Mini Book Review – Peter Steiner – Update!

A French Country Murder

I recently mentioned in a post that I don’t usually care for contemporary fiction. That also includes some mystery fiction although there are a lot of authors I do read. Namely Barbara Nadel, Donna Leon and Ian Rankin. I have found another!

After my disappointing read of The Bookseller by Mark Pryor, I was a bit hesitant to get another new author. I’m glad I decided to try it.

Peter Steiner‘s main character, Louis Morgon, is an ex-patriot living in the French countryside. He had remarkably walked across France on a pilgrimage after the demise of his marriage and his career. He found he only ever felt at home in one place – France – and so he packed up and moved there.

This is the first novel featuring Morgon and it begins with a corpse on his doorstep which leads back decades to his rise as a young professional in the State Department and later in the CIA. Morgon has figured out the motivation and the perpetrator of the murder and travels back to Washington to confront the man who ruined his career for no reason years ago and who harbors irrational resentment towards him.

I am a little over half way into the book. The writing is concise and the plot is not painfully directed toward Morgon’s angst, which I found to be the case in Pryor’s novel.

This book is so fantastic, I now have Steiner’s other titles on my wish list! Whoot! A new author to my pile is always welcome – I’m always running myself out of books to read.

Of course this is available at Amazon and probably a thousand other bookstores. It’s well worth looking up.

Update – I finished the book last night. I had to prop my eyes open to keep reading but it was well worth it! There is really no mystery to who has committed the crime in this book. Louis knows from the beginning that it is his old nemesis from Washington who now happens to be the Secretary of State.

His only concern is to stop the killing. Particularly since he knows that he is the next target. He travels to Washington and at the same time his lover and next door neighbor is taken hostage and tortured. He meets with the enemy for dinner and manages to convey to this creature that he knows what happened. Not only was a body dumped at Louis’s door, but the Secretary of State’s wife also reportedly died on the same day from a stroke. Louis knows they were both killed and the body dumped in his backyard was the lover of the Secretary’s wife.

The fascinating part of this story is the cold, calculating and self-deceiving behavior of the Secretary. He makes “friends” with people and manages to convince them that he is the only one on their side. This was done both to Louis after he was stripped of his career and security clearance and also to another man who was ousted at the same time. Louis knew that this future Secretary of State was the cause of all his ills, but he didn’t really care. Louis was relieved not to be in government. He didn’t feel there was anything he was accomplishing and the rise to fame left him cold and looking over his shoulder.

The other gentleman descended into a form of insanity – thinking conspiracy theories tied to every aspect of his life. The obsession of this man with conspiracies and his inability to see reality was a perfect reflection of the Secretary of State’s inhumanity – his dry, cold, calculating plans only done with thought to how he would appear to be, not from an inner sense of dignity or rightness. They were both obsessed, one with enemies, the other with manipulation.

The climax is fantastic. I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say the appropriate actions were taken to remove a threat of death from which there was no chance of survival.

This was a fast-paced enjoyable read. Unlike The Bookseller I did not find this trite or over-written. There was no unbelievable angst over a divorce on one page and a complete lack of concern about it on the next. There was cohesion both in the plot line and the character development. I’ve already bought book 2 and 3 in the series. I’ll let you know if they hold up!

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