In May's dark, intense third mystery to feature Scottish forensic scientist Enzo Macleod, Enzo takes on his third cold case described in a book by Parisian journalist Roger Raffin-the murder of a "rent boy" 16 years earlier-but Enzo's investigation runs into trouble after he's diagnosed with terminal cancer and he's framed for murder. Evidently, the rent boy's killer fears Enzo will solve the crime if he ever gets a chance. May makes the French settings sharply real, while creating a seething tangle of emotional conflicts between Enzo and the people around him. By novel's end, the overall plot, like the emotional relationships, isn't really settled, which may feel frustrating-or may hook readers into following the developments of an unusually compelling ongoing saga. Those already familiar with the previous two books in the series, Extraordinary People(2006) and The Critic(2007), will be at an advantage. (Nov.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Blacklight Blue (Enzo Files Series #3)by Peter May
Enzo MacLeod, a Scot who is teaching forensics at Cahors in southwest France, confidently bet that he could use his expertise to crack seven notorious murders described in a book on cold cases by Parisian journalist Roger Raffin. Enzo has in fact solved the first two crimes. But the third is far from his mind at the moment. He’s just been diagnosed with a
Enzo MacLeod, a Scot who is teaching forensics at Cahors in southwest France, confidently bet that he could use his expertise to crack seven notorious murders described in a book on cold cases by Parisian journalist Roger Raffin. Enzo has in fact solved the first two crimes. But the third is far from his mind at the moment. He’s just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and now it appears he’s the target of someone intent on destroying his credit, his relationships, and getting him arrested for murder. It’s enough to bring out his Scottish stubbornness. In this Job-like situation, it serves him well. Establishing a safe house to protect his loved ones, besieged now as it were, he sets to work. Are his woes connected to the digging he’s done into the brutal murder of a rent boy in a Paris apartment sixteen years ago? What further remnants of evidence can he review? Can he stay alive long enough to catch the long-hidden killer?
In his third outing (after Extraordinary People and The Critic), Scottish forensic specialist Enzo MacLeod, who teaches at a university in southwestern France, is investigating a set of cold cases outlined in a book when he becomes victimized by someone who wants to destroy him and all that he holds dear. Enzo scoops up his extended family and gets them to a safe house while he focuses on one case, the murder of a Parisian rent boy, that might be to the key to his troubles. This complicated tale weaves threads of the past into the present, presenting MacLeod with challenges that he could never have foreseen. An engrossing mystery, especially for readers who like their crimes solved in foreign settings.
Jo Ann Vicarel
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By Peter May
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2008 Peter May
All right reserved.
Chapter OneParis, February 1992
Yves watched the traffic in the boulevard below come to a standstill in the frigid Paris morning. The bouchon stretched as far as he could see, to the next traffic lights and beyond. He could almost feel the frustration of the drivers trapped in their cars rise to meet him like the pollution that spewed from smoky exhausts. The city air was not good for him. It was time for a change.
The long, repeating monotone in his ear was broken by a man's voice. 'Yes, hello?'
'Salut. It's me.'
'Oh, okay.' The voice seemed tense.
Yves was cool, relaxed. Each word delivered with the easy assurance of a soldier with an automatic weapon pumping bullets into an unarmed man. 'I'm sorry I didn't call yesterday. I was out of the country.' He wasn't quite sure why he felt the need to elaborate. It just seemed more casual. Conversational. 'Portsmouth. In England. A business trip.'
'Is that supposed to mean something to me?' Clear irritation in the other man's voice now.
'I just thought you'd wonder why I hadn't called.'
'Well, you're calling me now.'
'I was going to suggest tomorrow afternoon. Three o'clock. If that's okay with you.'
He sensed the other's reticence in his hesitation. 'I prefer somewhere public, you know that.'
'Listen, friend, we need to talk.' If there was a threat in the forced intimacy of the word, 'friend,' it went unnoticed. He heard a sigh at the other end of the line.
'You know where to find me?'
'Three o'clock, then.'
'Fine.' He retracted his cellphone aerial and saw that the traffic had not moved.
* * *
Lambert's apartment was on the second floor of a recently renovated building in the thirteenth arrondissement. A newly installed electronic entry system was designed to cut costs by doing away with the need for a concierge. Which meant that no one but Lambert would witness his arrival. And no one, not even Lambert, would know when he left.
'Yeh?' The speaker in the wall issued a scratched rendition of Lambert's voice.
'It's me.' Yves never used his name if he didn't have to.
The buzzer sounded, and he pushed the door open.
Lambert was waiting on the landing. A gaping door opened into the apartment behind him. He was a strange young man, abnormally pale, sparse blond hair shaved to a cropped fuzz. Penumbrous shadows beneath darker eyes punctuated a skeletal face, and bony fingers clasped Yves' gloved hand in a perfunctory greeting. 'Come in.' He glanced towards the stairs as if concerned that someone might be watching.
The bay windows in the salon looked out towards the park, bearing out Yves' assumption that the room was not overlooked. A well-worn sofa and armchairs had seen better days, hiding their tawdriness beneath colourful, fringed throws. Yves smelled old garlic and stewed coffee coming from the open kitchen door. And the whole apartment was suffused with the stink of stale cigarette smoke. Yves felt it catching his throat, and as Lambert took out a fresh cigarette, he said, 'Don't do that.'
Lambert paused with the cigarette halfway to his mouth, and cast wary eyes towards his visitor. Then, reluctantly, he tapped the cigarette back into its packet. 'Coffee?'
Lambert disappeared into the kitchen. Yves perched on the edge of the sofa and saw motes of dust hanging still in the slabs of weak winter sunlight that fell at angles through the window. He heard his own breath as he forced it in and out of contracting lungs. His blue eyes felt gritty at first, then watery. His tension was palpable.
Lambert reappeared with small cups of black coffee and placed them on the table. Yves leaned forward to drop in a sugar lump and poke it with a coffee spoon until it dissolved.
'Aren't you going to take off your coat?' Lambert sat opposite, in the armchair, keeping his eyes on his visitor as he raised his coffee cup to his lips.
'I'm not staying.'
Lambert's eyes dropped to his guest's hands. 'You can take off your gloves, surely?'
'I have a form of psoriasis,' Yves said. 'It affects my hands. When I have a flare-up I have to rub them with cream. I keep the gloves on to protect them.' He took a sip of his coffee. It was bitter and unpleasant, and he wished he had declined the offer. It was only putting off the moment.
'So what it is we need to talk about?' Lambert seemed anxious to get this over with.
But Yves wasn't listening. The tightness across his chest had become vice-like, and his lungs were reluctant to give up spent air. His throat was swelling, and he felt the rapid pulse of blood in his carotid arteries. Tears spilled from reddening eyes as did his coffee as he tried to replace the cup on the table. The sneezing and coughing began almost simultaneously. His mouth gaped, his eyes stared, and panic gripped him. His hand shot to his face, a politeness dinned into him during childhood years by a smothering mother. Cover your mouth when you cough! Coughs and sneezes spread diseases! For a moment, he thought that Lambert knew why he had come, and that there had been something in the coffee. But the symptoms were only too familiar.
It was nearly impossible to breathe now. In a world blurred by tears he saw Lambert get to his feet, and heard the alarm in his voice. 'Are you alright? What the hell's wrong with you?'
He sucked in a breath and forced it out again. 'Do you ... do you keep pets?'
Lambert shook his head in consternation. 'Of course not. In God's name, man, what's wrong?'
As Yves struggled to his feet, Lambert rounded the table to stop him from falling. It was now or never. Yves clutched the outstretched bony arms and threw his weight forward. He heard Lambert's gasp of surprise, and then the air exploding from his lungs as both men toppled over the coffee table and crashed to the floor. Yves was on top of him, but could barely see, mucus and saliva exploding from his mouth and nose as his body fought against the toxins with which his own immune system was attacking his airways.
Lambert was screaming and flailing beneath him. Yves' gloved hands found the younger man's face, then his neck, and he squeezed. But his physical powers were failing, and he released his hold on the neck to seek out the head. He felt Lambert's barking breath in his face, before his hands found that familiar grip, one hand spread across the face, the other at the back of the head. And then it was easy, in spite of everything. A quick twist. He heard the pop of the disarticulated vertebrae, and almost felt the sharp edge of the bone, released from its cartilage, slice through the spinal cord. Lambert went limp. Yves rolled off him and lay fighting for breath. If he blacked out now, there was a good chance he would never wake up. This was as bad as he had ever known it.
It took a superhuman effort to force himself to his knees. He fumbled in his coat pocket to find the bottle of pills and closed desperate fingers around it.
He had no idea how he managed to reach the kitchen, or how it was even possible to force the pills over a throat that was swollen nearly closed. He heard the sound of breaking glass as the tumbler fell into the sink, and the rattle of pills as they spilled across the floor. But none of that mattered. If he didn't get out of here now, he would be as dead as the man he had come to kill.
Chapter TwoStrasbourg, November 2008
Sleet gently slapped the window like the soft touch of tapping fingertips, then turned instantly wet to run like tears spilled by the coming winter.
Kirsty watched anxiously from the top floor of the old house. She had been there six months now, the accumulated possessions of her gypsy existence finding more than enough space in the single room and kitchen. It was one of twelve studio apartments in this early twentieth century mansion, built reputedly by some wealthy German industrialist.
Strasbourg was a city unsure of itself. Neither French, nor German. Disputed for centuries by old enemies, it had opted finally to be European, a decidedly amorphous notion lacking any sense of common culture or identity. While its citizens spoke French, the German influence was pervasive, and the establishment of the European Parliament on its northern flank had brought a flood of politicians and civil servants speaking everything from Polish to Portuguese, Estonian to Italian.
Which, Kirsty reflected, was just as well. Since without them, she would be without a job. She glanced at her watch and felt a stab of apprehension. If her taxi did not arrive in the next few minutes, she would soon be looking for new employment.
She cursed the weather. And she cursed the fact that she had decided not to take her bike. Usually she cycled to the parliament, a twenty-minute daily ride through the Orangerie and the leafy suburban back streets that stretched along the river. But in the translation booths that overlooked the semicircular debating chamber, it didn't matter what she wore. Today it did. Today she would be in the full glare of the press corps, with their cameras and microphones and questions. She would be sitting at the right hand of a man whose financial muscle and political pull were almost unsurpassed in the European Union. She would be his ears, and his voice, and needed to look her best.
A horn sounding from below quickened her pulse. At last! She grabbed her coat and her bag and ran down the stairs. As she opened the door on to the Rue Bernegger she paused, raising her umbrella to protect expensively coiffed hair and carefully applied make-up. Then she slid into the rear seat of the taxi and shook the sleet back into the street.
'You're late.' She couldn't keep the annoyance out of her voice.
The driver shrugged. 'Traffic's a bitch. When do you have to be there?'
'Nine.' She heard him suck in his breath.
'Not much chance of that, mademoiselle. There's nothing moving over either bridge.'
She began to feel sick. This was turning into a nightmare. 'Well, can't you go downtown, and back out on the Avenue de la Paix?'
'The centre ville isn't any better. Only things still moving are the trams.'
She sighed her frustration. 'It's really important I get there by nine.' If she had been going to the parliament they could simply have driven down the Quai de l'Orangerie. But the press conference was in the Palais des Congrès, the huge convention centre on the north side of the Place de Bordeaux. And to get there, they needed to cross two of the myriad waterways that divided and subdivided the city.
She sat in the back, almost rigid with tension, and watched as the sleet-streaked windows smeared city streets thick with fallen leaves. They moved freely at first, and she began to relax. But as they approached the pont that bridged the river between the Boulevard de la Dordogne and the Boulevard Jacques Preiss, the traffic ground to a standstill. She saw that the sleet was turning to snow.
She took a deep breath and felt it tremble in her throat. There was no way they were going to make it. She had taken the one-week engagement in the hope that it might lead to better things. It had slotted in nicely between the end of her one-year probationary contract with the European Parliament and the start of a new two-year term on full pay. Very shortly she would sit The Test, and if she passed it she would become a career interpreter for the European Union. The prospect of which seemed to stretch ahead of her, like a prison sentence. If life was going to offer more, then she wanted to find out now what that might be.
Which was why she had jumped at the chance to work for the Italian. He was the chief executive officer of a major motor car manufacturer. But his company made most of its money from guided missile systems and air defence batteries, and the parliament was threatening to vote down approval given by the Council of Ministers for the production of antipersonnel mines and cluster bombs. However, unlike the Council of Ministers, whose majority vote had carried the approval, the Parliament required a unanimous vote to overturn it. A rare occurrence. But on the vexed and controversial question of landmines and cluster bombs, for once it looked like the MEPs might actually vote with one voice.
The Italian was in town to lobby against such a vote and to pressurise Italian members of the European Parliament whose constituents back home could lose jobs if the contract fell. He had employed Kirsty as his interpreter, and to be the attractive and acceptable face of his campaign. She had not fully appreciated that until the briefing at his hotel the day before, when no amount of oily charm had been able to disguise his naked intent. But she had already signed a contract and was committed to the job. After all, she told herself, she was just the messenger. She had no control over the message.
But neither had she any control over the traffic. Her eyes closed in despair. She had blown it. She should have ordered the taxi half-an-hour earlier. She fumbled in her purse for her cellphone and hit the speeddial key.
'Hi, Kirst. What's up?'
'Sylvie, I'm in trouble. I'm stuck in traffic in the Boulevard Tauler. There's no way I'm going to make it to the Palais des Congrès on time.'
'Is this the Italian job?'
'Merde! Is there anything I can do?'
'You can stand in for me.'
'Kirsty, I can't. I haven't been briefed.'
'Please Sylvie. You're five minutes away, and I know you're not on shift till this afternoon. Just hold down the fort for me. I'll get there as soon as I can.'
* * *
It was after nine-thirty when her taxi swung in off the Avenue Herrenschmidt. The car park was filled with press vehicles and satellite vans. The flags of the European Union's twenty-seven member states hung limp in the grey morning light, and wet snow lay like a crust along the curves of an impenetrable bronze sculpture on the lawn beyond. She fumbled to find money in her purse as her driver pulled up below the Strasbourg Evenements sign. Then she flew across the paving stones towards the glass, her coat billowing behind her, concern for hair and make-up long forgotten.
Her voice echoed across the vast, shining concourse, and heads swung in her direction. 'The press conference! What room?'
A young woman looked up from behind along reception counter, her face a mask of indifference. 'Tivoli One. First floor.'
Kirsty ran across pale marble set in dizzying patterns, the click of her heels echoing back from glass and concrete. Occasional standing groups of two and three broke from idle conversation to cast curious glances in her direction. Through open doors, beneath a strange ceiling like rows of silk pillows, she saw caterers laying out food, a young man setting up the bar. If you wanted the press to come, you had to feed and water them. At the foot of a flight of stairs, below a sign that read, 1er Etage, she quickly scanned the list of names. Salle Oberlin, Salle Schuman, Salle Schweitzer C-D. Then there it was, Salles Tivoli 1-2.
She took the stairs two at a time, emerging onto a wide, carpeted concourse with floor-to-ceiling windows all along one side. The carpet absorbed the sound of her heels, and only her breath filled the huge space overhead, breath that came in short, gasping bursts. Away to her left hung a strange tapestry of warlocks and witches. A sign above a doorway read, Salle Oberlin. High above her, more silk cushions. She ran past a glass balustrade looking down on a sprawling maze of cloakrooms. A triangular overhead sign told her she was still on track for Tivoli 1. Up steps, through open glass doors, and she heard the voice of the Italian coming from the faraway room. Then Sylvie's clear, confident translation into English then French. The meeting room was full. Cameras ranged along the back wall, TV lights throwing everything into sharp focus. Sylvie sat a little to the Italian's right behind a desk on the podium, a sales chart projected on the screen behind them.
Excerpted from Blacklight Blue by Peter May Copyright © 2008 by Peter May. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Peter May won the Scottish Young Journalist of the Year Award at 21 and had his first novel published at 26. He went on to become a successful Scottish television dramatist. He lives in France with his wife Janice Halley.
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Scottish expatriate forensic scientist Enzo Macleod has earned a well deserved reputation for solving a decades old cold case homicide (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC) as written in a true crime book by his daughter¿s boyfriend journalist Roger Raffin. Enzo has five unsolved cases left in order to complete his ¿read¿ of Raffin¿s book. Roger describes the 1992 Paris murder of Yves, but Enzo finds focusing difficult on the homicide as he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer with only a few months to live. However, the culprit knows only of Enzo¿s success and fears the forensic expert will expose him. The killer works behind the scenes to destroy Enzo including setting him up as a murder suspect and threatens his daughter and other loved ones. Thus Enzo is forced to investigate the rent boy murder. --- As with the two previous Macleod investigative thriller (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC), BLACKLIGHT BLUE is a superb cold case whodunit enhanced by the shocking personal health issue confronting the hero. The story line effortlessly moves back forth through four decades with the past adding to the overall drama. Fans of this extraordinary series will appreciate the irony that the killer forces Enzo to investigate. --- Harriet Klausner