Book Review: Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay

Posted October 24, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Crossing the Line by Frédérique MolayCrossing the Line by Frédérique Molay
Genres: Mystery, Police Procedural
Published by Le French Book on September 23, 2014
Pages: 280
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley


It's Christmas in Paris. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He's in love and raring to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Dental students discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head. Is it a sick joke? Sirsky and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide to an apparent accident to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? More suspense and mystery with the Paris Homicide team from the prizewinning author Frédérique Molay, the "French Michael Connelly".

Also by this author: The City of Blood

Second in the Paris Homicide mystery series and revolving around Nico Sirsky. Crossing the Line is set in Paris.

This ARC was provided by NetGalley and Le French Book in exchange for an honest review.

My Take
NOTE: I don’t know if show is not the style for French writers, but all the tell and very little show along with all the info dumps are what has dragged the star rating down. Otherwise, it is a good story. I just thought you should know that I am applying American expectations of show versus tell and my hatred for info dumps to it. It’s the lack of show that makes this feel like such a cold story.

This is a very simplistic example of one of the many info dumps:
“Marc Walberg was the only one not to react, although Nico noted an involuntary twitch in his left eye. Walberg was pathologically shy.”

Molay tosses in those very short terrifying chapters every once in a while to ensure we know that evil is afoot, an evil that encompasses fear for loved ones. They’re vague enough that we have no idea until the end who the thoughts apply to or who thinks them.

It’s an intriguing look into how police in Paris run their investigations. How it’s different from what we think happens here in America. I certainly relished the moments of gustatory joy, and it took me back to one particular week in Paris. Ahh, it was a lovely little neighborhood restaurant…*yummy*…

Ya gotta love Anya. She knows what is important, and she keeps her husband in line. It’s a trait she’s passed onto her son who ensures that Dimitri’s maternal grandparents remain in his life. There’s just enough of Nico’s family life (although I’d’ve liked to see more of Caroline) in the story to bring life, a warmth, to Crossing the Line.

It’s gruesome and somewhat macabre, but still a fascinating look behind the scenes of a research school with its body donations department. All the rules, regs, and procedures they employ to keep things on the up-and-up. In some respects, it’s almost factory-like with its requests for x number of elbows, heads, or hands. I do appreciate that all this experimenting is done on people who are already dead.

There was something about the way Molay brought my attention to the Locard Principle that caused it to stick in my mind, and I’ve become more aware of the history behind it and its purpose when I read of it in other mysteries.

Hmm, Nico notes that there are no cowboys in La Crim’, and that doesn’t sound like human nature. Sure, it makes for a much more controlled, not to say productive!, department. But then where is the conflict to come from? Stories need conflict from more than one direction. And could be another reason I feel that Crossing the Line is cold.

It’s that message sticking up from the out-of-place filling that tips Marcel and the police off that this might not be a suicide. But during the initial investigation Molay emphasizes all the reasons it’s suicide for pages. I got annoyed with all this and wished that Molay had either countered each “suicide” reason with questions or suggestions about how it may not be. Put the emphasis on the questions instead of the seeming facts. Why didn’t the cops question whether Guedj was right- or left-handed at the time? Why would they assume he was right-handed?

With all the twists and turns Crossing the Line takes, how do you know when you’ve done enough? When you’ve investigated thoroughly? When what looks like a tragic accident turns out to be so much more? All for the sake of spending more time AND money. Huge considerations for police departments and forensic labs when people keep dying everywhere.

There are touches of melodrama — especially in the dialog and the too-abrupt conversations, almost robotic, that bug me. And I do have a hard time imagining a Frenchman saying ma’am instead of madame. Has that changed? Mum’s the word doesn’t sound too French either.

I loved Marcel’s “confession”! It’s true. We want everyone to have a special degree “proving” they can do the job when the truth of it is that practical life experience can be so much more valuable. When I think of the number of people I know with degrees who are not working in their degree’d fields…

It doesn’t matter how many times I read that section about Janin’s being so disappointed in not getting the Ham-Wasserman prize. Oh, I think I finally got it. Janin was still alive when he didn’t get the prize. I’d been under the impression that he’d died. I simply couldn’t figure out how Janin could be disappointed if he was dead, or if it was the Chinese guy who won it instead who was disappointed. Weird.

I enjoyed the info dump about Richard Wallace and his fountains. I’m not sure what it had to do with the story though.

There are a couple of sad sections in this in which Clarisse is blogging about her disease, and the responses others are making to cheer her up or keep her informed.

After all this. All this death. What was wrong with a leave of absence? How did these men expect to return to society when their mission was complete? What happened to Helen?

The Story
It’s a course at the university that reveals a cry for help from a dead man.

Nico’s mother-in-law has her own cry for help: find Sylvie.

One of the positives in Nico’s life? His burgeoning relationship with Caroline.

The Characters
Chief Nico Sirksy is recovering from his injuries, his divorce, and his ex-wife’s departure. Dimitri is his fourteen-year-old son, who shocks his father with his choice of a career. Dr. Caroline Dalry is his lover, and she runs the gastroenterology department at Saint Antoine Hospital. Anya is Nico’s Russian mother while his sister, Tanya, is married to Alexis, a physician and seaman with a love for fine wines, and they have two children. Jacqueline and André Canova are Sylvie’s parents, his ex-in-laws. Sylvie is in Saujon.

Criminal Investigation Division has…
…twelve squads (with nine of them on call every ninth day) and is based on the Quai des Orfèvres alongside the Seine. The sign states that it is the Brigade Criminelle, and is affectionately known as La Crim’. It “handles homicides, kidnappings, missing persons, sex crimes, arson, terrorist threats, and other sensitive cases”. Claire Le Marec is his deputy chief; Yann is Claire’s husband. Deputy Chief Jean-Marie Rost is one of his four section chiefs and leads the squads which are headed up by Kriven, Théron, and Hureau (he’s being promoted to deputy chief and moved over to vice; Commander Charlotte Maurin will be moved in to take Hureau’s place.).

Commander David Kriven is one of the squad chiefs and a hypochondriac. In The 7th Woman, 1, Captain Amélie Adler, one of Kriven’s people, was murdered, and it’s still affecting some of the team. Captain Franck Plassard is the second-ranking detective. Captain Pierre Vidal is Kriven’s third-ranking detective and in charge of processing the crime scene. Lieutenant Almeida doesn’t handle the body donation room very well. And I can’t say I blame him!

Dr. Armelle Vilars is the chief medical examiner. Professor Charles Queneau heads the police forensic lab and is dying of cancer. Dr. Tom Robin is their molecular biologist. Mark Walberg is the lab’s top handwriting expert. Dominique Kreiss is the division’s only profiler.

Magistrate Alexandre Becker teams up with Nico to lead the investigation. In France, magistrates keep an eye on the cops to ensure legal compliance. Stephanie is his wife; they have two children.

Deputy Police Commissioner Michel Cohen is demanding results from the jewel heist. Commissioner Nicole Monthalet juggles her own bosses: the police prefect, the ministry of the interior, and the the public prosecutor who answers to the ministry of justice.

Part of the antiterrorist division under Nico, Helen Vasnier heads up the investigation and training squad and Bastien Gamby is her computer specialist.

Paris Descartes University is…
…”one of France’s flagship medical schools” … and “an important research institution”. Dr. Patrice Rieux is a dentist whose company offers a “course of studies for dentists who want to perfect their emergency surgery skills”. Marcel is the university’s most experienced body processor. Elisabeth Bordieu is his boss, the administrative manager of the Body Donation Center. Professor Francis Étienne is the head of the anatomy department. John is a volunteer curator at the Delmas-Orfila-Rouviere Museum, historical exhibits about forensics and anatomy.

Bruno Guedj was a pharmacist who owned his own business before he died. Now he’s number 510. Mrs. Guedj is, of course, distraught. They have two teenage sons, one of whom is Romain. Dr. Philippe Owen, a first responder, signed Guedj’s death certificate. Dr. Maxime Robert was Guedj’s regular dentist. Denis Roy is the pharmacy manager. Melanie was one of their employees. Maître Belin is the family notary. François Brun is Guedj’s editor for the book on drug compounding. Thibauld was the sales clerk who provides the breaking clue.

Dr. Christophe Parize was an old schoolfriend of Guedj’s and a hematologist at Saint Louis Hospital who died last year. Florence Parize is Christophe’s mother. His ex-wife, a paralegal, is bitter, but very proud of their two children: Marine and Olivier. Dr. Christine Sahian got the job Parize wanted. Professor Claude Janin is/was a huge deal in immunology and histocompatibility. Danièle Lemaire is the intensive care nurse with whom Janin had been having an affair.

Clarisse Quere was a classmate of Marine’s. Her father is Edward Quere, the billionaire. His embittered wife is Helen.

Oh, I want to have lunch at Petit Zinc! Although…not after playing with dead heads! The Marais is a neighborhood in Paris that was revitalized in the 1960s when André Malraux took a hand.

The Locard Principle was written by “Edmond Locard, the father of French forensic science” … and … “often called the Sherlock Holmes of France”. It states that every contact leaves a trace. Iaroslav Morenko teaches Russian at the Sorbonne — Nico and Dimitri are keeping up with their Russian ancestry. Oh, very cool! I didn’t know that Stanley Milgram came up with the “six-degrees of separation” theory.

The Cover
The cover reminds me of Molay’s The 7th Woman, 1, with its iconic Eiffel Tower rising up in the background against a slightly ominous blue sky, a silhouette of the homes in a Parisian neighborhood rising up against that sky, and the flashing red lights of the police, an angle of police tape reminding us of all sorts of lines we shouldn’t cross.

The title is what they do, Crossing the Line for the results they want.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Leave a Reply