Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Extraordinary People by Peter May

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Extraordinary People by Peter May. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Extraordinary People by Peter May

Extraordinary People by Peter May
An Enzo Macleod Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-335-3 (1590583353)
ISBN-13: 978-1-58058-335-7 (9781590583357)
Publication Date: November, 2006
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): What has happened to Jacques Gaillard? The brilliant teacher who trained some of France's best and brightest at the Ecole Nationale d'Administration as future Prime Ministers and Presidents vanished ten years ago, presumably from Paris. Talk about your cold case.

The mystery inspires a bet, one that Enzo Macleod, a biologist teaching in Toulouse 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 an old case.

Enzo comes 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 chateau in Champagne, digging up relics and bones. Yes, Enzo finds Jacques Gaillard's head. The artifacts buried with the skull set him to interpreting the clues they provide and to following in someone's footsteps--maybe more than one someone--after the rest of Gaillard. And to reviewing some ancient and recent history. As with a quest, it's as much discovery as detection. Enzo proves to be an ace investigator, scientific and intuitive, and, for all his missteps, one who hits his goals including a painful journey toward greater self-awareness.

Review: Extraordinary People is the intriguing first book in a series of thrillers set in modern France by talented author Peter May.

May's novel is a macabre treasure hunt that, fair or not, will likely be compared in one way or another to The Da Vinci Code. There are, in fact, some striking similarities but Extraordinary People is by far the more distinguished book. The pace of the story moves along briskly as Enzo Macleod, the forensics expert on a quest of deciphering the cryptic artifacts found at the site of a 10-year old murder, traverses the countryside unearthing clues. Several rather predictable events occur that make the journey personal, but they don't detract from the adventure.

This otherwise outstanding literary effort is marred by a significant inconsistency in the plot. It is not possible to provide specific details without giving away too much of the ending, but the rationale for the existence of the artifacts is, at best, implausible. On the surface it's all rather clever, but there is a fundamental flaw in the logic. It is a little disappointing May did not develop a more convincing argument here.

The presumed premise for this series, celebrated unsolved murders, is a captivating one and hopefully May will bring back the interesting characters he introduced in Extraordinary People for subsequent mysteries.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Extraordinary People for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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