This is the cover I would have loved my book to have had! Much nicer than the boring one my came with. Perhaps it would have been a funnier book to read, had it had a pretty cover? I usually love these books, set in Paris in the 1890s, but this sixth one in the series, was a disappointment. Difficult to say what was so disappointing with it, since I thought it would be great. The main character Victor Legris, finally managed to persuade his mistress to marry him, in the previous volume which is something that has just been so annoying in the first five books, her refusing to give up her independence! Her not caring about that people judge them both, for being a disgrace, which to her meant nothing, since she is an artist, but to Victor Legris, the main character, who owns a book shop and is supposed to be respectable, it was not the best for his reputation and book shop. Now they are married, in this book, since the autumn of 1893. This book taking place in February 1894.
I also thought it would be great since Victor’s sister Iris, also got married in the autumn, to the shop assistant, Joseph Pignot, that helps Victor solve crimes. But these two facts, the two couples now being married, ruined the book. It made it tedious reading and made me long for the end, after just a couple of chapters. I don’t pick up a murder mystery, to read about the main characters’ sex life. I really couldn’t care less! The previous book had precious little of it, so I thought the two sisters that write under the pseudonym Claude Izner, had finally abandoned people’s bedroom actions, and was very pleased with it. Now it was back full force! Both for Victor and Joseph and the third main character, Kenji Mori, step-father of Victor and father-in-law of Joseph, who runs around trying to decide whether he wants to start an affair with Victor’s mother-in-law. Boring! Please, spare us more personal details of the main characters’ personal lives! I can not take Joseph’s mother’s nouveau rich attitude, since her son’s marriage above his class. I can not take any more of Joseph’s bragging and high thoughts about himself. And pregnant Iris’ vegetarianism is driving me completely crazy. Nice that she took up to writing children’s stories though and having Tasha illustrate them, sad though that she doesn’t dare to show them to anyone! And Victor and Tasha, living completely separate lives except in bed for the sex act. They do not even have time to BE a married couple! Double boring!
As if this was not bad enough, Victor is sick and tired of the book shop. He wants to spend all his time on photographing even though he earns nothing on that! And Kenji Mori is sick and tired of the book shop. He even gets his own extra flat, away from the book shop, so he can start an affair with Djina Kherson, if she is up for it. And Joseph Pignot, the shop assistant doesn’t really seem to like his job anymore either, preferring to write his silly gothic tales for the magazine Le Passe-partout. In other words, what made the book series fun, all the tales from the Elzevir Book shop, all the customers and their little quirks, are becoming more and more absent as the three main characters do everything to stay away from there! It’s just a place where they run in to each other, and lie about where they are heading to next. Triple boring!
The mystery in this book? Not as well thought through as previous ones. Lots of names as usual. Lots of running around, lying to people to extract information. The book starts in Normandy. We get to follow a crippled sea-captain, that has had to come ashore, after a bad accident aboard a ship. He is not the happiest of men. He loved the sea. And he still mourns that his cousin never loved him back, getting involved with another man and getting pregnant by that man. He can not forget her and how she died, after terminating her pregnancy. One morning there has been a shipwreck almost on his doorstep and he finds a beautiful woman in the water, that he brings home to nurse. While she is unconscious he falls for her and reads her diaries. After taking her to a convent, he decides to go to Paris. That is where she is heading, when she is well enough. He spends his days spying on a candy shop, where she is staying with the owner. He is determined to make sure that nothing happens to this Sophie Clairsange.
One day, he sees her coming out in the evening, going to a meeting with a man, who strangles her. Only, when he afterwards runs up to the corpse, he realises that it is not Sophie after all, only someone who has coloured her hair, to look like her. But Victor Legris, soon finds out who the dead woman is. His wife Tasha’s scandalous painter friend Laumier comes to ask him to solve the murder of his mistress’ Mimi’s cousin, Louise Fontaine. She used to work as a seamstress to the famous Richard Gaétan, couturier. Then she suddenly had quit to go live with Sophie Clairsange. A witness to the strangulation, gives Victor a necklace with a unicorn. So for a majority of the book, he and Joseph runs around trying to find out about this secret society of the Black Unicorn, that follows Nicholas Flamel, trying to find the Philosopher’s Stone. But it is just a red herring and a very poor one, from the authors’ side. It has nothing to do with the murder and it felt like a waste of time, to had followed them down that dead-end. More could have been done to this story, than what it ended up being. Three men using young girls or raping them, people wanting revenge. And in the middle of this, an old abortion trial with hundreds of women charged, but only the abortionist going down for the crime. Add to this a woman falling in love with one man, while his friend was in love with her as well, her getting pregnant, and then marrying a third man, only to become a widow with debts, who needed help from the infatuated man, and then the first man appearing on the scene again, after many years absence.
There was too much going on in this book. And in the end, one realises that Corentin Jourdan, the sea-captain, remains as much a question mark in the end of the book, as he was in the beginning. He gets the girl in the end, the authors ending the book with them having sex! But why? Why did he end up with her? They didn’t even know each other! Not the best of plot lines here when it comes to anything.
Vexing is that the authors also have a disdain for their readers or are just sloppy, when it comes to dates and so forth. In the previous book, they seem to have forgot when a certain person that had information, would be back in Paris for questioning. I as a reader remembered though and got vexed with them not keeping to that. In this book they make the same mistake. The 8 November 1889, Sophie Clairsange, got raped. The 30 November she writes in her diary that she is three weeks late! That is impossible! If she was raped in the evening of the 8th November, she got pregnant at the earliest, the 9th November! Her expected date of menstruation would have been 23rd November, which means that the 30th November, she was only one week late. Not until the 14th December could she say that she was three weeks late!!!! And of course she continues that on the 20th December she is nearly 6 weeks late. Not so in other words. Trust me, I am an experts on this after 10 pregnancies, (two miscarriages and one missed abortion of these) and oodles of ovulation tests through the years. I am an expert in the field!!! Why do the authors think that the reader is stupid and don’t pay attention?