October 2019 book reviews
We read recent releases with a link to France. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time. This month, we reviewed Isabella of Angoulême, Love and Invention, Minced, Marinated, and Murdered, and Number Ten
Love and Invention - Benjamin Constable ***EDITOR'S CHOICE***
Editions du Délirium, €16 ISBN: 979-1-091-63309-3
Two stories which at first seem to have no link between them are juxtaposed in this enjoyable novel.
A 16-year-old teenager, Maleck, dreams of being with his friends in Paris but is stuck in a French village, where he is bullied.
As a parallel the story of philosopher, inventor and mathematician Abbas Ibn Firnas – who disappeared years ago after inventing a flying machine – appears, first as a distinct story until a hint is given to readers when Maleck tries to know more about his grandfather... who is Abbas.
While looking for more information on his grandfather, the young boy will become friends with an old lady, Yvette, who knows a lot about Abbas but tends to think that Maleck was Abbas.
This story, however, is not only about a boy trying to find more about his origins.
It is also about someone who has dreams and who is trying to find his place in this world.
The book is only available online, and sent by mail from France.
Isabella of Angoulême: The Tangled Queen Part 2 - Erica Lainé
SilverWood Books, £9.99 ISBN: 978-1-78132-733-3
For the second novel in her trilogy on Queen Isabella of Angoulême, the author has trained her focus on the monarch’s relationship with power and men.
Back in the 13th century, readers are invited to witness how the pure determination of a woman can lead her to power, in spite of the struggles she has to face.
After the death of her husband, King John, the Queen is unwanted in England and goes back to France, where she aims to take power back and claim her inheritance.
But she did not realise how difficult it would be for her to reclaim her territory now that local fiefdoms have taken over her land.
The story also reminds us of the links between France and the United Kingdom, which have been really strong for centuries. UK royals have always had a certain attachment to France.
The author also comes back to the second marriage of The Queen and mixes passion, politics and treachery.
It is a good read for anyone interested in the UK’s historic links to France, or France’s history but also for those who love a story about power, politics and territory.
The author’s previous novel focused more on the main character’s first marriage and how unhappy and mistreated Isabella was.
This novel paints a picture of one woman’s strength, in that we see Isabella trying to be more independent – despite the fact that marriage at the time was essential to becoming someone important.
Minced, Marinated, and Murdered - Vanessa Barrot and Noël Balen
Le French Book, £14.06 ISBN: 978-1-939474-67-4
A food journalist, Laure Grenadier, and her photographer, Paco Alvarez, arrive in Lyon to write a cultural feature on the famous bouchons lyonnais.
These traditional restaurants, where you can eat delicious meals and some French specialities, are numerous in the historical centre of Lyon and each restaurant has its own history as several generations have owned them.
However, after her first hours in the city, the two reporters discover that the chef of Le Petit Pouce restaurant was killed.
It comes as a shock to Laure, who knew the chef well and adored him. She immediately tries to understand what happened but nobody around her really knows who could be the murderer.
One of the chef’s relatives later mentions a man who was trying to buy all the traditional restaurants to transform them into night clubs, some months ago. But this strange man never managed to convince any of the chefs to sell up, in spite of the huge amounts of money offered.
This same man becomes a greater suspect when a further chef is killed, and this second murder brings even more fear than the first.
However, the mysterious murderer is nowhere to be found and the suspect could still be anyone in Lyon.
While trying to solve the case, the book offers great descriptions of Lyon, and the food which remains at the centre of the story. Everything is described in such a manner that you feel like you are sat at the restaurant with Laure and her photographer.
On the other hand, mixing serious murders, grief and the pleasure of food can appear quite strange but this is how the book remains entertaining. In the end, you feel like you were part of the trip and put in a situation where you want to visit the city, but also try to solve murders.
This book was co-written by Noël Balen, who previously wrote the Winemaker Detective series where readers are invited to discover French vineyards and their history. He has teamed up with corporate lawyer Vanessa Barrot, who comes from a family of Parisian restaurant owners. She brings a feminine touch to the story while also giving lots of historical facts about French cuisine.
Together the two authors have managed to make this novel an easy read, perfect for anyone who dreams of visiting Lyon.
Number Ten - Robin Hawdon
Brown Dog Books, £8.99 ISBN: 978-1-83952-000-6
This novel brings you straight into the action, at the heart of the security team of the new UK Prime Minister who is threatened by terrorist attacks.
It is an interesting thriller which reflects the current problems in Europe, though while it may resonate with what we have been experiencing in the last few years in Europe, the story remains a fiction in which we are thrust into the secrets of the office at 10 Downing Street.
The new Prime Minister, James Torrence, has been elected in the hope of getting rid of radical groups, terrorism and crime.
He appears very determined but as every Prime Minister discovers, he will meet a lot of opponents creating controversy.
Among these opponents, some might become enemies. And members of his team have to be very attentive to the PM’s security, especially after an assassination attempt.
A new member of his staff, Paul Gunter, finds himself implicated, accused of giving inside information, and has to prove his innocence. Who is really trying to kill the Prime Minister, and who is giving information from the inside?
The story is a mix of politics, corruption, loyalty and love, while also being an exciting and entertaining page-turner..