Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay - Book Review
Crossing the Line: Paris Homocide #2 by Frédérique Molay and Anne Trager (translator) (Le French Book, 2014, 280 pages, $27.33/$9.39) is a police procedural set in Paris, the second English translation of a series of novels featuring Chief Nico Sirsky of the elite Criminal Investigation Department of the Paris Police. The first novel by Molay to be translated into English, The Seventh Woman succeeded in creating the characters in two major settings, their police function of solving intractable cases, and the domestic roilings of Sirsky's finding a new love and beginning to work through the dissolution of a marriage gone wrong. It succeeded beyond my expectations, and I enjoyed the mystery, as it resolved itself from gruesome murders to an tension filled climax. In all the areas where The Seventh Woman succeeded, Crossing the Line fails. The tensions in Sirsky's domestic life have fallen into the background, the search for the killer seems rather routine, dialogue is wooden and filled with unnecessary medical jargon, and the scenes of medical dissection and training using multiple cadavers never rise to the grisly horror Molay tells us is present. I finished reading this novel only because I had enjoyed the first enough to give the second an opportunity to find its way into my liking, but neither the plot nor the characters work this time around.
Pharmacist Bruno Guedj has died after agreeing to donate his body to science. At the lab where such things happen, his body has been dissected and various parts distributed for different medical specialties to work on. Guedj's head, along with those of thirty nine others, are to be the subject of training session for experienced dentists learning to extract wisdom teeth. During this routine exercise, one pair finds a funny looking filling and lifts it off, only to find a note concealed beneath it. The note reads, “I was murdered.” There follows an ever widening investigation into first Guedj and his family , then extending to his colleagues and acquaintances while it follows up several dead end paths before finding connections that rise higher and higher into the French social and economic structure as well as exploring aspects of medical ethics. The use of Internet chat lines to help uncover the ultimate mystery is never effective. Conversations meant to elucidate various issues seem stilted and focused on providing needed information rather than increasing plot tensions. The slow introduction of the maniacal killer, as the investigation reaches ever closer, never creates enough tension to capture the reader as it did in The Seventh Woman. All told, Crossing the Line is a sodden mess of leaden prose lacking passion, verisimilitude, or anything calculated to capture and hold a reader.
Writing has always been a passion for Frédérique Molay. She graduated from France's prestigious Science Po and began her career in politics and the French Administration. She worked as chief of staff for the deputy mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and then was elected to the local government in Saone-et- Loire. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursuing the passion she had nourished since penning her first novel at the age of eleven. After The Seventh Woman took France by storm, Frédérique Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, with three in the Paris Homicide series. (from About the Author in the text) These books were first published nearly a decade ago, and have been brought to the U.S. in translations by Ann Trager.
Crossing the Line: Paris Homocide #2 by Frédérique Molay and Anne Trager (translator) (Le French Book, 2014, 280 pages, $27.33/$9.39) does not live up to the promise of The Seventh Woman. Though my voice seems to be in the minority on this one, I do not recommend it. The book was provided to me in an electronic galley by the publisher through Edelweiss. I read it on my Kindle.