by J. Robert Janes,
ISBN: 1569471584

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by I. M. Owen

EVEN IN WARTIME, even in a country under enemy occupation, everyday life goes on, with its ordinary events - like murder. In the opening pages of Mayhem (McClelland & Stewart), 272 pages, $24.99 cloth), by J. Robert Janes, it is December 1942 and two detectives are standing in Fontainebleau Forest looking down at a murdered body. One is a chief inspector of the Surete, and his partner is a captain in the Gestapo. It's a good idea, and Janes has worked out a good story, with a notably impressive heroine. Even though the plot, and the detectives' reasoning, sometimes seem to proceed by a system of non-sequiturs, the story held me, and it stood up well under a second reading.

This is in spite of one serious blemish: the author's adoption of a style for the dialogue and occasionally for the narrative that reads like a literal translation from French: "the General Ackermann" and "Me, I am sorry, Monsieur the inspector." This must have been a deliberate decision; it's a bad one, and I hope Janes will reconsider it before he publishes the rest of the trilogy of which this is the first volume. But I look forward to the next two books anyway. The situation of the French policeman (whose wife has moved in with a German officer) is well imagined, as he tries to do his job conscientiously under the suspicious eyes both of the enemy and of the Resistance.


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