Paris Requiem

Written by Chris Lloyd

Review written by Michael Jecks

Paris Requiem
Orion Publishing
RRP: £18.99
Released: February 23 2023

Chris Lloyd is a new author to me. I didn't see his first book in this series, called “The Unwanted Dead”, which was the first novel in his Occupation series. That book received rave reviews from the major newspapers as well as other historical and crime writers. The Historical Writers Association awarded the book their highest prize, the Gold Crown, saying “A tense and gripping mystery which hums with menace and dark humour as well as immersing the reader in the life of occupied Paris.”

Having read this book, I can see why his first received such high accolades.

The story is set during the German occupation of Paris in September, October and November of 1940. Chris Lloyd has researched this period extensively, and the reader feels utterly convinced by the scenes, the period and the atmosphere of the time. Lloyd has created, in Eddie Giral, a believable and compassionate character. We see the minor trials of life for a Frenchman in Paris under occupation: rationed food means little to eat, prices are rising due to German profiteering, and the daily queues for basics are energy-sapping. Added to that, his life is a constant battle: trying to combat crime in the city, while simultaneously trying to avoid helping his German overlords. While not submitting to them, he is still viewed as a collaborator by Parisians and disdained by the law-abiding as much as by the thieves and villains he must deal with. This all creates a suspenseful tension, and the reader gains a sense of the impossibility of his situation, rather like Leo Demidov in CHILD 44.

This situation creates an environment of threat and danger, which is ever-present in his life. The plot is very well realised: an old associate of Eddie Giral’s owns a nightclub, which has been closed by the Germans because he had jazz musicians playing their decadent nonsense. One day the cleaner discovers a murdered man, seated in a chair in the office with his lips sewn shut.

The violence shown is shocking to Eddie, and he and his colleagues are determined to learn who could have committed the crime, but more concerning is the discovery that this man should be in prison. He had been incarcerated after his own activities, and soon Eddie learns that other criminals have been released from prison.

This first murder leads Eddie on the trail of drug gangs petty thieves and collaborators at the height of German occupation, but a subplot takes us into darker territory, when Eddie is asked to find out what happened to a friend’s son, a man who had been fighting in one of the French colonial regiments, and who has disappeared since the German invasion. It leads Eddie to a hideous secret.

The plotting is frankly superb, with the guilty person brought in fairly early in the story, but only so that Eddie can be blackmailed into assisting the criminals. For the rest of the story, I thought the outline was straightforward enough - and then there was a great twist I didn’t see coming at all. As a cynical reviewer and crime writer myself, I love it when I can be surprised like that!

I have to say that this book is superb, a masterful follow-up to his first title, and I look forward to getting a copy of that, too.

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