Frederique Molay’s first Nico Sirsky novel, The 7th Woman, won the prize for Best Crime Novel in France in 2007, so you’re quite justified going into this book with high expectations. And you won’t be disappointed. This is an intriquing, polished murder mystery featuring the very likeable Police Commissioner Nico Sirsky.
Sirsky has now recovered from his gunshot wound, and his divorce, and life is good again. He has a new woman in his life and some interesting cases to get his teeth into. And one of these actually involves teeth. A student dentist doing a dissection as part of his training comes across something in a tooth. It turns out to be a tiny bit of paper stuck in a makeshift filling that says, ‘I was murdered’. Not that’s got to catch your attention! Of course, it could be a sick joke but soon Sirsky and his team uncover more macabre murders. Something is crossing the line of acceptability at a hospital renowned for its progress in cancer treatment. And at the heart of it all is a little girl.
The French edition of this book was titled Dent pour Dent – A Tooth for a Tooth. I had misgivings about the English title mainly because there are already so many books called ‘Crossing the Line’ out there. Amazon.com gives you 22,589 to choose from under the category ‘Books’. The worry with using a popular title is that a book can get lost. That may not be quite such a worry with such a prestigious, prize-winning author as Fréderique Molay, but generally a unique, distinctive title helps a book in terms of discoverability. However, Crossing the Line is certainly an apt title for this novel, since several lines are crossed – in terms of relationships, personal accomplishments and what’s ethically acceptable in the fight against disease. So yes, the title has won me over.
There is one thing about the very eye-catching cover that I don’t like. It’s not the Eiffel Tower, that iconic symbol of France, which at once portrays the setting of this novel and acts as a beacon of attraction. It may be horribly overused as meaning France, but it works brilliantly on this cover. And the title crossing the ‘Do Not Cross’ line is a very clever, creative touch. No, it’s the inclusion of that ugly, glaring red label: ‘She is the French Michael Connelly’. Possibly in the mind of whoever wrote this, Molay is, but I personally can’t see any particular similarity other than they’re both authors. To me Molay is by far the better author of the two, with the depth and dimension of her writing. Too many crime writers get caught up in overdoing the dry details of terminology and technology used in forensics departments, but here we have descriptive, beautiful details about settings, personalities, relationships – everything. The publisher should let readers make up their own minds. I imagine its purpose is to boost sales but that presupposes everyone knows Connelly’s books and automatically likes them, and personally I think it will deter as many readers as it attracts. I imagine I’m not the only one who doesn’t like being told what to think! The cover would look much better without it.
This novel, the second in a series, works very well as a standalone, but you get more from it having read the precursor. Sirsky’s Russian heritage can be a little baffling at first if you dive into this second novel, although you have a strong hint with the son being called Dimitri. Plus you get the added element of seeing the characters develop.
In conclusion, Crossing the Line is an extremely enjoyable, thought-provoking read.
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