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Find out if she is related to Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, what she thinks about the differences between French and American thrillers, transcending the limits of a French readership, French "Jack the Rippers," where she finds her inspiration to write these police procedurals set in France, and much more.
The latest Paris Homicide mystery takes place for the most part in the vicinity of La Villette park and museum complex in the northeastern part of the city. The complex is built on what used to be the city's central slaughterhouses. One nickname for the area gave the name to the novel: The City of Blood. But, that's only looking at the dark side. If you go by a local restaurant's take on neighborhood history, it could have been called a "temple of meat."
Of course, this being France and all, there is a food heritage related to that time in the city's history, and the city's butchers had their favorite cuts of meat. Today, if you see entrecôte la villette on a menu, it refers to a steak with chopped shallots, fried lightly in butter (lots of butter), served up on top of the meat, with a pinch of chopped parsley, a few drops of lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.
In the novel, Sirsky and his team end up at a restaurant in the neighborhood and they eat meat, of course, rare, with fluffy fried potatoes. If you happen to be in Paris, you can find the chateaubriand des bidochards and a pavé des mandataires at a restaurant called Au Boeuf Couronne, at 188 Avenue Jean Jaurès in the nineteenth arrondissement—the "Temple of Meat in Paris," according to the website.
Translator Jeffrey Zuckerman on a lesser-known part of Paris: La Villette.
For most tourists, Paris is a very compact city—here the Eiffel Tower, there the Arc de Triomphe, a few blocks away the Louvre—and any expeditions to, say, Monet’s garden at Giverny are a good two hours away. But of course Paris is more complex than it would appear at first glance.
Le French Book asked me to translate a Parisian mystery novel—The City of Blood by Frédérique Molay—and when I read its first page, I realized we were in a part of Paris most people weren’t thinking of. A proper look at its map would show a large park within the city limits, to the north and the east: the Parc de la Villette. Once the site of Paris’s animal slaughterhouses (earning the place its nickname “The City of Blood”), it has in the past few decades been turned into a grassy meadow with beautiful buildings and sculptures.
This is the setting for The City of Blood’s murders, and watching Police Chief Nico Sirsky make his way through the park’s various corners reveals a deeply fascinating place. Many pictures of the Parc de la Villette feature the Géode, a large and mirrored Epcot-like geodesic dome that houses an IMAX theater. There are various themed gardens, including a perfectly maintained French church garden. Red architectural follies provide views over the entire park.
And there are large, grassy meadows. In the book’s opening pages, a trench is being excavated and the archaeologists at work come across a skeleton among the remains. The whole thing has unexpectedly been caught on national television, and so Nico’s forces have to scramble to stay ahead of the cameras and the crowds. It is a whole new terrain for the police forces, who usually find themselves in dark alleyways and narrow, eighteenth-century buildings.
The Parc de la Villette lost its nickname decades ago, but The City of Blood brings its history back, both in the research the police do and in the discoveries they make during their investigations. It may no longer be a slaughterhouse for animals, but Nico and his loyal force are working their hardest to make sure it doesn’t become a slaughterhouse for people. And the result is a riveting book, a perfect addition to the Paris Homicide series.
Award-winning author Frédérique Molay of the Paris Homicide series—The City of Blood is now out in the world—talks about what inspired her main character Nico Sirsky at the blog Queen of All She Reads. She begins the post with this:
"When an author chooses a hero in a novel, it is hard to distinguish what in that character comes from the author’s own life and what comes from other sources. What I can say is that I wanted the main character in the Paris Homicide series to head up the Paris Criminal Investigation Division. That became clear to me the day I met the actual man in that position, who necessarily inspired the character."
Read the rest and enter the book giveaway here: Queen of All She Reads.
Many thanks to France Book Tours for setting up this tour.
Don't miss the next Paris Homicide mystery, The City of Blood by Frédérique Molay, and translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman. Today is the official release date.
It is a story about dealing with loss and has been characterized as "a classy French police procedural." Art and history combine with suspense and intrigue, transporting readers to present-day Paris for another mystery by an author who can “give CSI writers a run for their money."
Librarians are already calling The City of Blood "an excellent read," and booksellers are recommending it: “If you like reading mysteries with good descriptions of the physical setting.”
Want to start the series? We have a special launch price on the The 7th Woman ebooks, so grab a copy before January 28.
What's the book about? When a major Parisian modern art event gets unexpected attention on live TV, Chief of Police Nico Sirsky and his team of elite crime fighters rush to La Villette park and museum complex. There, renowned artist Samuel Cassian is inaugurating the first archeological dig of modern art, three decades after burying the leftovers of a banquet. In front of reporters from around the world, excavators uncover a skeleton. Could it be the artist’s own son? And does that death have anything to do with the current string of nightclub murders by the “Paris Butcher”? On the site of the French capital’s former slaughterhouses, the investigation takes Nico and France’s top criminal investigation division from artists’ studios to autopsy theaters and nightclubs in hopes of tracking down the murderer who has turned this Paris park into a city of blood.
Quick, what's the first image that comes to mind when you hear "Paris"? I'd bet it's not the Parc de la Villette, although this large park and museum complex in the north of the city is quite a place, as we learn in the next Paris Homicide mystery, The City of Blood, by Frédérique Molay. The park has an interesting history, which makes it a fine setting for... murder, of course. Here's an excerpt.
“The park is seeping with history,” Clavel rhapsodized. “La Villette—which means la petite ville, the little city—was once the site of a Gallo-Roman village. It was a fertile area where people made their living on the land. It was also the site of the Montfaucon gallows, which were built to render King Louis IX’s verdicts in the thirteenth century.”
Kriven grimaced and looked entirely focused on every word the woman was saying. Nico figured he was visualizing the dead men hanging from their ropes, their skin giving off a pestilential odor as they dangled over the pit beneath the scaffold.
“It was at La Villette that Baron Haussmann decided to create a single location for Paris’s animal markets and slaughterhouses, which Napoleon III inaugurated in 1867. La Villette became the Cité du Sang, the City of Blood.”
Cows stabbed in the forehead, calves and lambs slit across the throat, pigs bled dry before being roasted, animals hung from metal hooks and carved up—sights and smells as nauseating as those of the Montfaucon gallows. Now the images were flowing through Nico’s overactive brain.
“Even today, ‘La Villette’ is the name given to a thick and bloody cut of beef served in many Parisian restaurants.”
These former slaughterhouses were the focus of a 1949 film by Georges Franju called The Blood of Beasts in English. It's, well, from 1949, and the faint of heart may be happy it is in black and white. Here it is.
Thanks once again to Emma at France Book Tours, we have an online tour planned out for Frédérique Molay's new Paris Homicide mystery The City of Blood, which comes out this month on the 20th. There be reviews, guest posts and giveaways. Thanks for visiting these bloggers. Here's the schedule:
Thursday, January 15
Spotlight + Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, January 16
Review + Giveaway at The Discerning Reader
Sunday, January 18
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Musings of a Writer and Unabashed Francophile
Monday, January 19
Review + Guest-Post + Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads
Wednesday, January 21
Review + Giveaway at I Wish I Lived in a Library
Saturday, January 24
Review + Giveaway at Valli’s Book Den
Friday, January 30
Review + Giveaway at Words And Peace
Monday, February 2
Spotlight + Giveaway at Deal Sharing Aunt
Tuesday, February 3
Review + Giveaway at I’d Rather Be At The Beach
You can enter the giveaway here
or on the book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook.
Paris feels too beautiful for cutting-edge science research, so well preserved are its cobbled streets and yellowing façades. Building restrictions keep nearly every part of Paris less than 121 feet tall (with only a few skyscrapers and the Eiffel Tower), and many blue street signs are lovingly repainted. This scheme is so entrenched in the French mindset that a recent futuristic film, Renaissance, envisioned a Paris that has its streets replaced with thick glass and expanded not by building up but by digging deep underground.
But how does this love for decrepit buildings mesh with science labs that need to be sterile and clean? Or with police investigations that require state-of-the-art technology? These were questions in my head as I translated Frédérique Molay's The City of Blood for Le French Book, and I was delighted to find answers in the book’s pages.
In one scene, where the police have sent items from a crime scene away for forensic analysis, the police captain comes to the research building at Quai d’Horloge. All the analysis there is being done not in the building itself, but in “mobile units set up in the courtyard.” The scene is right out of another sci-fi movie: “The lab was filled with workers in white coats, as well as machines connected to computers, printers, microscopes, and a surprising number of flasks and test tubes.”
But a far more ingenious workaround is achieved with investigations at the police headquarters. Everything happens at a massive eighteenth-century building on the Quai des Orfèvres, including suspect lineups. “The police didn’t have modern rooms conforming to twenty-first-century standards,” Frédérique Molay tells us. “The holding cells on the third floor were used. So the hallway lights had to be dimmed to keep suspects from seeing witnesses. And the witnesses had to talk quietly, because there wasn’t any soundproofing.” But sometimes respecting historical architecture just doesn’t do the trick.
What if the witnesses want to have a discussion? In one of the book’s most climactic scenes, Police Chief Nico Sirsky cannot use a modern room, so he decides to use glass in a completely different way from those futuristic filmmakers. He has several witnesses and criminal suspects squeeze into a room that has a huge one-way mirror in the middle. The suspects face the mirrored side, while the witnesses watch through the non-reflective side. And then the interrogation begins, and because of Nico’s ingenuity, the answer is found every bit as professionally as it would have been in a twenty-first century room.
It’s a perfect solution to a quintessentially Parisian problem—and yet another detail that made The City of Blood all the more fascinating to read, and to translate.