When a minor Paris criminal is found stabbed in the neck on a country lane in Picardie it looks like another case for Inspector Lucas Rocco. But instead he is called off to watch over a Gabonese government minister, hiding out in France following a coup. Meanwhile, Rocco discovers that there is a contract on his head taken out by an Algerian gang leader with a personal grudge against him.
It's my absolute pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Rocco and the Nightingale today, my grateful thanks to The Dome Press, Adrian Magson and Emily Glenister for inviting me to take part and for my advance copy, received in return for my honest review.
My review can be found at home but first Adrian Magson has very kindly written me a guest post on a sense of place.
A SENSE OF PLACE
Place for me, when writing a novel, has to feel real. Whether a city street, an area of scrubland or mountain, I have to be able to feel as if I’m there – or at least have been somewhere like it. I can’t go to every place I write about – there are certainly locations in which I set my spy thrillers where I haven’t travelled - but it certainly helps if I have been there, along with a little help from Street View and Google Maps.
In the Inspector Lucas Rocco crime series, set in the 1960s in rural northern France, the place is a tiny village close by a stretch of marais - marshland. There are dark, still lakes and stretches of murky water surrounded by large reed beds and overhung by silent trees. There’s a sense here that the ground you tread on is not to be trusted, and that the often sombre atmosphere around you is hiding all manner of dangers.
The fact is, these dangers are real, with military ordnance left over from the two world wars lying buried and occasionally still found close to the surface, waiting for the unwary to stumble on it. That this area actually exists (I lived there as a boy), along with the village of Poissons-les-Marais (not its real name), is a great help because it grounds the characters and the atmosphere for me, and makes the writing so much easier.
For Rocco, whose investigations sometimes take him deep into the marais, the area has dark echoes of his army service in France’s own Vietnam, where the waters and dense trees, and the dangers underfoot in this small patch of France have a disturbing habit of taking him back all-too quickly to the jungles of Indochina and the horrors he witnessed there.
But Rocco doesn’t reside solely in this small community; he’s based in the town of Amiens, the regional capital, not far away, travels regularly to Paris, his old stamping ground before he was transferred out to help spread investigative policing to the provinces, and has been to London in pursuit of an investigation – all areas familiar to me.
However, every character has to have a base, and for Rocco it’s Poissons-les-Marais. And part of his struggle with having been thrown here is getting to grips with the locals, by nature suspicious of this tall, sombrely-dressed city cop in a long dark coat – actually, suspicious of any cop. He also learns very quickly that crime in ‘cowpat’ country, as a former boss calls it, is pretty much the same as it was in Clichy, Paris. Only some of the secrets are buried deeper, have a longer history, and corruption runs all the way to the highest levels and way back to a time when the world was at war.
I have a new favourite detective and his name is Lucas Rocco. This is the first Rocco book I've read but as the fifth in the series I've plenty to be catching up on. Rocco's history is referred to during this book but nevertheless it still works well as a standalone novel.
The book opens with a murder of small time villain, JoJo Viera, which means the reader knows more than Inspector Rocco - don't be fooled into thinking you know everything though, there is plenty to still be revealed as the story progresses. Rocco is called in after a body is discovered in a ditch. With nothing to identify the victim and little evidence to go on, this looks like a tricky case for the Inspector. As the book is set in 1964, Rocco doesn't have the scientific advancements available to modern police officers, his investigations are old style. Before he discovers very much at all however, he is pulled from the case and assigned to a role he is not pleased about. Bouanga Antoine is a displaced Government minister from Gabon, a former French territory which achieved independence in 1960. Bouanga will be living in a safe house in Picardie and it has fallen to Rocco to ensure he isn't harmed. He is even less impressed to discover that the man from the Interior Ministry who is controlling the finances for the mission won't release extra funds that would allow for a visible police presence around the safe house. Then his Commissaire, Francois Massin informs him that he has no officers he can spare as they will all be required to keep order as the Tour de France passes through the area. Rocco is allowed one man, his good friend and local rural cop, Claude Lamotte. Bouanga's safe house seems anything but, set in open countryside with plenty of places for would be assassins to hide, it seems like Rocco and Lamotte will have their work cut out to prevent any attacks on their man.
As a diligent officer, Rocco can't help but check up on the case he recently working on. He discovers what could be some vital evidence at the crime scene then finds out the likely cause of death from the pathologist and realises he doesn't want to leave his puzzle to be solved by somebody else. If protecting a foreign dignitary whilst trying to solve a murder isn't enough for one police inspector to be dealing with, Rocco is told there's a marker out on him - in other words somebody wants him dead and has taken out a contract on his life.
The three strands of Rocco's storyline turn out to be more closely woven than he first realises, as international politics, street gangs and family honour collide, Rocco's life could be in real danger. And just who is the Nightingale? Rocco and the Nightingale has an intricate plot where the reader is allowed little glimpses of the truth before Rocco discovers them, including scenes with Viera's killers. This is a book where everything comes together beautifully; the intelligent and often tense storyline that reveals just enough then adds in little twists to keep you on your toes, the atmospheric rural setting brought so vividly, sometimes chillingly to life you can almost smell the marshes of Poissons-les-Marais and, perhaps most impressively, the cast of characters, headed of course, by Lucas Rocco. I said at the start of this review that he has become a new favourite, I loved everything about this man from his old fashioned sensibilities - he considered his ancient Citreon Traction brutalised when a technician installed the police radio - to his bluff dealings with his superiors, to the respect he has for his friends and his kindness towards his next-door neighbour. Rocco is a decent man of morals who relies on his intuition and the relationships he has cultivated with his colleagues to solve his cases. This is Rocco's book then but the supporting cast are all fully realised individuals, whether they are Rocco's friends and workmates or those more inclined to wish harm towards our hero. At the ending it seems that things could be changing for Rocco, I don't know where life will take him next but I intend to follow. In the meantime I have his previous adventures to discover. Vive Rocco!
Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.
About the Author
Hailed by the Daily Mail as "a classic crime star in the making", Adrian Magson's next book is Rocco and the Nightingale (The Dome Press - October 2017). This is the fifth in the Inspector Lucas Rocco series set in France in the 1960s.
Before this, Adrian had written 21 crime and spy thriller books built around Gavin & Palmer (investigative reporter Riley Gavin and ex-Military Policeman Frank Palmer) - "Gritty and fast-paced detecting of the traditional kind, with a welcome injection of realism" (The Guardian); Harry Tate, ex-soldier and MI5 officer - "fast-paced, with more twists and turns than a high-octane roller coaster" (New York Journal of Books); Inspector Lucas Rocco (crime series set in 1960s Picardie) - "Deserves to be ranked with the best" (Daily Mail), "Captures perfectly the rural atmosphere of France... a brilliant debut" (Books Monthly); Marc Portman (The Watchman) - prompting one reviewer to write: "the most explosive opening chapters I have read in a long time. Give this man a Bond script to play with!"; investigators Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik - "Magson takes the suburban thriller overseas and gives it a good twist. [Readers] will happy get lost in the nightmare presented here" (Booklist Reviews).
Adrian also has hundreds of short stories and articles in national and international magazines to his name, plus a non-fiction work: Write On! - The Writer's Help Book (Accent Press).
Adrian lives in the Forest of Dean and rumours that he is building a nuclear bunker are unfounded. It's a bird table.
Twitter - @AdrianMagson1
Website - http://www.adrianmagson.com
Blog - http://adrianmagson.blogspot.co.uk/