What happened to Jacques Gaillard? The brilliant teacher at the École Nationale d’Administration, who trained some of France’s best and brightest as future prime ministers and presidents, vanished ten years ago, presumably from Paris. This ten-year-old mystery inspires a bet—one that Enzo Macleod, a biologist teaching in Toulouse, France, instead of pursuing a brilliant career in forensics back home in Scotland, can ill afford to lose. The wager is that Enzo can find out what happened to Jacques Gaillard by applying new science to a cold case.
Enzo goes to Paris to meet journalist Roger Raffin, the author of a book on seven celebrated unsolved murders, the assumption being that Gaillard is dead. He needs Raffin’s notes, and armed with these, he begins his quest. It quickly has him touring landmarks such as the Paris catacombs and a château in Champagne, digging up relics and bones. Then Enzo finds the actual head of Jacques Gaillard. The artifacts buried with the skull set him to interpreting the clues they provide and following in someone’s footsteps—maybe more than one someone—seeking the rest of Gaillard’s remains and reviewing some ancient and recent history. As with any quest, it’s as much discovery as detection, and Enzo, despite all his missteps, proves to be an ace investigator, scientific and intuitive, who definitely meets his goals.
Peter May is a Scottish television screenwriter, novelist, and crime writer. He has won several literary awards for his novels.
“This travelogue-cum-murder mystery makes for a fun puzzle.” (
“A thoroughly engaging puzzle.” ( Library Journal)
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Good murder mystery for Francophiles/Francophones
I would recommend, but would tell them I found the book entertaining, if a little predictable at times, and it went at a good pace with enough excitement to make me stay in bed one Sunday morning to listen to the last 6 chapters! Peter May writes about women from a man's perspective - I don't mean sexist, but more how he would like women to be than how they really are! (Work this out, men!) Nevertheless, I enjoyed his story and enjoyed his wry humour - maybe because I am a Scot and it is such a Scottish thing. Other writers criticise the accents - well, one narrator can only produce so many accents - as a Scot I found it quite authentic (West of Scotland). Also a lot of French used - seems logical to me as it was first printed in French, from what I can gather from internet, and why change those bits when it helps you to learn a bit more of the language of the country in which it is set. Good for those interested in France and happy to learn a bit about the language and country. I've spent a bit of time in France and found it all quite authentic, en fait.
Kinda guessed half way through who the main perpetrator was/would be, but found the ending quite exciting - as mentioned above. The 'changes' in the family relationships were also quite predictable - but perfectly believable.
Oh, Enzo! And it seemed to me that Simon Vance enjoyed being Enzo and tried very hard to get his character right - and I thought the accent was fine.
Maybe the loss of his second wife. He appeared to have discarded the first one easily enough but he didn't have time to get tired of the second one. Nor did he seem to have struck up any other long-term relationships in the 18 or so years since she had died, so maybe it was the real thing. (I'm a cynic!)
Peter May is not Georges Simenon or Ian Rankin, but I thought the book might be of interest to readers of these two authors. It was well written and I enjoyed all the bits of 'education' e.g. Champagne production; and the catacombs of Paris.
- Ms E. McNaughton