The Prisoner of the Riviera
The second outing for 20th-century painter Francis Bacon as an accidental sleuth opens with a bang: “The war was over: Herr Hitler was dead Hirohito was mortal. We had flags and bunting, and I got marvelously drunk and committed a public indecency in Hyde Park—my little contribution to Britannia’s celebration.” In Janice Law’s capable hands, Bacon’s voice is a tad raunchy and refreshing, and his willing embrace of both the good things in life and the seedier side of town makes for entertaining reading.
Post-war life in London is dreary, and Bacon convinces Arnold, his respectable lover, and his childhood nanny to head south to Monte Carlo. But before they are to depart, he witnesses a man getting shot outside a club. The club owner asks him to deliver the man’s belongings to his widow, who just happens to live on the Riviera, in exchange for forgiving Bacon’s gambling debts. Naturally, it turns out to be much more complicated than a simple visit to a grieving widow, and Bacon quickly finds himself suspected of murder, stranded without papers, and with no idea who to trust. Despite his desperate situation, he is a sarcastic and delightful narrator always seeking a bit of fun even in the face of danger. The choice of Bacon as a gay protagonist definitely works. Highly recommended.