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Folly du Jour: A Joe Sandilands Mystery    by Barbara Cleverly order for
Folly du Jour
by Barbara Cleverly
Order:  USA  Can
Delta, 2009 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Barbara Cleverly takes her readers to late 1920s Paris in her Joe Sandilands mystery, Folly du Jour. The Scotland Yard commander is on his way to Paris for an Interpol conference but is reassigned to look into the murder of a British citizen and knight of the realm (and also a blackguard) Lieutenant-Colonel Somerton. Joe's flight reaches Le Bourget just before Charles Lindbergh's famous arrival there and he briefly takes the exhausted aviator's place, saving him from the media scrimmage.

The French police have arrested Joe's old friend, the (recently retired) distinguished diplomat George Jardine, who was found knife in hand and bloody in the victim's box at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. George had been lured to the performance (of American singing and dancing sensation Josephine Baker) via a mysterious ticket for 'the best seat in the house', which he assumed came from his cousin. George was joined in his box by a woman he had believed dead for five years, Alice Conyers, but she slipped out before the end of the performance - and before he could arrest her 'for deception, embezzlement and murder' in India.

Joe investigates with the help of his genial French colleague, Jean-Philippe Bonnefoye. They learn of a series of unsolved murders (including that of a modern corpse found in a sarcophagus!) and hear rumors of an organization that supplies 'Made-to-measure murder' to an audience for a substantial fee. Soon there are more murders and, as always, Alice Conyers is deeply embroiled in events. Barbara Cleverly builds up suspense masterfully - while filling in a fascinating background of '20s Paris and plotting Georges Simenon into her sleuths' company for good measure - to a crescendo of a conclusion in which the good guys are set up for a serial killer's final melodrama.

Folly du Jour was my first encounter with Joe Sandilands, and it left me hungry for more. Cleverly enriches a well plotted mystery that's full of surprises with the sounds, smells and sensations of what she calls in her introductory letter to readers 'the champagne-fuelled, cigar-smoky, jazzy headlines of Paris of the '20s.' Folly du Jour is not to be missed by those who enjoy an excellent historical mystery.

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

Paris. The 1920s. World War I is over. The world is settling into its hard-won peace. However, an English ex-soldier and knight of the realm is murdered in Paris. His throat slit so savagely as to almost separate his head from his body. Fellow soldier, now diplomat, George Jardine is arrested, accused of the horrible crime.

So begins a tale that takes the reader into the darker side of Paris at that time. Josephine Baker is the hit of the musical stage where scores of chorus girls do a striptease in reverse. Local hoodlums – apaches – roam the streets looking for trouble. A man's life can be snuffed out for the exchange of the right number of francs. Charles Lindbergh has just crossed the Atlantic on a solo flight. A flight from London to Paris takes hours and is full of trepidation. The telephone is a fairly new invention and some still fear its use.

Who could have murdered this admittedly cruel and gross man? Many likely wanted him dead, but who would pay to bring this about? And why in such a public place? Enter Joe Sandilands of the London police. He works with his counterpart in the Paris gendarmes. Their collaboration takes them to places the average citizen would know nothing about – the red light district.

As clever as the author's title, Folly du Jour moves quickly leaving tiny clues that the reader is likely to miss as the backdrop of '20s Paris is all absorbing. Barbara Cleverly is an award-winning author of nine books, seven of them featuring the handsome and modest Detective Joe Sandilands. Don't miss this dip into the past, which is also a ripping good mystery.

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