review: The Circle by Bernard Minier

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press / Minotaur Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. This was an absolute pleasure!

When I received this book for review on NetGalley, I used it as an excuse to go back and re-read The Frozen Dead, Minier’s first foray into the world of Commandant Martin Servaz, and easily one of my favourite mysteries of all time. The combination of thrills, oppressive horror, gorgeous prose, unreal sense of place and a slightly twisted hero just hits my sweet spot, every single time.

The Circle is the second of the series (so far the third hasn’t been translated into English, which is an abomination) and anyone who feared that Minier couldn’t live up to the terrifying beauty of The Frozen Dead can rest easy. He does, and then some.

While this could be read as a standalone, I wouldn’t recommend it. The wonderful thing about Minier’s writing is that he isn’t afraid to go farther than the average mystery writer. He’s creating an entire universe of complexities with this series, and it’s stunning to watch. Servaz is back of course, but so is his daughter Margot, his detective pals Irene Ziegler and Esperandieu, serial killer and Mahler enthusiast Julian Hirtmann, and the little demons that nibble away at Servaz’s brain day in and day out.

In The Circle, Servaz is investigating the gruesome death of Professor Claire Diemar. The prime suspect in the murder? Servaz’s ex-lover’s son, Hugo. Further complicating matters is the seeming reappearance of Julian Hirtmann, who escaped incarceration and now appears to be stalking Servaz… and those he loves best.

In a race against time – and Mr. Death – Servaz scrambles to find out the motivations behind Diemar’s killing, and crucially, who will be next.

As ever, Minier’s writing is smooth, lyrical and intelligent. His sense of place continues to astound, with his descriptions of the French Pyrenees under the squalls of summer storms as raw and electrifying as bolts of lightning.

Nothing ever seems forced or untrue. The twists and turns of the plot unfold beautifully, as Minier peels the onion for us, revealing bit after tantalizing bit. We are detectives too, following in Servaz’s footsteps as he dives deep into the history of a small French town, gathering evidence in his arms like poisonous flowers.

And all the while, the tension builds to such a staggering pitch with an organic finesse that made me feel like applauding.

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