Review of ‘The 7th Woman’
It’s my great pleasure today to be a stop on the blog tour of ‘The 7th Woman’ by French author Frédérique Molay. This tour is organised by France Booktours and I jumped at the chance to be part of it. You know me and my passion for French crime fiction!
When foreign authors set their crime novels in France, they tend to dwell on the more nostalgic and touristy aspects of French culture (the wine, the food, cute historical villages and the weekly markets, for instance). Nothing wrong with that lovely escapism. However, contemporary French crime fiction is much more likely to be closer to the Anglo-Saxon model. Serial killers, police profilers, forensic science and police teamwork all feature prominently, but I love the way French authors use and adapt these conventions, giving them a French twist.
A serial killer is the subject of Frédérique Molay’s first novel about Chief of Police Nico Sirsky, head of the brigade criminelle in Paris. The first murder is brutal (the description can get a bit graphic, not overly so, but squeamish readers will need to exercise some caution here), but everything is meticulously staged and there are no clues. They barely have time to get started on the investigation, when another murder follows. The killer appears to have a predilection for relatively well-off, dark-haired, thin women, and is planning to kill 7 such women in 7 days unless the police can stop him. From about the third murder onwards, it becomes clear that the killer is sending a personal message to Sirsky, and knows far too much about him and his family.
Although it feels like this story has been covered many times before (in books and on film), Molay does a good job of keeping things fast-paced and interesting. The plot has plenty of twists and dead ends to keep you guessing and entertained: it certainly had me reading until late at night.
But what I really liked about the books are the realistic and workman-like descriptions of the police investigation. This is a well-oiled team, suffering a little from the long hours and the stresses of the job, but working well together, against the clock. There are no primadonnas or melodramatic confrontations simply for the sake of making the characters appear more interesting. And, although Nico Sirsky is the main protagonist, we get to know and appreciate other members of the team as well: strong-minded psychologist Dominque Kreiss, specialising in sexual assault; deputy police commissioner Cohen, a top-notch professional who manages to steer clear of politics; fiery medical examiner Armelle Villars; hard-working Commander Kriven, Nico’s right-hand man. These are all promising characters in their own right and I look forward to finding out more about them in the next books in the series.
Sirsky’s home life is complicated, but not depressing, as is so often the cliché about lonely police detectives. Sirsky has almost too much family, all concerned about his welfare: a larger-than-life mother, devoted sister, a depressed ex-wife Sylvie and his teenage son Dimitri. He also embarks upon a passionate love affair with Dr. Caroline Dalry, whom he has consulted about his stomach pains. Some readers have found the progression of the love affair to be far too rapid, but I thought it was understandable for a man in a profession where he is daily confronted by death and the transitory nature of life.
All in all, an enjoyable, solid police procedural, which proves you can sustain suspense without going overboard on thrillerish elements. I look forward to reading the next in the series. Le French Book is to be congratulated for finding such a great variety of contemporary French crime fiction and for making it available to English speakers.
The 7th Woman
A bestselling police procedural set in Paris
There’s no rest for Paris’s top criminal investigation division, La Crim’. Who is preying on women in the French capital? How can he kill again and again without leaving any clues? A serial killer is taking pleasure in a macabre ritual that leaves the police on tenterhooks. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky—a super cop with a modern-day real life, including an ex-wife, a teenage son and a budding love story—races against the clock to solve the murders as they get closer and closer to his inner circle. Will he resist the pressure? It has the suspense of Seven, with CSI-like details, giving a whole new dimension to Paris.
-Won France’s most prestigious crime fiction award, the Prix du Quai des Orfèvres
-Named Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year by Lire magazine
-Months on the bestseller lists
-Translated into seven languages
-Over 150,000 copies sold in France
Author: Frédérique Molay
Translator: Anne Trager
Publisher: Le French Book, Inc.
First published in French (Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2006)
Genre: police procedural/thriller
BISAC cat.: Mystery and Detective/Police procedural
ISBN: 978-0-9853206-6-9 (Kindle)/
List Price: $7.99
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Praise for The 7th Woman
“Frédérique Molay is the French Michael Connelly.” — Jean Miot, former head of Agence France Presse and the French daily Le Figaro
“It’s really an excellent book. It’s the kind of suspense that makes you miss your subway stop or turn off your phone once you’ve started it.” —RTL
“You barely have time to catch your breath between turning the pages of this spine-tingling novel.”— Cine Tele Revue
About the Author
Frédérique Molay graduated from France’s prestigious political science school Science Po and began her career in politics and the French administration. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. After The 7th Woman took France by storm, Frédérique Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, with three in the Nico Sirsky series.