Five Dead Men
When the bodies of five men are discovered in a secret vault at the villa Belle Époque, suspicion falls upon the villa’s former owner, enigmatic Pascal Deveraux.
Actor, gambler, general good-for-nothing – Pascal has lived a life of privilege and excess. But with no evidence to implicate him in murder, the case goes unsolved.
Called in to investigate the cold case, it’s not long before Margot’s enquiries re-open old wounds. Aided by policière municipale, Alia Leon, the investigation moves swiftly from the smugglers’ trails of the Pyrenees to the cannabis clubs of Barcelona. And it’s there, in the dark medieval streets of the city’s Gothic Quarter, that someone finds a reason to silence her.
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Rachel Green is the pen name of a writer from the UK. Rachel has twice been longlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the BPA First Novel Award, as well as being on the shortlist for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. Rachel lives in a tiny village in England, but travels frequently to the south of France where the stories from the Madame Renard Investigates series are set
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I must admit in advance to not having read the first book in the series but, for the most part, that wasn’t a major issue.
Margot has been asked by Judge Deveraux to look into a matter relating to a family property – Belle Epoque – and the disturbing case of five dead men being found in an underground tunnel beneath the grounds. (At this point, I didn’t yet know of Margot’s background, only that her husband had been a police detective, so I did wonder why Margot was chosen to investigate matters)
Anyway, that aside, Margot stays in the area and is eventually invited to stay at the home of policière municipale, Alia, and her father, Didier (also a former police officer), and together they look into the mystery. No-one was ever caught, and the discovery of the bodies has left an indelible stain on the property which is now left vacant by its former owners (whose plans to redesign the grounds led to the finding of the bodies in the first place).
Several years have since passed, and the case has gone cold, the bodies still unidentified. That doesn’t deter Margot, who is intrigued and determined to get to the bottom of things. With Alia and Didier, and one of Alia’s friends, they find themselves with some leads – the main one being Pascal Deveraux who grew up at Belle Epoque with his sister.
Pascal is an odd chap, the kind who’d make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but there is no evidence to conclusively tie him to the murders. Even so, you get this feeling that he had to be involved somehow.
Margot feels much the same, and she won’t rest until she knows for sure what happened. Well, rather her than me, because he really has a creepy, smug vibe about him.
So, just imagine how Margot feels when he turns up unexpectedly when she’s in Barcelona following a lead in a cannabis club.
Too much of a coincidence, right?
Absolutely, and that glimmer of an opportunity to catch Pascual out is what lands Margot in deep, deep trouble.
Has she got it all wrong, or will she finally be the one to catch the killer of those five dead men?
The story is atmospheric in its settings, from the rural French countryside to the seedy backstreets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, the tension mounts incredibly towards the story’s conclusion – it’s a breathless race to the end, dangerous and heart-breaking for those close to the action.
The characterisation is sublime, from the crotchety gardener and housekeeper to the “unsettling” Deveraux siblings. Alia and Didier appear to have a wonderful father/daughter relationship, but a surprising twist changes that dynamic and Margot is pivotal in steering Alia towards leading her own life; their interactions are touching and, hopefully, long-lasting.
Now that I fully understand Margot’s history, I hope there is more to come from her. She’s a fierce femme fatale, definitely someone not to be messed with.
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