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Book review: <i>The 7th Woman</i> by Frédérique Molay

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the cover of the book

Ah, Paris. City of love. Until a meticulous psychopath strikes, mutilating a beautiful and successful Parisian resident. And his murderous intentions have just begun...

The story

Nico Sirsky, Head of the Paris Criminal Investigation division, has managed to go to the doctor about a possible stomach ulcer, and fall in love at the same time. Dr Carolyn Dalry is making him feel things he didn't think possible, until his phone rings. The murder scene he turns up to is horrible. The victim has been mutilated in a most obscene way, and the murder seems to have left no trace of himself.

The next day there is another murder, and the murderer leaves the police a message – he's going to kill a woman each day for seven days.

Nico Sirsky is in a race against time. The whole police force comes together to try and catch a criminal who is utterly insane and depraved, but also almost infallible. This murderer seems to know so much about all the police in the department, and their secrets start being revealed, one by one.

Can Nico find the criminal and stop him, before he loses more than he can bear?

The style

This book is an absolute corker. I started just reading it on train trips, but about a third of the way through I got completely obsessed with it and couldn't put it down. I dreamed about it. It's written from a third person omniscient viewpoint, mainly from Nico's point of view, but also from other police officers, the occasional victim, and of course, the killer. What is great is the way in these snippets it isn't always evident immediately who's character is being narrated, and this creates a space for the reader to really think about each of the characters and who the murderer could be.

The pacing is fantastic and the murders are gory enough to satisfy the most difficult Thomas Harris fan. The story is set from Monday to Sunday and chaptered thusly, which gives the reader a real sense of urgency. Nico is such a great character, he's deeply sympathetic and a genuinely nice guy who's good at his job, and the fact that he falls deeply, uncharacteristically head over heels in love on the first page is a nice twist in his otherwise incredibly steady character.

I will also commend the writing for both the interactions of the police officers and the treatment of gender within the police department and also in general, and, in a rare display of realism for a crime fiction novel, how hard these police work. I think Henning Mankell does it in Wallander as well, but aside from that The 7th Woman is one of the only examples I've ever seen of crime fiction where the police go for sometimes days at a time without sleep, calling meetings at five in the morning, getting stuff done on incredibly limited resources and taking on ridiculously stressful levels of responsibility.

This is a great book, is basically what I'd trying to say.

Who is this book for?

Love crime fiction, particularly of the European variety? Definitely, this guy is for you.

If you like this book, you would also like...

Henning Mankell! Janwillem Van De Wetering! Both excellent European crime-fiction authors.

In short

Title: The 7th Woman
Author: Frédérique Molay
Publisher: Le French Book
ISBN: 978-0-985-3206-6-9
Year published: 2012
Pages: 225
Genre(s): Crime fiction
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