The Hanged Man’s Tale
reviewed by Lou Jacobs
An atmospheric police procedural that catapults into an action thriller as clues are chased down in the shadowy streets and haunts of Paris filled with dastardly villains and femme fatales.
President Chirac is standing in his open jeep, waving to the Bastille Parade crowd “like a frigin’ god in his gleaming chariot, smiling and waving to his adoring subjects.” A shot rings out, and before a second follows, Inspector Mazarelle pounces on the shooter and thwarts the assassination attempt. Mazarelle immediately notes the funny low-caliber rifle – all wrong for a serious assassin. The parade theme is a celebration of Franco-American friendship, following shortly after the destruction of the twin towers in New York. Commandant Paul Mazarelle is fresh from a well deserved promotion to the elite Brigade Criminelle – comprised of the one-hundred most celebrated detectives in Paris. Shortly after, a murdered man is discovered dangling by his ankles in a tunnel of a Paris canal. Mazarelle is immediately assigned the case.
His investigation reveals in the victim’s breast pocket, an identity card and a tarot card of the Hanged Man. The victim is Alain Berthaud, a private investigator, who is strung up with a wallet stuffed with cash – robbery was obviously not the motive. The investigation of his last moments of life lead to his police associates and his partner in the L’Agence AB, Luc Fournel, a previous lieutenant who took early retirement to join the more financially lucrative firm of Alain Berthaud. The night before, they were all gathered and having a drink with Guy Danglers, an active member of the police force. Danglers, after the encounter, meets his demise in his Mercedes, garroted from behind by an assailant waiting in the backseat.
Mazarelle’s investigation is a multifaceted dilemma. Is there a linkage to the recently botched assassination attempt by the growing white supremacist movement opposing the ever expanding immigrant community or the ongoing investigation into police corruption? (Those eager to cover up their lucrative side business of information peddling.)
Dropped into the middle of his investigation is the potential involvement of the gorgeous, ambitious and young editor of the flamboyant local Paris-Clash. The tabloid is known for breaking high profile, gossip-worthy stories involving highly placed politicians and celebrities. Unfortunately, Mazarelle allows himself to be infatuated with the femme fatale and allows her insinuation into his investigation. Her imminent death by strangulation in her city apartment, and discovered first by Mazarelle is certainly a major complication. All of the cases seem to collide with probable connections, and a string of clues for Mazarelle to follow.
Gerald Jay crafts a riveting, fast-paced complex atmospheric thriller, that features the deductive skills of the elite Parisian detective, Paul Mazarelle. Vivid and evocative descriptions of Paris locales are easily interwoven into the nuanced narrative. A multitude of clues, culprits and evidence amass as the inspector searches for truth and justice. Although this appears to be the second novel in the Mazarelle mysteries, it can certainly be enjoyed as a standalone. This gem is an obvious homage to the famous Inspector Jules Maigret series, penned by the marvelous Belgian writer, Georges Simenon. Both pipe-smoking investigators are similar in stature, demeanor and deductive abilities, and both operate from the elite Brigade Criminelle of Paris.
Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday / Talese books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.