Kaleidoscope Summary
by J. Robert Janes

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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Canadian author J. Robert Janes takes the detective novel's motif of societal corruption to a new high (or low) in his series of novels about French homicide detective Jean-Louis St-Cyr and his forced partnership with Gestapo agent Hermann Kohler during the World War II German occupation of France. Over the course of their adventures together, the two have gained respect and even a certain degree of affection for each other. In Kaleidoscope, the detectives are again thrust into a case that is far more complex than it seems on the surface.

In December of 1942, St-Cyr and Kohler are summoned from Paris to a small village in Provence to investigate the murder of Anne-Marie Buemonde, who has been slain by a crossbow. Before long they discover that the victim may have been working for the French resistance, that she may have been selling art treasures and other items on the black market to finance medicine for an epileptic daughter and to aid refugees fleeing to Spain, that she has not one but several women for lovers, and that her other daughter is estranged and working as a model in occupied Paris. The mystery is deepened by the intrusion of Louis' old nemesis, collaborator Jean-Paul Delphane, who appears to be more invested in the crime than he should be. Before long, St-Cyr and Kohler are at odds with Delphane and the Gestapo and trying to stay one step ahead of their own arrests in order to unravel the mystery.

The novel is intricate in its scheme, and the setting is marvelously innovative and filled with exquisite details that bring occupied France alive to the reader. However, the plot is at times so convoluted as to defy understanding, and Janes's sentence structure is often awkward and confusing. Nevertheless, the originality and complexity of the novel make it a successful work of the detective genre.