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[D]uring the Occupation of France the everyday crimes of murder and arson continued to be committed, and I merely ask, by whom and how were they solved.
Mr. Janes answers his own question via the unlikely police team of Jean Louis St-Cyr, of the Sûreté National, and Hermann Kohler, of the Gestapo. St-Cyr is, predictably, the more subtle of the two, with Kohler being somewhat brutish, but only in the pursuit of justice. It's an awkward conceit this--having the protagonists serve such a vile regime--but Mr. Janes handles that aspect of the books pretty well.
More challenging for the reader is that Mr. Janes imagines collaborationist France as having done such damage to its soul that its people have been more or less cut free from the restraints of morality and the society is so dark, so evil, so seemingly unredeemable, that reading about it is nearly physically repulsive. The portrait he paints of France is so dark that no French publisher has been willing to bring out the series there:
My understanding is that a lot of older French people just don't want to talk about the war. And my books, well, they touch a lot of sensitive areas.In a way it would be comforting to think that France's Vichy sin would have tainted it in just this way, but it's hard to believe. It seems far more likely that life continued in much closer to normal fashion, except for the presence of the Nazis.
However, if we just grant Mr. Janes his notion then the books are terrifically effective psychological studies of two basically decent men stuck in a horribly indecent place and time. In Sandman they're trying to solve an especially brutal slaying--a schoolgirl assaulted and stabbed to death with knitting needles, found in a dovecote in a park. It turns out to be just one of a series of such slayings so the pair find themselves racing to catch a serial killer before the next body turns up, a task made all the harder by French corruption and oppressive German political influence. The bleakness of the psychological milieu makes for fascinating if not particularly pleasant reading.
-EXCERPT: Chapter One of Kaleidoscope By J. Robert Janes
-BOOK SITE: Mannequin (Soho Press)
-J.Robert Janes (Tangled Web)
-PROFILE: PROPHETS WITHOUT HONOUR: Some of Canada's most successful writers are almost unknown (BRIAN BETHUNE, 9/02/02, MacLeans)
-REVIEW: of Sandman by J. Robert Janes (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Sandman by J. Robert Janes (Mystery Guide)
-REVIEW: of Sandman (Gerald Houghton, The Edge)
-REVIEW: of Stone Killer by J. Robert Janes (Emil Franzi, Tucson Weekly)
-REVIEW: of Stone Killer by J. Robert Janes (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of MADRIGAL by J. Robert Janes (L J Hurst, Shots)
-REVIEW: of BEEKEEPER by J. Robert Janes (L J Hurst, Shots)
-REVIEW: of SALAMANDER by J. Robert Janes (Gregg Miller, The Stranger)
-REVIEW: of Kaleidoscope by J. Robert Janes (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Carousel by J. Robert Janes (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Mayhem by J. Robert Janes (Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
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