Honestly, the title is enough to intrigue, but Carr manages to wind a cracking good yarn around a macabre crime scene. A young woman is found dead in the Seine. She was last seen going in to view the Gallery of Horrors wax museum. Detective Henri Bencolin, an examining magistrate, is the intrepid investigator. His ingenious exploits are related by American writer Jeff Marle, a sort of Watson to his Sherlock. Their investigation introduces them to an old school wax artisan, a daughter on the edge, a nervy fiancé, a shadowy club owner, and more.
Carr brings together elements of a classic whodunnit and a locked room puzzle. The impossibility of the crime makes it all the more tantalizing for Bencolin, and the reader. How the crime was committed is even more of a mystery than the criminal.
Carr’s writing shines brightest when he’s describing the seedy underground of Paris in the 1930s. Dark cobblestone alleys, worn doors with skeleton keys, smoky jazz clubs, mansions from a past age.
Vast spaces are hidden from Paris. The gardens of Faubourg St.-Germain come with the suddenness of an illusion when these tall old walls open their gates. You would sear that the avenues of trees stretch away for miles, that pools area enchanted and flower-beds spectral, and that no such spacious countryside can exist in the very centre of Paris traffic. Here are stone houses, gables and turreted, on phantom estates. In summer, when all the flower hues flame against green, and the trees sparkle with sunlight, these houses still seem proud and forlorn and ghostly. But in autumn their gables against a grey-white sky make you feel you have strayed into a countryside which is a thousand leagues from Paris or reality, and which exists only in time. A light in a window startles you. On these gravel walks at twilight you might meet and unlighted coach, with footmen, and four white horses, and you would realize, in the wind and thunder of its passing, that the passengers had been dead two hundred years. ~ Pg. 112
Although the puzzle is a bit convoluted, the clues are there and the solution is legitimate. And the final scene is a stunner. Truly though, the real fun, is feeling like you are with Bencolin as he traipses through the Paris night. I can’t wait to read another adventure.
My thanks to Mandy at Sourcebooks for the review copy.
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (November 9, 2021)
Paperback: 288 pages