Claude Izner, The Montmartre Investigation (2003)

Original Title: Le Carrefour des écrasés

I’m sure there’s a saying like “doing the same mistake over and over is stupid”, but I can’t find it. I had read (or tried to read) a Claude Izner a (very) long time ago and I had not enjoyed it, to the point that I hadn’t finished it. (But as I almost never post about DNF on this blog, I couldn’t remember exactly). I came across this old yellowing paperback in a little free library booth of my neighborhood earlier this year, when the lock-down made me a little crazy about the risk of running out of books (as if? 🙄). Surely the name Claude Izner reminded me of something, but I didn’t know what, and a historical mystery set in Paris in 1891 was just so tempting…

I found it very cute to learn that Claude Izner is actually the pen name for two sisters who work together for this mystery series. And the period is also very appealing to me, all the more as I recently started watching a (very dark) series called “Paris Police 1900“, set less than 10 years after the Montmartre investigation. The Montmartre investigation takes place, well… in Montmartre, with the Moulin Rouge, the artists and dancers and prostitutes rubbing shoulders with aristocrats… I enjoyed the sense of place and time of the book, and it is obviously very good with history and research.

Alas, the book did not work with me at all. First, this is the third book in the series, but there are way too many references to past volumes to be read as a standalone. I could not really get interested in Victor Legris and his friends. I was annoyed by the way he treated his girlfriend, and his shop assistant, and… basically everyone. I didn’t find him very clever and much of the progress in the investigation is just a matter of luck and circumstances. The plot itself seemed far-fetched and plain… weird. It was a lot more fun to learn about daily life in Paris in that period.

If you’re not afraid of very dark series, I’d recommend you skip the books and try the TV series instead. As for me, I will make an effort to remember not to try another Claude Izner. To make the same mistake thrice would be even worse.

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