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Murder on the Champs-Élysées: A Belle-Époque Mystery (The Belle-Époque Mysteries Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
The end. REQUESTED! That + the title = done deal. I'm really glad I did too because this is a fantastic book. It's lush with vibrant characters and a mystery plot line that's absorbing. If an author can get my thoughts to churn over a book when I'm not reading the book, that's the mark of a good read and an invested reader.
Before I forget, this isn't a romance. There are romantic elements that may evolve into something as the series progresses, but this is gay lit/fiction. The blurb (that I only read two words of) doesn't really indicate that and I admit I was expecting there to be some romance, but I have to tell you I got so engrossed in this story that I... forgot. I looked down at the percentage read and was at almost 90% when I realized, 'hey! this isn't a romance!'. Clearly, I don't feel shortchanged in the slightest, but if you need sex and romance in your reads, you'll likely be disappointed.
The central "relationship" in this novel is between Devré and Lucie and the best way to describe their relationship is adversarial. He's investigating the murder of Paul Bacard and she is his prime suspect. They are worthy adversaries. Both are clever, astute, observant and perceptive. They don't like each other but it's clear they respect each other. Their quipping and maneuvering was entertaining and is what endeared both to me. I don't know whether I liked their interplay better or Dr. Jackson with either of them.
Dr. Jackson is a GR-HAAAAAA-UMP and a pathologist. He make me laugh so hard a few times that I had my face in my hands trying to stifle my cackling. AND he's American! An American outgrumped the original grumps! Priceless!
Devré is an inspector with La Sûreté. He's also a dandy. Can we just pause for a moment of dandy appreciation? Go ahead and conjure up your favorite image, I'll wait. *stares into the distance* He's gay and all that that implies in 1900. The fact that he's a law enforcement officer further complicates matters for him. He's got some self-loathing going on due to his sexuality which pulled at my heartstrings. I'm hoping he can find some peace and happiness before this thing is said and done. Maybe with Huvet? *hopeful eyes*
"His was a life of subterfuge and dishonesty juxtaposed with a vocation spent uncovering truth and promoting justice."
La Balise a.k.a. Lucie-Genviève Madeleine is the most famous courtesan in all of Paris. Can I just say how much I love the French? I LOVE THE FRENCH!!!!!! They revere her so much that they've elevated her into the rarified stratosphere of celebrity. Of course she's beautiful and charming, but anyone that underestimates her because of her gender does so at their own peril. I do love a strong, quick witted female character and Mandon has created one with Lucie.
Truth be told, I loved all three of these characters. They, as well as the secondary characters, all are expertly drawn with unique voices. Mandon's prose is strong and sumptuous, flowing like the Seine on a summer day with its rich imagery. It's also so very, very FRENCH! Mandon didn't just capture the ethos and decadence of the bourgeoise of this era, but the mindset that makes the French so... well, French.
First and foremost, this novel is a mystery full of twists and turns, multiple suspicious characters and subterfuge. The way the case evolves is smart, slowly revealing a breadcrumb trail of clues for the reader to follow. There are no explosions or grandiose antics to cheapen the narrative. It stays true to the time and is truly an investigation, some aspects of which can be mundane, but I'll tell you, Mandon gave me a run for my money. That's a win in my book.
The weaving of the historical aspects into the fabric of this narrative so seamlessly lends further credence to Mandon being an accomplished writer. It's clearly well researched from the language to the attitudes to the class differences to the societal expectations of the time. All are top-notch. Never once did I get pulled out of the story by a careless lapse in continuity.
I loved a lot about this book but how Paris is integral, almost like another character in the story made it special for me. I always get a thrill when I've been to the places in my reads especially when I loved the place and I love Paris. Cliché or no, tis true.
Gorgeous writing, likable characters that are fully realized and an engrossing mystery have ensured that I'll be back for The Belle Époque Mysteries part deux.
Recommend to mystery fans.
First off, just . . .WOW. I loved this book unreservedly. I am a huge sucker for historical mysteries, and also for well-written, interesting, unique characters and this book hit all the high points on pretty much every I-love-this-trope list.
Guillaume Devré is a fascinating main character, and an exceptional detective with the Paris police force. He's called to investigate one of les grandes horizontals (which is pretty much the most awesome name ever), basically really really famous courtesans who unlike many of the women of the time, were free to dictate their own paths and manage their own affairs. And Lucie, our other main characters, does exactly that. She takes no shit from ANYONE and it is glorious.
The setting is also glorious (I MEAN BELLE EPOQUE PARIS), and the details were swoony. The writing was subtle and it wasn't over-written. Characters focus when they need to. Guillaume lets him get distracted, and understandably, but there is no "let me hit pause on this murder investigation so I can conveniently shag my love interest."
I didn't really care who murdered who, that's how much I enjoyed the book. I can see some foreshadowing setup for the next books, and I appreciate so much that not every mystery was solved. We know tiny tantalizing glimpses of Lucie's past, along with her half-brother. The book, while solving the actual mystery at hand, was brilliant at revealing just enough of everyone's history. There are clearly many more mysteries to solve, and I am 10000000% there. Just tell me where and when.
This book stands as a love letter to Paris. Fantastic world building, incorporating plenty of intriguing historical trivia about the city and the times - such as medicine, the morgues and photography.
Most importantly are the characters. It is so refreshing to read such dynamic characters who don't "fit in" to society's norms at the time. There's a lot going on in this book - plot-wise and with the characters. I loved Inspector Devre and the demons he has to face and the secrets he has to keep solely because of his sexuality in a time where he could be jailed or murdered for living his true life . He truly was a breath of fresh air. Lucie, La Balise, the courtesan was also multi-layered (and I can't wait to learn more about her past, so fingers crossed there will be another book in this series.)
The plot moved forward very quickly and kept me guessing as to who the murderer was. I'll be honest, I didn't see it coming, but when it was revealed it made total sense.
I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book. The mystery kept me on the edge of my seat, the romantic edge was bitter, heartbreaking, and so well done.
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