recently read the first of Louise Penny's Gamache books.

I'm sorely tempted based on that comparison, but given there is only just so much time, I think I'll focus on continuing on with Penny's books rather than beginning yet another series.

Literary Feline said...

Reading the description of this one put me in mind of Donna Leon's series, which I haven't read but have heard a lot about. You have me curious about this one even with its flaws. It sounds like something I might like.

Sherry Ellis said...

If tissues are needed, it must evoke an emotional response. It's always good when an author can do that.

Suko said...

"A book in which almost every aspect of it proved to be both a blessing and a curse."

Thanks for your honest and incisive words, Tracy.

Yvonne@fiction-books said...

Hi Tracy,

Generally, I tend to be a little wary about writers who don't have their own website as published authors, although that should really have no bearing on whether I enjoy their books, or not!

I haven't read any Donna Leon or Louise Penny either, although I spoke to my father about them this evening and he has, although he became totally confused by their style of writing.

The title is particularly intriguing and I have a morbid fascination with the storyline, especially the implied link with Russia) - but whether this would be enough alone, to see me rushing out to buy the book, I'm not quite sure yet!

I guess you are sitting on the neutral fence with this one, so perhaps if / when you read the second book in the series, a decision about Anna's style of writing might be easier.

Thanks for sharing your usual great review style - very well considered and compiled :)


Melliane said...

I think it"s the first time I hear about the author or the book but who knows? Maybe one day.

Brian Joseph said...

Great review.

It sounds as if the book could have used a good editor to cut out some of the unnecessary detail. It sounds like the author might have been trying to capture some of the feel of everyday life.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I know what you mean. I love detail as well, but too much in the wrong place can bog down a book. Still, this sounds like a decent read.

New Release Books said...

Sounds like an emotional story.

Gina R said...

Admittedly drawn by the cover, but the story...I'm afraid I'll have to pass. Certainly seemed to have some interesting qualities though.

ClaudineGueh@CarryUsOffBooks said...

I'm with Gina. I was also drawn by the cover initially, but if there's too much mundane details, then ... I'm afraid not.