The Readers’ Room
Gallic Books, September 2020
Violaine Lepage heads up the readers’ room of a prestigious Parisian publishing house. How she got the position is a story within the story. Violaine has been injured in a bad airplane accident, so she has to contend with a bad leg all through the book. Meanwhile she sees and speaks with famous authors of an earlier time, particularly her favorite, Marcel Proust. A little woo-woo here, or perhaps a bit of a wonky mind.
In the readers’ room, a group of four readers go through the hundreds, sometimes thousands of manuscripts (all on paper, for the purposes of this story) searching for the next super prize-winning best seller. Excitement abounds when young Marie finds what she believes is IT, a mystery written by someone named Camille Désencres and dealing with the deaths of four men.
To much acclaim, the book is hot off the press when the news breaks that two men have been murdered under the exact circumstances described in the book. Another is also found dead, and the book tells of a fourth. Certain they’re on the track of a killer, in a race against time the police search desperately for the author before the last death can happen.
All will be explained in the end.
I see this book is billed as a comedic mystery. Perhaps I’m losing my sense of humor, but I have to say I didn’t emit a single chuckle, never mind a belly laugh. That’s not to say the story wasn’t interesting. The characters are well-defined, the writing is good, and most of the plot follows through well. I did, however, think the reader is led to early conclusions that give no clue as to the way events work out. And really, the nonsense about everyone, including the police of two countries, being unable to discover the identity of Camille Désencres just didn’t ring true. Surely these people have heard of following the money.
Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2020.
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery