No Part in Your Death by Nicolas Freeling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"No Part in Your Death" (1984) is the eighth mystery in the Nicolas Freeling's Henri Castang series. (I had read the seventh one, "The Back of the North Wind" about two years ago, before I started my current project of reading the entire Freeling's opus.) Well, I like "No Part" the least of all Castang novels so far, and it probably is quite close the bottom of all Freeling's books for me. A two-star rating - gasp! - may be in the making. Nah, maybe not.
The current entry in the Castang series is really a trio of novellas, somewhat tenuously connected. In the first one Castang is sent to Munich for a police conference. His wife, Vera, accompanies him, and it is during her leisurely walk in the city that she meets a young woman, who is followed by some sinister characters, and helps her escape the pursuers. This seemingly coincidental event sets up the entire plot. The key scene - for this novella and for the entire three-story set - takes place in a Munich Brauhaus. A "motherly waitress", while serving beer to Castang, jokes: "Hab' kein Schuld an Ihr' Tod..." ("I've no part in your death"). The author continues "In years to come he [Castang] would remember the scene in every minute detail". The motif of being involved, however tangentially, in someone's death is the unifying theme of the volume. Elegant and clever, but not quite convincing.
The first novella, with its dramatic ending, is the best, although some scenes taking place in Germany stretch credulity. I have been unable to connect much with the two latter novellas: in the second one Castang attempts to solve the mystery of disappearance of his friend's wife during a severe storm. The ending is somewhat redeeming here: the reader has really to focus to "get it". The last novella has Castang travel to England to solve an apparent suicide of two young French people. There is even a gun battle in this one. Yuck!
To me, the most disappointing aspect of "No Part" is the paucity of brilliant prose, which is so abundant in other works by Freeling. I have found only a few quotable spots here and there, with the best probably being "[...] no cop wants to start planing fine shavings off shades of meaning."
Two and a half stars (rounded up, because of the "motherly waitress" bit...)
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