Book Review: The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain @BelgraviaB

The Readers’ Room
Antoine Laurain
Gallic Books, September 2020
ISBN: 978-1-910477960
Hardcover

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.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Book Review: The Great and the Good by Michél Deon

The Great and the Good
Michel Déon
Gallic Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-910477-28-1
Trade Paperback

Originally published in 1996 as La Cour Des Grands, this translation of Déon’s Gatsby-like tale by Julian Evans tells the story of Arthur Morgan, the son of a poor French widow. He has a scholarship to an Ivy League university to study business law, and his mother spends money she can ill afford to purchase a first class cabin for him on the Queen Mary. Aboard the ship he meets Professor Concannon, who is on the faculty of university and is drinking himself into a stupor, and Allan Parker, an advisor to President Eisenhower, who becomes a valuable contact for Arthur. But of more importance to Arthur are the three beautiful young people he meets and becomes infatuated with.  There is Elizabeth Murphy, a carefree  wealthy bohemian with aspirations to become an actress, and the sultry and mysterious Brazilian Augusta, who immediately captivates Arthur. Complicating matters is Augusta’s brother Getulio, a fellow student at the university who is involved in gambling and a host of illegal schemes. Arthur becomes entangled in the lives of these people, and is slowly drawn into their circle. This coming of age story, set in the 1950s, reflects on Arthur’s choices and regrets, and the paths that his friends take lead to surprising consequences.

Déon is the author of over fifty books, including The Foundling Boy and The Foundling’s War.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, March 2017.