Sunday, December 30, 2012

Murder on the Rue Dumas: Review

I found Murder on the Rue Dumas by M. L. Longworth on my last trip to the library.  It's so nice once I have all the challenge-reading out of the way--I can give in to impulse reading and just bring home books that look interesting.  I don't have to think about whether it will fit into one of my zillion challenges (and hopefully more than one) or whether I have time to sneak in a non-challenge book.

And Murder on the Rue Dumas was right up my alley--an interesting-sounding academic mystery, this time set in France.  We have Dr. Georges Moette, director of theology at the Universit√© d'Aix--a very unpopular fellow with plenty of enemies.  Dr. Moette has held a very prestigious position at the university--a life-time post that includes a lavish apartment in a 17th C mansion as well as oodles of money to support a career of research that requires no teaching duties whatsoever.  Dr. Moette has announced his intention to retire and is all set to name his successor as well as name the graduate student recipient of an elite fellowship tied to the Dumas funds.  But he has a cruel streak in him--playing his colleagues and graduate students off of one another; promising the positions to first one and then another; and then the cruelest move of all...announcing at party that he has changed his mind and won't be retiring after all.

But someone decides to take matters into their own hands and force Moette's retirement upon him---permanently.  The doctor is found dead in his office with his head bashed in with an unusual blunt instrument, a 700 year-old religious statue.  Judge Antoine Verlaque and Commissioner Bruno Paulik look into the matter--aided by Verlaque's girlfriend, law professor Marine Bonnet--and find that more than fellowships have been up for grabs in the university theology department. 

This is the second novel in Longworth's detective series, but it is not necessary to have read the first to slip easily into the action of this one.  Explanations of relationships are clear and kept short (no rehashing of everything one might have learned in the first novel) and are just enough to make new readers comfortable.  The main characters are engaging and likeable and I particularly enjoyed the interactions between two of the graduate students, Yann Falquero and Thierry Marchive.  It is an interesting and fairly clued mystery that holds the attention.  

But....there was something about the writing.  It seems just a bit too short and to the point; very matter of fact....I'm not sure.  It has a j'ai ne sais quoi quality that doesn't quite meet my expectations for a novel set in France.  Maybe it has something to do with reading this one so close on the heels of the Fred Vargas novel.  The Vargas novel was originally written in French and had an excellent translator who instilled a lyrical quality.  Longworth is a Canadian who spends a great deal of time in France and seems to be trying to write from a French point of view and doesn't quite succeed.  She obviously loves France--evidenced by the descriptions of the area and the people, but doesn't quite pull off an authentic French feel.  Three stars. 


Susanne said...

Oh I don't know what a French feel would be in a mystery novel, but you have me intrigued enough to try and find this one at my library as well.

Man of la Book said...

I have heard about this book. As a big fan of Alexandre Dumas I probably would have picked it up as well.