- Published by Abacus, 2010
- Translated from French by Sonia Soto
- 312 pages
- ISBN 978-0-349-12255-7
- Source: borrowed from a friend
Early one morning in Paris the magnificent tranquillity of the Sorbonne university is shattered by a death. But why would Albert Cadas, a crumpled professor of medieval literature, have any reason to kill himself?
Meanwhile, Valentine Savi, a talented young restorer, receives a visit from an enigmatic elderly gentleman with a unique commission: to restore a priceless medieval manuscript whose timeworn pages promise to reveal the truth of a mystery that has fascinated scholars and writers for centuries.
Valentine soon learns that the shadowy figures who seek to possess the book's secrets are far darker and more ruthless than she could ever have imagined...Together with her friend Hugo Vermeer -- aristocrat, epicure, crook -- and David Scotto, Cadas's doctoral student, Valentine finds herself on a terrifying and thrilling adventure through the narrow streets and gloomily palatial mansions of the Latin Quarter.
Valentine Savi was once a highly regarded restorer at the Louvre until she made a mistake that resulted in the destruction of a priceless document. Since then she has been reduced to working for herself, restoring pedestrian rather than valuable works. Elias Stern is making her an offer she can't resist, to redeem herself, but why has he chosen her?
Valentine always likes to find out the background to the works she is restoring and the more she finds out about Stern's medieval manuscript the more intrigued she becomes. She confides in her friend Hugo Vermeer who lets the world know what Valentine is doing. And from there the action escalates. Some one else wants to get their hands on the manuscript and will stop at nothing to get it.
There are a number of little mysteries in this novel, starting with the one about Valentine's disgrace, and that is what keeps us reading to some extent.
DEATH IN THE LATIN QUARTER is quite assured for a debut novel although there were a couple of characters that I could cheerfully have strangled. As the action escalates the reader is required to let go the limits of credibility, but then, don't we do that in all thrillers anyway?
By the time the action comes to an end there have been a number of very messy deaths and we finally do know why Elias Stern approached Valentine in the first place.
So, not a bad effort - I would try another by this author.
Raphael Cardetti is currently a Professor of Italian History, specialising in the Renaissance, at the Sorbonne University.
My rating: 4.3