The Case Of The Black Pearl (Severn House, £19.99)
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Patrick de Courvoisier could have stepped out of one of the thrillers getting their first screening at the film festival in Cannes – his new adopted home.
Lin Anderson’s Bondesque new investigator (he also is good at baccarat and poker), Patrick – “Le Limier” or “The Fixer” as he’s known locally - has washed up in Cannes with a mysterious past that might well include security services and a tragedy of the heart.
But Anderson doesn’t give up Patrick’s back-story too easily. Besides, he’s got a disappearing movie starlet to hunt down, gone AWOL after a promising appearance in her first film. And she’s gone with a breathtakingly valuable black pearl belonging to the movie’s massively wealthy – and sinister - Russian backer.
Though Anderson’s relatively slim book might put off those more used to a meatier read, don’t let it. Fast-paced action combined with a plot that keeps wrong-footing the predictable is good enough, but getting to know the seductive Patrick and characters of the “real” Cannes is the clincher.
But like any investigator worth his salt, Patrick is no pushover and helps us see beneath the brittle glitz of the filmfest capital: “Patrick had no love for the modern Cannes that stretched eastwards along the bay, nor for the elegance of the Croisette’s manicured palm trees and flower displays. He preferred the Saracen town where life had begun. He loved the old town’s resilience and the prickly nature of its inhabitants. Which is why he’d ended up on a French gunboat in Le Vieux Port.”
But the “prickly nature” of the town’s residents fits well with his own instinct to keep himself to himself: “… it was better to operate alone. To be alone. This case had only reinforced that belief” and even friends are held at arms-length: “ … unfortunately disassociation had become a habit, creating havoc in his personal life”.
And maybe we’re encouraged to keep our distance too – for the moment – from a fixer who sometimes blurs the lines of right and wrong.
Setting up a tension based on wary respect between Patrick and police chief Moreaux is a subtle way to reset the moral compass. But it’s just one more reason to look forward to the next book in Lin Anderson’s Cannes series.