Murder in Byzantium
Kristeva’s third mystery featuring French journalist Stephanie Delacour and chief detective Northrop Rilsky is set primarily in fictional Santa Varvara, somewhere in Eastern Europe. The story begins with Delacour’s arrival from Paris to cover the murders of several New Pantheon cult leaders, murders that bear the mark of a deranged serial killer. The investigation is complicated by the disappearance of Rilsky’s scholarly uncle, Sebastien Chrest-Jones, who may be connected to the New Pantheon murders. Piecing together Chrest-Jones’s historical research on the First Crusade and the Byzantine princess-historian, Anna Comnena, they trace his whereabouts. Chrest-Jones is indeed involved in the New Pantheon murders, but in a totally unexpected way.
Kristeva’s approach to writing mystery fiction is unique in that she provides comparatively little action or description. Rather, the story moves forward via extensive monologue and stream-of-consciousness passages. And since none of the characters is any too sane, the experience of being in their minds, as it were, for such an amount of time is rather like going down the rabbit hole with Alice.
Murder in Byzantium has a bit of something for everyone – linguists, political pundits, social commentators and historians, especially historians of the First Crusade. Chrest-Jones’s tale of the first Chrest – a French crusader – and Anna Comnena is a historical novella in its own right.