BED OF NAILS by Antonin Varenne

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Translated by Siân Reynolds

Police lieutenant Richard Guérin works suicides in Paris, a thankless job that has led his predecessors down a rocky road, but he thrives on it. Guérin is a cop with scruples, working in a very dirty division. He has to determine whether it was suicide or murder when an oncoming truck kills a smiling young man running naked down a major thoroughfare.

Another strange suicide case lands on his desk when Alan Musgrave, a junkie, supposedly killed himself on stage in a private S&M club. Musgrave’s friend, American John Nichols, is living off the grid in southern France, but is forced to return to Paris to identify the body. Nichols finds the suicide call suspicious, and ends up working with Guérin on the investigation.

As more bizarre suicide cases land on his desk, Guérin puts his extraordinary puzzle solving skills to the test, finding the common thread that confirms his philosophy that “everything is connected.”

There are lots of interesting characters here, including Guérin’s dim-witted assistant, a Parisian park keeper who also happens to be an ex-con, and a beautiful German artist who covers her naked body in paint and flings herself at canvas.  Guérin’s foul-mouthed parrot, inherited from his deceased mother, a former prostitute, adds an occasional lighter moment to this dark police procedural, winner of the Prix Quai du Polar crime fiction award in France.

For readers who enjoy Fred Vargas, the same translator does fine work here.

Copyright ©2014 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

11/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

BED OF NAILS by Antonin Varenne. MacLehose Press (November 4, 2014). ISBN 978-1623651251. 256p.

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