All widowed Southern food columnist Amy Page wants is to enjoy the quiet corner of Paris that is Ile St-Louis and to finish writing her cookbook. But fate intervenes when a pleasant flea-market shopping spree ends with her apartment torn apart and a cab driver
garroted on her doorstep.
Jean-Michel Jolivet, an inspector for the French Sûreté and director
of the International Bureau of Security. The implications of the cabbie's death
have tentacles reaching back to the spy games of the Cold War, and Jolivet is
responsible for uncovering the web of intrigue lying beneath the surface of this
homicide case - and for protecting the American witness. Confusing the matter is
the maelstrom of emotions Amy Page stirs in him - she's maddening to question as
she veers into elaborations on seemingly meaningless details, she's at once the
picture of naive innocence and worldly experience, and she has simply captivated
the residents of the insular Ile St-Louis.
As the magnitude of the case grows and disturbing truths about her family and
lifelong friends are uncovered, Amy is as discomfitted by Jolivet's
personal-to-professional-and-back-again manner as he is by her quirks and
herself. They teeter on the edge of a friendship that wants to become more,
always falling back into detachment as the larger plot underlying the murder
injects another dose of conspiracy and danger into their situation.
As interesting as it may be, the plot and even the characters play an almost
secondary role to setting, as author Gini Anding renders the Ile St-Louis in
such vivid detail that readers will find it difficult to resist calling a travel
agent and booking a flight on the next plane to Paris. Mind you, this isn't the Paris that
tourists typically see; this is a singular, almost provincial part of the City
of Light peopled by exceptional characters who sometimes steal the scene even
when they aren't in the scene (like the never-seen Caroline Rochefort, de facto queen
of the Ile).
It is this loving attention to the ambience, rich history, and beauty of the
that sets Witness on the Quay, the first book in Anding's Witness series, above so many romantic mysteries set
in exotic locales. And Anding comes by such intimate knowledge legitimately; an
avowed lover of all things French since her childhood, her scholarly studies on French poets
and poetry have twice earned her accolades and decorations by the French
government. She and her husband also founded French Forum, a journal
dedicated to the publication of outstanding scholarship on French and Francophone literary production, considered to be one
of the top ten journals in the field. The believability of experience is
writ large here, and any Francophile would do well to fall under the spell of Witness on the Quay.