02 January 2014

The Prisoner of the Riviera

by Eve Fisher

First of all, meet Janice Law:

Secondly, meet Francis Bacon:
  File:Pourbus Francis Bacon.jpg  No, not that one, this one:  File:Study for a Self Portrait -Triptych, 1985-86.jpg

Francis Bacon, artist.  Francis Bacon, gambler.  Francis Bacon, bon vivant.  Francis Bacon, gay, asthmatic, Irish, auto-didact, devoted to his Nanny (who lived with him until her death in 1951), and an absolute mess (his studio, by all accounts, was like something out of "Hoarders").  Francis Bacon, who must be howling over the whopping 142 million pounds paid for his portrait of Lucian Freud last year (the most ever paid for any work of art), especially since he never made anything like that sum in his life, despite his taste for high low life.  Let's just say the boy lived above his means, and that's part of what gets him in trouble.

Especially in Janice Law's "The Prisoner of the Riviera", the second of her Francis Bacon series (and if you have not yet read "The Fires of London", go and get it immediately).  Francis is back, in all his dark, louche, sardonic, hungry, artistic, reckless glory.

File:Real Monte Carlo Casino.jpg
Monte Carlo Casino
Did I mention he's a gambler?  Well, in post-WW2 Britain, it's practically the only fun you can have (all right, there is Albert, his lover...), but Francis' luck hasn't been good.  And it doesn't improve when he sees a Frenchman shot in front of him as he and Albert head home.  Francis leaps to help, but the man - Monsieur Renard - dies.  And then Joubert, the owner of the gambling den, makes Francis an offer he can't refuse:  take a package to Madame Renard on the Riviera.  In exchange, all of Francis' gambling debts will be forgiven.  Well, Francis' debts are high, and he and Albert and Nan had already planned to go to Monte Carlo for a vacation ("A solemn promise, dear boy"), so why not.  So off they go, Francis, Albert, and Nan, to eat and drink and gamble and relax in the sun and, eventually, fulfill his commission...

File:Fuchs.margin (MMW10F50 f6r) detail.jpgNow, to those of us who know our French fairytales, the name Renard hints that this is not going to be all pate de foie gras and Chateau Lafite, although Francis does his best to consume as much of the good stuff as he can.  And indeed, when Francis (eventually) goes to fulfill his commission on a hot, lazy, dusty day, things go south remarkably quickly.  The house is sinister, the widow unusual, and two thugs seem to be following him with ill intent.  Two days later, he is the prime suspect in the murder of Madame Renard - after all, everyone knows that a foreigner, especially a British foreigner, would be the obvious suspect in a small resort town - even though the dead woman does not look at all like the Madame Renard to whom he handed that mysterious package...  And the package has disappeared.  And "Renard" used to be the codeword for various operations, some of which had to do with the Resistance...   And everyone wants him to "help" them with their inquiries - licit or illicit. Thankfully, the food is good, the wine is wonderful, and Pierre the bicyclist is delightful...  until all hell breaks loose.  Again.

Francis quickly discovers that he has walked into a world that is just as haunted by World War II as Britain, only differently.  The Riviera spent its war occupied by collaborators and resistance, fascists and communists, counterfeiters and criminals, and far too many of them are still there, still feuding, still fighting, still procuring, masquerading, lying, killing... (the bodies are piling up!)  And far too many of them want Francis dead.

"The Prisoner of the Riviera" is a fast-paced ride that has as many twists and turns as a Riviera mountain road.  And Francis is just the man to tell the story:  witty, sarcastic, honest, an artist whose interest is always in the unusual, a lover who makes no bones about who he is, a man who knows everything about the dark side of life.  Read it now, and then wait, breathlessly, for the next installment of Francis Bacon, channeled through Janice Law!

7 comments:

Fran Rizer said...

THE PRISONER OF THE RIVIERA by JANICE LAW -- a great read.
EVE'S REVIEW -- not only a wonderful review, but another great read!

Janice Law said...

This is the sort of review writers will kill for.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I really do appreciate your taking the time to read Prisoner and I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

mysteriouspress.com will be thrilled.

Eve Fisher said...

What can I say? I loved the book. And I've always had a sneaking fondness for Francis... :)

John Floyd said...

I agree--a great review, Eve.

Congratulations again, Janice!

David Dean said...

Congrats, Janice! If it is half as good as "The Fires Of London" it must be brilliant. Best of luck with it.

Wonderfully written review, Eve.

R.T. Lawton said...

Eve, after a review like that how can one not buy the book?

Leigh Lundin said...

Excellent review, Janice! And I can vouch that the first novel, Fires of London, is a very good read. Well done, both of you!