Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler make up the intriguing duo of detectives fighting everyday crime in Paris during the German occupation. Brutal assaults on women suspected of being unfaithful to their POW husbands, plus murder and theft, are suddenly rampant during the literally pitch-dark hours after curfew, and der Führer is annoyed that his “model” city isn’t living up to his expectations. St-Cyr and Kohler are under pressure, but at the same time they’re being set up by forces who want the pair of intensely honest, unbribable, and exceedingly smart inspectors to disappear in a hail of bullets or be fired in disgrace.
An extraordinary amount of detail about everyday life in occupied France fills this book, at times a bit too much. Janes’ writing style is quirky and unique: in any given conversation among characters, each character’s point of view is represented, first by the thoughts they have to themselves, often in the form of a question, then by what they say aloud. It is strange and disconcerting, and, for this reader, led to confusion and frustration trying to keep track of who was thinking and/or saying what. The proliferation of characters with German and French names, titles and nicknames, often used interchangeably, makes this process even harder. Add to that a final quirkiness of a constant passive tense used as description—“The cigarette was taken, ash flicked to one side.” “Fingers were impatiently snapped.”—and you’ve got a book that is close to unreadable. I was more than halfway through it before I could actually figure out which of the two inspectors were talking, and what the crimes were that they were investigating.
I admire the detail and atmosphere of the setting, but I deplore the stylistic choices and odd writing choices that makes this a very hard and not very enjoyable read, despite the gradual sympathy the reader feels for these courageous men working in impossible circumstances.