This, the seventh entry in Barbara Cleverly’s Joe Sandilands mysteries, is as delightful as the previous titles. Filled with such true-life characters as Josephine Baker and Charles Lindbergh, it brings Paris of the late 1920s to life with great pizzazz.
One of the most enjoyable attributes of Barbara Cleverly’s series is that each book does a marvelous job of standing alone, without previous knowledge of the characters. This is also true of Folly du Jour. Here, Joe has left London and is in Paris just in time to see Lindbergh land. Caught up on the magic and the wonder of Lindbergh’s flight, the novel starts with a bang and keeps the reader enthralled as real people come to life and Joe takes on a particularly devious murderer.
Joe is in Paris ostensibly to attend an important Interpol meeting. However, when old friend George Jardine (mentioned in other novels in the series) takes a front-row seat as a murder suspect, Sandilands decides that his priority is to find out what really happened. Teaming up with French detective Inspector Jean-Philippe Bonnefoye, Joe sets out to solve the puzzling crimes. A serial killer? A stalker with a hidden agenda? Joe has to find out, or his mentor Jardine will be front and center in a court of law.
This novel is more violence-laden than some of the others in the series and more dramatic, with car chases and a more pulp-fiction feel. Nonetheless, the reader feels involved each step of the way, and inspired to struggle along with Sandilands for resolution. The locale is definitely different from the books in the series that take place in India (and elsewhere), and this reviewer recommends a careful reading of all the series’ titles, even though this book is a great read on its own.
The streets of Paris get a great viewing here, as does the theatre life. The classic Parisian criminals, the Apaches, are pivotal to the plot, and the glimpses of Baker, Lindbergh, Georges Simenon (journalist/writer) and other well-known names add a mystique and a delightful set of footnotes to the crime. Fast-paced, with terrific prose and visualizations, you can get lost in the Paris of 1927 without missing a beat.
As the book reaches its end, two possible suspects come to the forefront, each seemingly a logical choice as the murderer. However, unlike some mystery writers, Cleverly does a great job of keeping the reader bumfuzzled and intrigued. The mix of historical fiction and crime continues to keep the reader on the edge of their chair, and the finale is both appalling and innovative.
Folly du Jour is highly recommended, as are the other books in the Joe Sandilands series. Barbara Cleverly has another series starring protagonist Laetitia Talbot that is also worth experiencing.