Witness on the Quay
Gini Anding
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Witness on the Quay

Gini Anding
220 pages
January 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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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.

Enter 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 Ile St-Louis 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.

Click here to visit Witness on the Quay author Gini Anding's website

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Sharon Schulz-Elsing, 2005

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