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The Paris Directive: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Jun 19 2012
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"Outstanding! The Paris Directive is a beguiling, atmospheric, and entirely entertaining novel that promises intrigue and suspense from the very first page. Inspector Mazarelle is a wonderful creation: a world weary, gimlet-eyed detective who must rouse himself for one last case. I expect to see him one day in the pantheon of greats alongside Poirot, Maigret, Brunetti and Zen."
—Christopher Reich, New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Deception
"Jay’s entertaining first novel pays homage to George Simenon and his legendary detective, Inspector Maigret. . . . The main draw is the charming, indomitable Inspector Mazarelle, who enjoys puffing on his old pipe, stopping for cognac in the middle of the day, and dining on sausages and lentils or his favorite dish, duck confit, at the Café Valon. Mystery fans will look forward to seeing more of him in the promised sequel."
"Gerald Jay has woven threads of police procedural, espionage, rural noir, ‘acts of barbarism,’ and Gallic charm into a story that will be a great fit for almost any crime fan."
—Booklist, starred review
About the Author
GERALD JAY is a nom de plume. He lives in New York City and is at work on a second Mazarelle novel.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The characters are basically interesting, though not particularly well developed. The few main people moving around the French town of Taziac are pretty unique and, though he may have been given too many shortcomings, Inspector Mazarelle comes across as a combination of Poirot and Columbo. I'm still not sure just how well that combination will work for a series.
Halfway through the book, I was stunned by actions of one of the characters. I dislike books that take supposedly smart people and have them do dumb things just so the story can take a twist. In this case it was unbelievably dumb given the circumstances. The rest of the book became totally predictable. This caused me to cringe while reading; never a good thing.
Getting through the rest of the book was more chore than fun. But, finish it I did. Characters acting out of character does not make for a believable story. And, while some "coincidences" are bound to happen in the world, too many, involving the same people, and occurring in a short period of time (not to mention at just the right moment - but I"ll mention it anyway) take a book with an interesting premise and turn it into a book that's just OK. Per Amazon, that's three stars.
2. Élysée Palace, Paris
3. Hotel Adlon, Berlin
4. L'Ermitage, Taziac
6. Dordogne River, Bergerac
7. Café Valon, Taziac
Ah, looks like international intrigue. Sure enough, we begin by meeting Klaus Reiner, hired killer, whose cold efficiency, bland good looks and fluency in German, French and English have put him at the peak of his deadly profession, with the ability to choose the most lucrative contracts.
Reiner's newest assignment takes him to the fictional village of Taziac, in France's Dordogne. The beautiful village in summer, with its cafés and restaurants, makes no impression on the all-business Reiner. He just wants to get the job done and move on, with the satisfaction of seeing an impressively large new deposit to his numbered account in Switzerland. But the hit goes wrong and Reiner has to take out four middle-aged tourists, instead of just the one assigned to him.
This is where our protagonist enters the scene. Paul Mazarelle, a former Paris police detective now living in Taziac, jumps on the case like a dog on a bone. Mazarelle had moved to Taziac, his young wife's home village, when she became ill, and he is now a widower who doesn't know whether to make Taziac his permanent home or return to Paris. Mazarelle is a comfortably large, middle-aged man with a luxuriant mustache, who enjoys his pipe, good wine and food, and women. But, most of all, Mazarelle likes to sink his teeth into a meaty murder case.
Mazarelle's investigation quickly identifies a likely suspect, but he has some doubts and digs deeper, mostly hampered, more than helped, by his men, especially Dutoit, whose job qualifications include stupidity, laziness, insolence, racism and habitual abuse of suspects and witnesses. When a couple of the murder victims' daughter arrives from the U.S. to kibitz the investigation and further inflame the interest of the already-annoying journalists who have descended on the town, Mazarelle's job becomes even more complicated.
An intriguing cat-and-mouse game begins between Mazarelle and Reiner, which leads to a tense and dramatic climax. Readers who enjoy inverted mysteries (those in which the culprit is known; not a whodunnit) should enjoy this story--though it has some flaws, mostly in characterization. The reader doesn't get a good feel for what Mazarelle is really like. At first, he seems like a shrewd, avuncular investigator. But later actions belie that image and we don't read anything to reconcile the differences into a fuller understanding of a more complex character. Similarly, Reiner turns from a coldly calculating and controlled, intelligent hitman into something quite different, but with no hint of the reasons for the alteration.
Gerald Jay is a pseudonym. Whoever he is, despite these stumbles in characterization, his writing is assured and powerful, leading me to believe he must have some kind of writing experience. Jay is said to be at work on a new Mazarelle book. I'm hopeful that as we get to know Mazarelle better, he will become an old friend.
When four wealthy, middle aged tourists, two Americans and two Canadians are brutally murdered in their rented farm house, the worst crime in the district since the 2nd World War the local authorities soon hand the case to Mazarelle, a former hot shot Paris detective who relocated to the region to tend his dying wife. Mazarelle soon proves out the prefect's faith in him by finding clues and discounting suspects the local police have made a mess of and is on the trail. The dialogue is good and the pacing, after a few missteps early on, good, but there is a problem with the book. You know who the murderer is.
In the opening pages you are introduced to a professional assassin who is hired for the killing and you follow him through his shell identities as he sets up for the kill. Since you already know the who and the when and, if a sharp reader, the why there is little sense of `who done it.' Instead it is, like those hour long TV detective `mysteries' in the 70's and 80's. The sort that had the reveal at the bottom of the hour and an exciting car chase 45 minutes in.
In a way this is the only disappointing part of the book for me. I like the pacing. I like the lead character and I like the development. Jay doesn't feel the need to lay out all of the character's life story when he first appears. Little things are revealed over time and it seems more organic this way. Mazarelle is no super sleuth, no Poirot or Holmes but a regular policeman with a good deal of experience and a streak of the anarchist buried within him, though I think it must be in the fictional detectives' handbook that the protagonist must annoy authority figures at least once every 47.3 pages or turn in his union card.
In the end I did enjoy reading through this. It was a nice distraction from other things and I might even buy the next one when it comes out, but if I'm honest the lack of mystery in the detective story was a disappointment.
The (well-drawn up until this time) hit man is asked to return to the scene of the crime and commit yet another murder to silence a relative of the deceased. Another murder of a high-profile visiting American will end the uproar over the previous murders?! That's preposterous. In reality it would fan the flames even higher.
So at this point The Paris Directive lost all credibility for me, though I read on through to the finish. Where oh where, I kept wondering, were the editors?
It's 1999. contract killer Klaus Reiner has just been hired by two former French intelligence agents to eliminate an American businessman vacationing in southwestern France. Reiner specializes in murders that the police file away as accidents. He has no problem locating his target in a house outside the small village of Taziac, but things go pear-shaped when three innocent people are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These murders are assigned to Inspector Paul Mazarelle, formerly of Paris but now living in Taziac. His superiors fully expect him to bring his experience and successful record to bear on this quadruple homicide that's occurred at the height of tourist season.
Enter Molly Reece, a New York City district attorney and the daughter of two of the victims. All the evidence points to a local Arab handyman, but after talking to him, Reece has doubts that he's the killer. So does Mazarelle, but Molly's knack of showing up in high profile locations and running her own investigation not only makes Mazarelle's job more difficult, it makes Reiner nervous enough to return to Taziac to ensure the police interpret the evidence the way he wants them to.
Author Gerald Jay has taken the threads of the police procedural, the spy novel, and French charm and woven them into a vastly entertaining read. Mazarelle is a big bear of a man who smokes a special blend (Philosophe) of tobacco in his pipe, enjoys a midday cognac, and eats his favorite meals at the Café Valon. Although he believes he's not in the ranks of literary sleuths the like of Maigret or Poirot because his powers of intuition are much greater than his powers of observation, he is known as "the Swiss Army knife of detectives." One of the things he insists upon when given command of the investigation is the power of handpicking his detectives, and it's fascinating to see how he chooses them. During the selection, I felt as though there was one detective in particular that was a weak link, and it was interesting to see if my deduction was correct.
Molly Reece adds a strong yet naïve element to the cast of characters, although her intelligence and intuition seems to fade in and out as the story progresses. Klaus Reiner is one of the more interesting villains I've become acquainted with recently, a chillingly attractive blend of ego, intelligence, and psychopathy.
There are some excellent mystery series set in France-- especially those written by Cara Black, Fred Vargas, and Martin Walker. How does Gerald Jay's The Paris Directive compare? Very well indeed. I was quite happy to see that he's working on his second Inspector Mazarelle mystery. These talented writers are making France a regular stop in my crime fiction reading.