A Death in Paris

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A DEATH IN PARIS: AN ALEX GRISMOLET MYSTERY has all of the essential ingredients of its genre: a puzzling crime, engaging characters, and an interesting setting. In addition, this mystery will please traditionalists, who like to have their murders take place within societies where people seem too well-bred even to drop a saucer. Admittedly, A DEATH IN PARIS is not set in an English country house; however, when the wealthy American expatriate Andrew Wilson is found dead in a Parisian park, near one of its most elegant museums, the effect is much the same as that of the conventional body in the drawing room. Wilson was a hero in World War I, a statesman, and a friend of the most respected members of French and American society. It seems unlikely that even Alex Grismolet, the brilliant Surete Chef-Inspecteur assigned to the case, and his Lithuanian assistant, Alphonsas Varnas, who is noted for his underworld connections, can find any reason for Wilson’s death.

However, when they notice that his fellow-pilots are suspiciously guarded in their comments about Wilson, the detectives begin to search past history for a motive and a murderer. The secret which they uncover rocks the international community and very nearly costs the intrepid sleuths their own lives.

Although his basic pattern is that of the traditional British mystery, Fuller deftly adds some contemporary elements to his work, for example, and Arab suspect, a romance involving Grismolet and his young ward, and a thrilling climax, which combines the torching of a museum, a strafing, and a dogfight. Nevertheless, the essential quality of Fuller’s work is satisfyingly cerebral. When he brings his characters together in the library for a denouement worthy of Hercule Poirot, Fuller proves himself, though a novice, a real master of a difficult genre.