In his fourth novel featuring Captain Paul Darac, a detective in the Brigade Criminelle in Nice, Peter Morfoot raises the curtain on another vivid slice of life on the French Riviera. This time, attention focuses on a small nearby community where corruption and criminality is rife.
Maintaining a continuing character interestingly and effectively is no easy task but Morfoot accomplishes it with flair and imagination and the strengths and tribulations of his lead character continue to impress. The private lives of some of Darac’s colleagues also develop further, particularly that of grumpy Roland Granot who is battling unwillingly yet humorously with his weight, and here again the writer’s skills make it all very real. It is not only criminals who make Darac’s life difficult, he is also hindered by the self-serving actions of public prosecutor Jules Frènes.
Investigating a suspicious death at a railway station, Darac and his team learn that the dead man is a once-famous film star, the Jacques Tati-like Ambroise Paillaud. As they dig into Paillaud’s background a troublingly complex personal life is uncovered, one that contrasts strikingly with the former star’s hilarious on-screen roles. Morfoot’s fluent storytelling engages and holds interest as the twists and turns of a complex case are unravelled.
As Darac deals with his professional problems, his personal relationships continue to cause difficulties for him, in particular his affair with married vice-cop Captain “Frankie” Lejeune.
Another continuing aspect of Darac’s life is music. In his few moments away from his professional and personal travails, he plays guitar with the Didier Musso Quintet, the house band at a local club. On this occasion the quintet is preparing to open for a visiting American big band at a local jazz festival. Throughout, whether at home or more often in his car, Darac listens to jazz on record and a Spotify list of all these tracks as well as other music mentioned appears in the end pages.
Readers of quality crime fiction will enjoy this, and those who are also jazz fans will get an extra kick. In case you missed them, the previous books in this series are Impure Blood, Fatal Music (reviewed JJ 2017) and Box Of Bones (reviewed JJ 2018).
Knock ’Em Dead, A Captain Darac Mystery, by Peter Morfoot. Galileo, pb, 336pp. ₤8.99 / USD14.95 / CAD19.95. ISBN: 978-1-912916-18-4; Ebook: 978-1-912916-19-1; Kindle: 978-1-912916-20-7