Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Reviews: The Frozen Dead and The Circle by Bernard Minier

The Frozen Dead (Commandant Martin Servaz, #1) The Circle (Commandant Martin Servaz, #2)
The first victim is a horse: its headless body hangs suspended from the edge of a frozen cliff.
On the same day as the gruesome discovery, a young psychiatrist starts her first job at a secure asylum for the criminally insane, just a few miles away. 
Commandant Servaz, a Toulouse city cop, can't believe he has been called out over the death of an animal. But there is something disturbing about this crime that he cannot ignore.
Then DNA from one of the most notorious inmates of the asylum is found on the corpse... and a few days later the first murder takes place. 
In this snowbound valley, deep in the Pyrenees, a dark story of madness and revenge is unfolding. It will take all of Servaz's skill to solve it.
From Goodreads:
They find the boy by the swimming pool, dolls floating on its surface. 
Inside the house, his teacher lies dead. 
But he claims to remember nothing... 
June 2010. In the middle of a World Cup match, Martin Servaz receives a call from a long-lost lover. A few miles away in the town of Marsac, Classics professor Claire Diemar has been brutally murdered.
As if that weren't disturbing enough, Servaz receives a cryptic e-mail indicating that Julian Hirtmann, the most twisted of all serial killers, is back…and hitting a little too close to home. With death and chaos surrounding the small university town in Southern France where he was once a student and where his daughter is now enrolled, Servaz must act quickly. 
Apparently, I had added The Frozen Dead to my TBR list long ago and forgotten it until I realized that The Circle was part two in a series.  I had to quickly backtrack and downloaded The Frozen Dead on audio so that I could make my way to The Circle via NetGalley before it was archived.  I also had no idea when I started either that the books were originally written in French and are translations.  I'm so glad I stumbled into them though because I can see this quickly becoming a favorite series of crime fiction for me.

Writing
Very well done.  I can't say that this is the most believable of any fiction I've ever read - there are a lot of crazy coincidences and shocking red herrings along the way, but I enjoyed every moment of each book.  I think the characters are well-done and compelling - I loved the relationship between Servaz and Irene Ziegler and the non-romantic partnership between them.  I also though the ideas for plots were novel enough to pass for a decent crime series and kept me reading through both books.

Entertainment Value
Again, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the first and reading the second.  I rushed through both, listening or reading at every available moment because I genuinely cared about the endings.  I didn't figure things out too far from the big reveal, which is always a positive.  Anytime I stay up late finishing I know I've found a page-turner.  In terms of audiobooks, I absolutely loved hearing the book read with a French accent (The Frozen Dead) and hope to see The Circle read by the same narrator at some point.

Overall
If you're a fan of crime fiction, this is a good series to try.  I think it's also fun to read a book set in a place that isn't as familiar (almost always the US or the UK when I'm reading crime).  I learned a lot about how the French police/gendarmerie work and feel like I expanded my horizons a bit beyond what I normally look for.

Thanks to my library for providing me with The Frozen Dead and to NetGalley for providing me with The Circle.

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