About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Reading of the Marais Simultaneously

Square George-Cain
One of the joys of reading is an unexpected connection. Recently I read Murder in the Marais by Cara Black. Deciding to read more than one book at the same time a few days later I started reading All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny. It was a pleasant surprise to find both books are set in the Marais of central Paris. Though they take place about 25 years apart with Black’s book in 1993 and Penny’s book at the present time it was fascinating to read of their descriptions and connections with the Marais.

In Murder in the Marais, Aimée Leduc has a modest apartment which she inherited from her grandfather on Ile St. Louis:

“Drafty, damp, and unheated, her seventeenth century hôtel particulier had been the mansion of the Duc De Guise …. The ancient pearwood trees in the courtyard and the view from her window overlooking the Seine kept her there. Every winter, the bone-chilling cold and archaic plumbing almost drove her out.”

The Gamaches, in All the Devils Are Here, have a comfortable apartment that Armand inherited from Zora, the Jewish woman from Poland he knew as his grandmother, who had purchased the apartment with “restitution” money she received after the war.

By contrast:

The Gamaches’ small apartment, with its wooden beams, fresh white walls, and large windows, was already welcoming, but the scent of garlic and basil made it even more so.

Black sets a meeting place, just off the rue Payenne for Sarah, her young Jewish heroine, and her German soldier during the war. It is a bench in the Square George-Cain with its Roman pillars and some ancient marble busts. Sarah is hiding out in the Roman catacombs below the Square after her family was rounded up and sent to the concentration camps. They meet again at the bench 50 years later.

Gates of Hell
Armand’s favourite place in Paris is the Musée Rodin which he

started visiting as a boy with his godfather, Stephen Horowitz. In fact, he planned to propose to Reine Marie in front of one of the sculptures, the Gates of Hell. It is a memorable, though far from romantic, place for a proposal. Thankfully Horowitz convinces him to propose at a nearby garden.

Penny vividly describes the area:

It was one the many peculiarities of Paris. Hidden behind many of the simple wooden doors were these courtyards and secret gardens.

It was a city of façades. Of beauty, both obvious and obscure. Of heroism, both obvious and obscure. Of dreadful deeds, both obvious and obscure.

The real life Hotel Lutetia has respectively a dark and light role in the books.

In Murder in the Marais, after the war ends Lili Stein, who was the only member of her family to escape deportation, stands outside the hotel where she “waited every day after school to find my family”.  The Lutetia “rundown, boarded-up” at that time was “the terminus for trucks bringing camp survivors. Maman said she held up signs and photos, running from stretcher to stretcher, asking if someone had seen her family. Person to person, by word of mouth, maybe a chance encounter or remembrance ….” None of her family returned.

Restored the Lutetia became and remains a fine hotel.

Following a tradition established when he was a boy, Armand and his family go to the Lutetia for its wonderful ice cream. Peppermint with hot fudge for Armand’s godfather, Stephen Horowitz.

There is a further reference in All the Devils Are Here to the hotel being the headquarters of the Abwehr (German Intelligence) in Paris during the war where members of the Resistance were tortured.

Lastly the question of collaborators decades after the end of the war occupy each book with complex questions on the issue of collaboration.

As the intrigue in each book stretched back to WW II I had to concentrate on not confusing the two plots.


  1. Oh, that is so fortunate, Bill, that you got two such interesting perspectives on the same place. And both from authors who are skilled at evoking a sense of place. There's so much history there, too. I think you made a fine pairing.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. "A sense of place" is so apt for these books. The authors each had a great feel for the Marais.

  2. The first time I went to Paris someone told me to visit the Marais, which I had never heard of, it wasn't particularly well-known to tourists at that time I think. I loved the entirety of Paris, it was everything I thought it would be, but the Marais has a special place in my heart as I remember being young and penniless and exploring it and loving the atmosphere. I felt very grown up, and now I think of myself then as very young! Thank you for bringing back memories with your post...

    1. Moira: Thanks for the memories. You highlight how we can enjoy special places in different ways at different ages. I am sure though you were as enthusiastic then, as now, about experiencing places you visit.