The Night Lords by Nicolas Freeling
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
My next Nicolas Freeling's novel, "The Night Lords" (1978), the fourth book in the Henri Castang' series, has again surprised me (that's the third surprise in four books - great!) The novel is as close to a police procedural as I remember Mr. Freeling ever to get. So - if one likes their crime novels for the plot - this one is highly recommended. The story is complex, interesting, and even comes with a twist. Being authored by Freeling the book is, obviously, well written, but uncharacteristically for the author (and unluckily for me) there is not much more there than just the clever plot.
The setup of the plot is hilarious, if grim. A local businessman, trying to escape high burial costs in his small town, moves the body of his just deceased grandmother to another community. Alas, his station wagon with its precious cargo gets stolen. At the same time a British family, on vacations in France, find a body of a dead woman in their Rolls-Royce. Problem solved, right? Alas, instead of the missing grandmother, they find a young and attractive woman's body. All of this happens in the parking lot that belongs to a famous three-star restaurant, whose owner is an acquaintance of Commissaire Richard, and the Commissaire has Castang investigate.
In addition to the two dead bodies, Castang gets two other suspicious deaths to probe into, one of them in the very building, where he lives with his Czech wife, Vera (Vera is pregnant now!). There are additional complications caused by the fact that the owner of the Rolls, in which the dead young lady was found, is a High Court Judge from England, Sir James Armitage. British consular authorities get involved and everybody has to be vigilant to avoid any possibility of a political scandal.
The plot is decidedly un-Freeling-like: too much is going on! My main quibble about the novel is how the author artificially injects Vera into the plot. It makes me worry that Mr. Freeling is falling into the trap - as most bestselling crime fiction writers do - of trying to "humanize" their detectives to the extent that stretches the boundaries of plausibility. My relatively high rating is mainly for the superb plot.
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