Folly du Jour

Folly du Jour by Barbara Cleverly. The initial books in this series featuring Scotland Yard investigator Joe Sandilands were terrific. Sandilands was assigned to British-controlled India in the years following World War One and the adventures he encountered there were exotic and quite complex: a joy to read. However, once our hero returned to the motherland in The Bee’s Kiss, the stories lost a considerable amount of their appeal and Tug of War was quite dull. However, this most recent title recaptures the suspense and mystery of the earlier works even though it still lacks the exotic locale of the Asian sub-continent. Paris in 1927 is flourishing with jazz music and art, but Cleverly’s insistence on including celebrity characters seemed forced and unnecessary and distracts attention away from a worthwhile plot.

Sir George Jardine, an old friend of Joe’s from their days in India, literally stands accused of murdering a fellow Englishman at a performance of the Folies Bergere. Joe is diverted from attending an Interpol conference to assist the French police in solving the crime. He soon discovers old friends and enemies abound in Paris and that a mysterious God of Evil with a flair for elaborately theatrical murders is managing a small group of assassins in the city. Cleverly does an excellent job of hiding the true identity of the villain until the very end (I certainly thought I had it figured out, but was way wrong). Also on the plus side is the fact that although the story is almost exclusively told from Sandilands’ perspective, the criminal presence is frequently felt and there is a prevailing sense of danger in each chapter.

Cleverly has moved on to a new series set in the world of archaeology and with a female investigator, but I found the initial effort there to be mediocre at best. If this is the last Sandilands’ tale, at least it ended on a high note.

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