Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: Clandestine by J Robert Janes

When I received an invitation to read and comment on the historical mystery novel Clandestine, to be released on 21st July 2015, written by J. Robert Janes, I was not expecting anything special. But this one, a story set in German occupied France during Second World War, turned out to be a surprise package. You believe that you have read every variety of detective stories possible and then something like Clandestine comes along! It is the sixteenth book in the St-Cyr and Kohler series and I am now very eager to catch up on all that I have missed.

The premise of the book is what bowled me over. Louis St-Cyr, a French Inspector and Herman Kohler of Gestapo pairs up to solve ordinary murders happening in France, a country occupied by Germany during Second World War. In Clandestine, their mission is to investigate the killing of two bank employees, who travelled in a bank van near a ruined monastery. They find huge stock of black market goods in the van along with stacks of cash, of which only a small amount is missing. Finding of a pair of expensive high-heels in the van changes the course of investigation into something far more lethal and complicated. With their own and their loved ones’ lives threatened and their own side turning against them, the detectives has to face the biggest dilemma of their lives.

Clandestine made me experience the degeneration of humanity infested by war- its fight for survival, for resources, for existence when faced with unlimited violence, greed and immorality. The two detectives have everything to lose, but they decide to do their job according to what their conscience tells them and not confirming or compromising to the obscene wishes of those who are more powerful. They fight every possible temptation on their way of solving the case and that factor elevates this novel to an altogether different level from other stories of detection that I have read.

Reading Clandestine has made me research a bit on the historical and geographical aspects of the story. It was not just plain curiosity that made me do it, but a desire to appreciate the novel fully. The book is a slow read. There are many sentences and passages written entirely in German and French without any translation. Remembering the names of characters and places was a task for me. The narration is not very descriptive, which made me read many chapters repeatedly. The language of the book is more like a translation, that too a not very good one, from some foreign language. It put me off a bit, but helped tremendously in building the atmosphere once I got accustomed to it. In short, I took my time in reading Clandestine, but by the end every second was worth the effort.    

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