The Prisoner of the Riviera by Janice Law
Author: Janice Law
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1940s / Monte Carlo / Homosexuality / Murder Mystery / Post-WWII)
Publisher/Publication Date: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road (12/10/2013)
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: British painter Francis Bacon vacations in the French Riviera when he becomes embroiled in a murder and a case of mistaken identity.
Reading Challenges: E-book, Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: I'm undecided. At first, I think I dislike it, but if I look at it more, it reminds me a bit of a Hitchcock film, which appeals to me, so...maybe I do like it.
I'm reminded of...: Nicola Upson
First line: The war was over; Herr Hitler was dead; Hirohito was mortal.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy, buy, buy!
Why did I get this book?: I adored her previous one!
Review: Last year I read and adored Janice Law's previous novel featuring 20th century painter Francis Bacon, Fires of London. (It made my top ten of 2012!) I loved it for its dark and slightly raunchy tone, for being gritty and gay (homosexual, not cheerful), and for being atmospheric and escapist.
I hadn't realized there was a chance of more Bacon so when I learned Law had written a second novel featuring him, I was over the moon. To my delight, the novel opened (literally, the second line!) with the same flippant seediness I loved in the first book. (We had flags and bunting, and I got marvelously drunk and committed a public indecency in Hyde Park -- my little contribution to Britannia's celebration. p5)
The war is over, and Francis is ready to leave post-war London, with the food shortages and lingering stink of war. He rallies his childhood nanny, who is nearly blind and deeply devoted to him, and his respectable lover Albert, for a trip to Monte Carlo. But after witnessing a man getting shot outside a club in London, Francis is tasked with taking the man's effects to his widow who just happens to live on the Riviera, and the endeavor proves more complicated than he anticipated.
Francis narrates the story, and in Law's hands, he's wry, pithy, and sarcastic. Coy, too, for he sadly never dishes details on his liaisons. His voice is what makes these books so captivating: he's a reliable narrator who prefers night to day, the grotesque to the beautiful, the luxuries of life while slumming it. Law evokes the post-war Riviera in its complicated contradiction -- gorgeous beaches and sunny vistas, Vichy collaborators transforming themselves into Allied supporters -- and it makes a fascinating backdrop for a murder mystery.
Fans of WWII settings will enjoy this one; the inclusion of a gay lead makes it all the more novel and interesting. Those new to the series will be fine picking this one up without being lost, but you will want to indulge in the delicious seediness of Francis, and I strongly encourage you to get Fires of London. Then get this one, so there will be a third Francis Bacon book!
*** *** ***
Thanks to the publisher, I have two giveaways for this! Grand prize: print copies of Fires of London and The Prisoner of the Riviera! Runner up: print copy of The Prisoner of the Riviera!
To enter, fill out this brief form! Open to US readers only, ends 12/20. Only one entry per person; do not enter alternate email aliases or emails belonging to other individuals.