Review of Stifling Folds of Love
“It has been 10 years since John Brooke’s last Aliette Nouvelle mystery, and that is far, far too long. Brooke is easily one of Canada’s best crime writers, and this series, set in the environs of Strasbourg (the far environs) at France’s eastern border, is a real delight. Nouvelle is a strong character with a charming voice, but the books would not be as good if it were not for Commissaire Claude Neon and his extremely French police team. We are in Fred Vargas territory here.
There are several dead bodies, all well-known celebrities, all ex-lovers of the town’s near-legendary femme fatale, Pearl Serein. Just what makes Pearl irresistible is as mysterious as the heart attacks that finished off her lads. When Neon himself appears to be next on the list, or at least close to next, Aliette Nouvelle has to take charge of the mess already dubbed “the Pearl Effect.”
This is a smart, sophisticated mystery with lots of Gallic verve. Definitely the best of a very good series.”
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Stifling Folds of Love asks: The power of love — is it real, imaginary, vengeful or all of the above?
Teacher Pearl Serein appears to be collecting lovers. As each one dies from an apparent heart attack, her status rises at the local tennis club and more so when she occupies an elegant penthouse with panoramic views of the French countryside. She has also attracted the obsessive attention of the local celebrity gossip columnist, who chronicles every new romance and subsequent death.
Author John Brooke navigates through French legal mazes with ease. Commissaire Claude Neon is unable to resist the teacher’s charms, while Inspector Aliette Nouvelle can. The relaxed pace supports the tone set by the dialogue as it exposes the complex layers leading to the murderer in this bucolic, small-town setting. The writing may feel impressionistic but the climax is as threatening as they come.