I think I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I am on a mission of sorts to find a decent crime fiction series that I can get hooked into from the very beginning. On one of my regular blog-rounds I spotted a review of one of the Jacquot series by Martin O'Brien - unfortunately I can't remember now which blogger it was who brought these books to my attention but the premise immediately appealed to my inner Francophile so I quickly secured a swap for the first book in the collection.
Daniel Jacquot is an ex-rugby player with a glittering career behind him, having achieved national fame scoring the winning try in a Five Nations final. Sadly, a troublesome injury put paid to his sporting talent and he has returned to his home town, Marseilles, as a chief inspector with the homicide squad. In this book we find him on the hunt for a serial killer who the tabloid press have dubbed 'The Waterman' due to his nasty habit of leaving his victims to a watery grave.
I found this to be a really solid, well-written thriller. It started slowly and took me a while to get into it, but after about the 100-page mark I was gripped. The whole thing is meticulously plotted with a large cast of supporting characters, and O'Brien takes the time to develop even minor players and give the reader a real insight into their thoughts and behaviour. The narrative is made up of fairly short chapters that flit back and forth between different locations and characters. This ensured I stayed engrossed throughout, as I was constantly wanting to read 'just a bit more' to find out what would happen in my favourite plot strands. Martin O'Brien spent a number of years as travel editor at British Vogue and I suspect he may have spent a decent amount of time in Marseilles to paint such a vivid picture of the city with its lively seafront and seedy underbelly.
Aside from the slightly silly tagline (WHO says drowning is easy?!! They are wrong!) the only quibble I had with this book was with the ending. It initially seemed really abrupt and something of a cop-out - the author seems to have spent so much effort building a complex back-story with multiple plot strands and much of it is irrelevant to the final solution of the mystery. On reflection, though, I think I only felt disappointed because the finale was unexpected and didn't pan out the way I had wanted it to. Now that a bit of time has passed I feel that could actually be viewed as a positive.
I have already obtained a copy of book two in the Daniel Jacquot series so you can tell I was quite impressed by this one.
In other news, I am heading to London this weekend and have some time to kill with bookish company in the form of Justin Cronin's The Passage. If anybody has any recommendations of cosy places to while away an hour with a good cup of tea and maybe cake, please share them!