It’s Christmas in Paris. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He’s in love and rearing to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Dental students discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head. Is it a sick joke? Sirsky and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? More suspense and mystery with the Paris Homicide team from the prizewinning author Frédérique Molay, the "French Michael Connelly." This is the second in the prize-winning Paris Homicide series.
About the Author
Called, "the French Michael Connelly," Frédérique Molay graduated from France's prestigious Science Po and began her career in politics and the French administration. She worked as chief of staff for the deputy mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and then was elected to the local government in Saône-et-Loire. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. The first in the Paris Homicide series, The 7th Woman, won France's most prestigious crime fiction award and went on to become an international bestseller, allowing Molay to dedicate her life to writing and raising her three children.
Anne Trager has lived in France for over a quarter of a century, working in translation, publishing and communications. In 2011, she woke up one morning and said, “I just can’t stand it anymore. There are way too many good books being written in France not reaching a broader audience.” That’s when she founded Le French Book to translate some of those books into English. The company’s motto is “If we love it, we translate it,” and Anne loves crime fiction, mysteries and detective novels.
Read an Excerpt
Crossing the Line
A Paris Homicide Novel
By Frédérique Molay, Anne Trager
Le French BookCopyright © 2011 Librairie Arthème Fayard
All rights reserved.
Nico Sirsky breathed deeply, concentrating on his stride. His arms were bent at ninety degrees, and his eyes were focused straight ahead. The harsh cold bit his cheeks, but he kept a good pace, pain notwithstanding. He had been shot in the leg a few months earlier, and he was still recovering from the injury. The endorphins raced through his body. The effort felt good.
A Radiohead album given to him by his son, Dimitri, hammered his ears. The hit "Creep" brought his thoughts back to Caroline. "You're just like an angel. Your skin makes me cry ... I wish I was special. You're so fucking special." This morning, she was already at Saint Antoine Hospital, where she ran the gastroenterology department. Nico had gotten up and gone for a run when she left. The exercise helped him chase away the ghosts of those he had locked up and their ravaged victims. This curious moment at dawn, between night and morning, put him in a parallel universe. The glow of the city dazed him with its dance of headlights, streetlamps, window neon, and floating strings of Christmas decorations setting the trees ablaze. The silent forms that crossed his path went from shadow to light before disappearing around a bend or into a subway entrance. Everything seemed unreal, and with the music, he felt as though he were racing through a movie set. There he was, an extra amid overall indifference, belting along as if the devil were hot on his tail.
Nico had started his jog at the Esplanade des Invalides, skimmed around the Eiffel Tower, circumvented the Arc de Triomphe, and made his way along the Champs-Élysées to the Concorde. Then he ran past the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre. His next milepost: the Luxembourg Gardens. He could hear Commander David Kriven, one of the Criminal Investigation Division's twelve squad chiefs, teasing him about how ridiculous it was to take the right bank to get from the Invalides to the Sénat. There were more direct routes and certainly less strenuous means of transportation than on his one good leg.
It had been only three months since the surgeon had operated on Nico's leg. After that, he had dived into intensive physical therapy—there was no way he would concede the slightest victory to the bastard who had targeted him. Nico had braved it all, even if it meant clenching his teeth and swallowing painkillers. Spread the word: Chief Nico Sirsky was back full time in his fourth-floor office at the Paris police headquarters, 36 Quai des Orfèvres. He had returned to his old brown-leather chair and his giant worktable filled with case files and police complaints. He was once again leading his team of a hundred or so elite crime fighters. Just as important, he had put his stormy divorce and the sudden departure of his depressed ex-wife behind him. He had custody of their fourteen-year-old son, and now Dimitri, Caroline, and he were a real family.
In the middle of the Pont des Arts, Nico felt transported to a snowy scene in Russia, his family homeland. The roofs resembled mountaintops in the Caucasus. In front of him, in place of the golden dome of the Institut de France—home of the Académie Française—he imagined the red façade of Moscow's Saint Basil's Cathedral. Nico smiled at the thought of Paris strutting its stuff, no matter the weather. Come rain, wind, or snow, his city revealed all her finery with the same charm, like an experienced, elegant, and spellbinding woman. The Seine River rippling beneath him complemented the magic.
Returning to the Left Bank, Nico slipped on a thin layer of white powder that carpeted the pavement. He recovered his footing just as he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Who could be calling at such an early hour? Going by probability alone, he guessed it was headquarters. Like a praying mantis lying in wait for its quarry, death stalked the city's alleys, dead ends, and gardens in the hours before dawn. And the most pious-looking killer could strike at dizzying speed.
Caroline's name appeared on the screen with a text message. "I love you. Be careful." Nico felt a knot in his throat; never before had he had such strong feelings for a woman. "Luv U 2," he answered as he sped up, running in pace with the sensual harmony of The xx, with its distant guitars and troubling blend of refinement and brutality.
He finished with a sprint down the Rue Oudinot. He typed in the gate code and pushed his way into a small private alley lined with a few handsome homes. This was his corner of paradise, near the Tour Montparnasse. He entered his house and took off his sopping-wet running shoes. In the hallway, a note was hanging from the coat rack: "Hi, Dad. Hope you're okay. Off to school. Later. D." Nico looked at his watch. It was seven thirty. He sighed and went upstairs, in great need of a hot shower. The water spurted out, calming him, and Nico imagined Caroline's gentle hands soaping him up, her mouth glued to his.
"Stop that, would you!" he said out loud.
He rinsed quickly and stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around his waist and going into his room—their room. Caroline had kept her apartment but came here more and more often.
Nico put on a suit and tie and then unlocked the safe at the back of the closet. He grabbed his holstered gun and felt its weight in his hand. Friend or enemy? Life or death? A gun protected as much as it threatened. As he attached it to his belt, the cold, hard reality struck him again. He hated having to use his gun, but like so many other things in this world—crime, separation, illness, loss—he had to deal with it.
A half hour later, Nico turned onto the Quai des Orfèvres. The faux-medieval tower of police headquarters rose up alongside the Seine. He parked in his reserved spot next to the building. Security guards saluted him with deference as he entered the cobblestone passageway that led to the interior courtyard. He felt ready and alert, as if he were going into a stadium. He walked along the outside wall until he reached the glass door to Stairwell A. The headquarters were cramped and in a sorry state, but the police prefect was working hard on a plan to move the operations to a new building in the Batignolles neighborhood. Despite the additional space and better conditions the new quarters would offer, Nico was not thrilled about leaving 36 Quai des Orfèvres. He liked the old-fashioned feel of the building, with its stairs covered in black linoleum and crumbling hallways haunted by the ghosts of his illustrious predecessors.
On the fourth floor, a lit sign that looked like it belonged in a train station signaled the hallway. In dark blue letters on a white background, it read Brigade Criminelle. It was La Crim', otherwise known as the Criminal Investigation Division. At the entry to the hallway, a showcase held merchandise sold to support the Police Benevolent Association. The mugs, key rings, caps, T-shirts, and Champagne were all branded with a thistle, the elite division's emblem. The division's slogan was posted on the wall: "Brush against us and you get stung." There was no ambiguity in those words.
Nico gave a few instructions to his secretaries and headed down the hallway to his office, one of the few on the floor that was large enough to be comfortable. The mandatory portrait of the president of France welcomed him. The furniture was outdated, but the space was pleasant enough and offered a breathtaking view of the Seine. He barely had time to sit down in his large leather chair when the phone rang. It was Claire Le Marec, his deputy chief. She was a competent police officer who had skillfully taken over for him while he was in the hospital, preserving his higher-ranking position and never trying to grab the spotlight.
"We're ready when you are," she said, referring to Nico's daily meeting with his four section chiefs to review their active cases. Before, they would have knocked on his door and entered without any ceremony. But Le Marec continued to serve as a buffer, perhaps out of guilt for not having been there three months earlier, when a murderer had spread terror throughout the city, challenging Nico and trying to kill both him and Caroline.
"You've been slaving away these last few weeks, Claire. Lighten up. I'm not made of eggshells. The proof is in my running shoes, which just flew over six miles of sidewalk and are begging for more."
"See. You're already overdoing it."
Nico smiled. "Come on. I bet I could outrun Yann anytime." Claire's husband was from coastal Brittany and good at sea but inept on land. "I'm waiting for you," he said, his tone professional again. He hung up, lost in thought. He knew he was no more invincible than Captain Amélie Ader, one of the six members of David Kriven's squad. Ader had been murdered by the serial killer who had targeted Nico. The case had burst the bubble of protection that he had thought surrounded those close to him just because he embodied the police force. It had never really existed.
No Christmas elf could change that.CHAPTER 2
Dr. Patrice Rieux walked quickly along the Rue des Saints-Pères, which bordered Paris Descartes University. He glanced down an alley to a door that led to a grimy basement. Students found the ghoulish atmosphere in the basement perfect for hazing. Broken cabinets, decrepit work surfaces, dented water basins, burst file boxes, and battered carts were scattered all over the floor. A confusion of pipes covered the ceiling, like snakes ready to drop and bite under the dull fluorescent light. Not a place for the sensitive soul.
A little farther along, at 45 Rue des Saints-Pères, a group of young men, cigarettes between their lips and deep circles under their eyes, milled at the entrance, stamping their feet against the cold. Dr. Rieux passed a large pine tree and made his way into the university's main hall. He squeezed through a crowd of students, most of whom would never make it beyond their first year. They were overworked, tired, and pushed to their limits. The dentist climbed to the sixth floor. A yellowing piece of paper taped to a glass door pointed to the anatomy department. It was past the body donation office. A grim waiting area was reserved for those who were willing to give their bodies to science after they died but had questions while they were still alive. The area consisted of a small wooden bench against a wall. Posts with unrolling straps closed off a nine-square-foot zone. The space was almost always empty, as if sitting there could bring bad luck. Actually, the bench had an aura of death.
The legendary red door at the end of the hallway opened with an ominous creak. Marcel appeared in the hallway in his usual outfit, which was like a second skin: jeans, immaculate white coat, and plastic clogs. He was short and heavyset, with thick hands, white hair, and a sharp eye. The man was a good sixty years old, and the red door was his. It led to his own private suite next to the Farabeuf Lab. Marcel was the most experienced body processor at the university. It was best not to know his production secrets.
Patrice Rieux greeted him warmly at the entry to the lab. Marcel said hello, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief, and then he reassured the dentist that the specimens were ready.
Inside the lab, forty or so dentists were jostling at the buffet table for coffee, fruit juice, and pastries before putting on their uniforms. In his tailored nineteen-seventies-style floral shirt, the kind he wore when he haunted these halls as a student, Dr. Rieux clearly enjoyed playing host. And he now frequented this place regularly, thanks to the postgraduate training clinic run in partnership with the university. His company offered a full anatomy and pathology course of studies for practicing dentists who wanted to perfect their emergency surgery skills. The coursework was practical, and the techniques were taught on fresh subjects—fresh, but dead. Dr. Rieux had hired a team of teaching-hospital practitioners and private-practice dentists to oversee the students. They wore white coats and name tags. The students were in single-use smocks, shoe covers, and blue caps.
Patrice Rieux entered the classroom and felt the usual shiver run up his spine. He loved being in this temple of medicine. Temple: there was no better word for it. The ceiling was nearly twenty feet high. Huge shuttered windows towered above the blackboards, and a giant screen rose up in the front of the room. Fluorescent fixtures as big as bathtubs diffused a uniform white light over the twenty-four dissection tables lined up in four rows. The environment was perfect for surgery, which offered an emotional ride one hundred times more exhilarating than a roller coaster. Contrary to popular belief, doctors did not think of themselves as all-powerful gods. They were too aware that the slip of a needle or a minute scalpel error could endanger a patient's health and even a patient's life. Wasn't that fear of making a costly mistake indispensable in this profession? The job required extraordinary concentration, unwavering energy, and comprehensive knowledge.
This day's patients, however, did not need such crucial attention.
While his colleagues checked the equipment, Dr. Rieux greeted Professor Francis Étienne, head of the anatomy department at Paris Descartes University. The man was planning to retire, which was bad news for the students. Étienne was a master in human anatomy and organ topography. He knew exactly where to slice into the flesh so that it left barely a trace. But cemeteries were filled with irreplaceable professionals, all of whom had wound up being replaced.
The professor grinned at Dr. Rieux. He was nearly quivering with excitement: a fish in his element. "I'm ready," he said.
A lab tech stood next to the professor, ready to hand over instruments and aim the operating lamp. He also had the task of running the camera so the students could follow the procedure on the screen.
The metallic sound of trolley wheels on the floor tiles signaled Marcel's arrival. Silence fell in the Farabeuf Lab, and the room felt a few degrees warmer. In one quick, smooth gesture, Marcel whisked away the large blue sheet that covered the stainless-steel cart, and all the students looked away. The heads of twenty men and women of all ages stared out. The decapitations had been done according to the rules of the art, and the body processor had acquitted the task with skill. Marcel started handing out the specimens, setting them on holders on the tables, next to surgical instruments and rolls of paper towels. The students took their places at their assigned tables. Professor Étienne prompted his assistant to start the camera and zoom in on the head he had been given.
"This morning, Wednesday, December 2, we'll be focusing on mandibular wisdom-tooth surgery," the professor began. Our specimens here are a bit unusual, in that they still have their wisdom teeth. As you know, many people have had these teeth removed by the time they are in their mid-twenties."
The tech inserted retractors to hold the jaw open, and after a few jokes, the room hushed.
"Let's start with the lingual flap. Ladies and gentlemen, by freeing up this part, you avoid damage to the lingual nerve just inside the mandible. One wrong movement with the drill, and half the tongue goes numb. Now that would be awkward, wouldn't it?"
A few students chuckled.
"Okay, let's continue. Please pick up a number fifteen scalpel, and we'll start by cutting into the cheek," Professor Étienne said as he made the incision on his head, which was then magnified on the screen. "Make a sulcular incision like this."
The room was perfectly quiet. The students were entirely focused, as they leaned over their heads.
"Cut the membrane and part of the buccinator muscle upward toward the front edge of the mandibular nerve branch. Now take a periosteal elevator, and free the gum from the periosteum. Done?"
The teaching team, led by Dr. Rieux, roamed up and down the rows, commenting and helping out.
"Now make a vertical incision with Metzenbaum scissors."
"Gently, gently," Dr. Rieux said. "We're not cutting steak here."
Light laughter relaxed the atmosphere.
Excerpted from Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay, Anne Trager. Copyright © 2011 Librairie Arthème Fayard. Excerpted by permission of Le French Book.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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"When I learned to read, it was like a revelation. It was incredible to me to discover that letters formed words, then sentences and, finally, stories, stories that take you into a parallel world, a fourth dimension, a land of dreamsor even nightmares. Very quickly, I became intrigued by the mechanisms of suspense that keep readers turning the pages of a book. So, I made a wish: to discover this power granted to novelists so that I too could make others feel such strong emotions. To do that, I wrote my first novel when I was eleven years old. It was a story about a child-killing cat."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Crossing the Line (Paris Homicide #2) by Frédérique Molay, Anne Trager Translation from the original French... this seamlessly translated novel is as good as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Set in Paris with significant cultural markers and historical artifacts. A circumstantial body find takes place in a medical school in Paris. The donated body has it secrets which were not found until numerous classes and procedures were done to the body. The dismembered body hides the clues to two other murders. Chief Nico has to work through the evidence to find his murderer. It is a trilling adventure in a world people spend a life time dreaming about. The city of love, the historical ambiance adds significantly to the story.
Must read series if you like police and crime thrillers. I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour for a fair and honest review. I rated it 4.5 out of 5 Stars. Still recovering from being shot three months ago, Chief Nico Sirsky returns to his offices at “La Crim”. Immersing himself back into work full time, Nico is happy about the direction both his personal and professional life have taken. Especially with the Christmas holidays just around the corner. While Nico and his team look forward to working together again, another man, realizing his days are numbered, finds an unusual way to alert the police about his murder. And so begins Crossing the Line, the second book in Frederique Molay’s Paris Homicide series. Having established her characters in The 7Th. Woman. Ms. Molay, challenges them, and her readers, with a mystery that will take them through the hallowed halls of universities and hospitals, dedicated to helping their fellow man, to find a killer willing to do whatever it takes to have his way. While Ms. Molay spent a lot of time in developing Nico’s character and giving us insight into his personal life, this book takes a different direction concentrating more on the procedural and investigative aspect of Nico’s professional life. Don’t get me wrong, we still get to see his personal relationships, but now we are seeing Nico relishing life more – getting shot reminded him life is fragile, even for the members of a crack police team. Perhaps more fragile than even he can imagine. We also get to meet some new characters in this book, characters who I look forward to getting to know more as the series continues to develop. I particularly enjoyed meeting Claire Le Marec, Nico’s deputy chief, and Marcel, a body processor at the Paris Descart University, a colorful character who provides yet another philosophy on life. Nico and his team also have two crimes to solve in this story; a high profile and high dollar theft, which has naturally sent his superiors into near apoplexy, and a murder, which may or may not be tied to one of the most prestigious, and well known, universities in France. Both cases that could have a huge public and professional impact on Nico’s future. Especially since his mentor, and one of his bosses, Deputy Police Commissioner Michel Cohen is worried about how long it’s taking them to solve the high profile theft. I also enjoyed getting to see Nico interact with Police Commissioner Nicole Monthalet more; it’s nice to see women in high profile, high powered positions in a traditionally male dominated field. Nico's team, a colorful group of men and women, also gets more time in this installment and we get to know a little bit more about some of their personal lives - like the rest of us, they too face challenges both professionally and personally at the same time. Will Nico and his team be able to solve both crimes before the holidays? Will Nico’s surprise Christmas gift to his family bring them all closer together and bring them closer to their heritage? You’ll have to read Crossing the Line to find out. I can’t wait to dive into the next book in this series, The City of Blood, to see what happens next.
Outstanding thriller that will captivate you from end to finish! Last year, France Book Tours organized a book tour on Frédérique Molay’s previous book: The 7th Woman. Thinking thrillers were not really for me, I didn’t participate in the tour. But after reading ecstatic reviews, I promised myself not to do that mistake again. So I didn’t hesitate a second to read the 2nd book in the Series: Crossing The Line, and now I can’t wait to read many more books by this amazing French woman. Let me tell you why. The main hero is Chief of Police Nico Sirsky, a big shot at La Crim’, the famous Criminal Investigation Division in Paris. The book heats up very quickly, in the most creative, unusual, and gruesome way: in a lab class, where student dentists are learning and practicing wisdom-tooth surgery on heads donated to science, students find something strange sticking out of a weird looking filling. They call the teacher, who also finds it fishy so right away calls the police. They discover a piece of folded hard plastic has been introduced in that filling. Even more weird, a message is written on it: “I was murdered“! Now, if this does not make you drop everything to keep reading, I don’t know what other thriller would! The passage of the lab class was really so spooky I could smell it as if I had been there. And if I had applied to give my body to science, I would most certainly refuse to do so by now, having read in details what they do to bodies donated… Everyone thinks this has to be a suicide, except of course Nico. But then, if it’s not a suicide, how, when, and why would that message have ended up in that tooth filling? I really can’t give you any more details, you will have to discover by yourself. The whole story is very fast-paced, and you go from surprise to surprise, from murder to murder. And the big surprise comes at the end, when you finally you see all the connections, who did what and why. And believe me, this is nothing you can ever have imagined! Another thing I really enjoyed a lot in this book is seeing all the parties involved, and how everyone worked together to solve the mystery, each with his/her own expertise — yes, some major actors are women. Maybe it’s because this is really the first police procedural I read, but I thought this was so well done and fascinating. You have police commissioners, a detective, a chief medical examiner, staff at the forensics lab, notaries (with funny opinions on them!), a magistrate, a computer specialist anti-terrorist investigators, a public prosecutor, and a profiler. At the same time as this investigation is going on, Nico is trying to catch some thieves involved in a major jewelry theft. I think this did not really add anything for me actually. What I liked is that Nico’s job is situated in the context of his daily family life, it definitely adds texture to the writing. The book has been translated from the French, but I don’t think you can ever detect it, you get totally swept away right away in what’s going on. A sign of a great translation! VERDICT: With her most amazing creativity making your hair stand on end, the famous French writer Frédérique Molay delivers an outstanding thriller that will captivate you from end to finish. Follow the expertise of multiple actors to figure out who did what to whom and why. Surprise guaranteed!
Copy received from France Book Tours for an honest review The second book in the Paris Homicide series, Crossing the Line was a can't-wait-for-next-page read! Chief Niko Sirsky is in the middle of the action once again. With the help of his new love interest, Caroline, he is slowly recuperating from a leg injury. Although he is not a 100% he is thrown in the middle of a jewel heist and investigate the meaning behind body parts that appear. This book gave me the chills, the pace was so quick and the mystery was scary. Molay is a very good writer. She knows how to keep the readers anticipating and intrigued with the mystery. Molay really keeps readers intrigued as Nico has a talent for balancing all the mishaps, making them seem believable and keeping the reader wanting to turn the next page. Fast-pace, scary and exciting!