Dominique Sylvain, Passage du Désir (2004)

The first trimester of this pregnancy gave me severe nausea, so I stuck to audiobooks during my commute, hoping to make it shorter and sweeter. But the choice isn’t as wide at my library for mp3 audiobooks as for paper books. All this to explain why I borrowed this book, although I’m pretty sure I’d have passed it in paper format.

The Passage du Désir (the alleyway of desire) is the name of a real small pedestrian street in Paris (closed to cars by an old 19th century iron gate, you can see it on Google map), located in the 10th district not far from Gare de l’Est, a neighborhood that isn’t quite as select and desirable as its name would have it.

It’s not far from the Rue de la Fidélité (street of fidelity/ faithfulness) and the rue de Paradis. Obviously people were quite optimistic when giving names to this neighborhood, but today it’s the home of a rather struggling and diverse population, with many shops for African immigrants.

In this light-hearted mystery, the brutal murder of a young waitress working and living in the Passage allows us to meet an endearing crowd of eccentrics living or working there. The improbable duet of investigators in this story is a gruff, short and overweight female ex-police detective and a  tall, muscular, American massage therapist.

The whole cast and language strongly reminds me of Fred Vargas, although the plot is less creative and less controlled. It is about as unbelievable as a Fred Vargas novel, which can be a compliment or a criticism depending on how you love Vargas. Although Sylvain doesn’t attempt to introduce fantastic elements into her story, she shares with Vargas a love for words and a strong sense of setting.

I found the adventure charming, until the last few chapters where the writer tries to tie too many knots and makes her characters leave Paris. I probably won’t think about it in a year, and probably won’t seek out the next adventures of this bizarre duet, but entertaining it was, and it sure beats the grim reality of the rush hour in the Parisian metro!

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One thought on “Dominique Sylvain, Passage du Désir (2004)

  1. I hope you’re feeling better now. I’m not sure that I shall be looking out for this, but you reminded me that I keep meaning to read more Vargas and that I should really do something about that.

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