Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Folly du Jour by Barbara Cleverly

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Folly du Jour by Barbara Cleverly. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Folly du Jour by Barbara Cleverly

Folly du Jour by
A Joe Sandilands Mystery

Soho Constable (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-513-X (156947513X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-513-3 (9781569475133)
Publication Date: August 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: In May 1927 Scotland Yard commander Joe Sandilands investigates a murder of which his former mentor is accused of the crime in Folly du Jour, the seventh mystery in this series by Barbara Cleverly.

Sir George Jardine, a former British diplomat based in Parris, is attending a performance at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees after receiving a mysterious letter with a entry ticket, signed just John. While seated in one of the best box seats, he sees a former colleague and nemesis on the opposite side of the theatre, one Lt. Colonel, now Sir Stanley Somerton. Nothing to do now as the performance is just starting, and a mesmerizing one it is. At its end, George heads over to greet Somerton only to find him dead, his throat slashed. He's immediately arrested for the murder. Joe Sandilands, coincidentally in Paris to attend an Interpol conference, is asked to get involved and intervenes on George's behalf. He joins up with a French counterpart, Inspector Jean-Philippe Bonnefoye, who's been investigating a multi-year series of bizarre, unsolved murders. Though there doesn't seem to be a connection, the coroner isn't so sure. What is certain is the key to solving Somerton's murder depends on finding out why someone may have wanted him dead.

Folly du Jour is, for the most part, a delightful mystery. The well drawn characters and atmospheric setting are spot on. The disparate elements of the book, including an intriguing though not obviously relevant (at least initially) prologue, come together much as a intricate play in three acts does: a strong opening to set the foundation for the story, a middle act that moves the plot along, and a conclusion that resolves the mystery. Though each component is generally well executed, the third and final act is probably the least enjoyable primarily because it is overly and unnecessarily complicated. It's almost as if the author realized a rather predictable and simple resolution was in the offing, not that there's anything wrong with that, especially if it's as elegantly presented as the rest of the book. Instead she makes an abrupt and unexpected departure crafting a convoluted and ultimately less satisfying alternate ending. Still, the route taken was an enjoyable one and definitely worthy of a reader's consideration.

Special thanks to Soho Press for providing a copy of Folly du Jour for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): The Folies Bergere, Paris, December 1926. Joe Sandilands hurries to the assistance of an old friend who has been arrested for murder. In a cell at the Quai des Orfevres he meets with Sir George Jardine, still in the evening dress stained with the blood of the dead man. The only other witness, a blonde who was sharing the victim’s box, has vanished. Joe receives assistance from an entirely unexpected quarter—Francine, a young usherette, clawing her way into the world of the Paris Music Hall. It is she who becomes Joe’s guide through this treacherous place where Joe is sure the killer is lurking.

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