Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Perish the Day"

John Farrow is the pen name of Trevor Ferguson, who has written numerous novels and plays, all to extraordinary acclaim. His Émile Cinq-Mars crime series has been published around the world and cited by Booklist as "one the best series in crime fiction today", while Die Zeit in Germany suggested that it might be the best series ever.

Farrow applied the Page 69 Test to Perish the Day, the newest novel in the Émile Cinq-Mars series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
She makes a gesture with her lips that’s difficult to decipher. He gathers that she doesn’t have small talk on her mind.

“You’re a detective, Uncle Émile,” she points out to him.

“A more accurate statement when delivered in the past tense.”

“Not what I heard.”

True. He has kept a hand in, even postretirement.

She wants to know, “Are you going to be involved in this case?” The question sounds like a challenge.

“That won’t be possible, Caro.”

“Why not?”

“There’s no way I can be.”

“Why not?”

He separates his hands, as though to emphasize that there’s nothing he can do. “Policeman guard their jurisdictions as avidly as a jealous lover guards a sweetheart. Imagine a guy going to another guy, the jealous type, asking if he’d mind lending out his girlfriend.”


“Bad illustration maybe.”

“More than maybe. Has that stopped you before?”

“A bad illustration?”

“Police jurisdiction.”
Now that my detective Émile Cinq-Mars is in his retirement from the police force, his entry onto new cases that involve murder and mayhem is more complicated. He’s no longer assigned. Rather, he must insinuate himself where he’s not wanted. The advantage to having him in this situation is that he’s no longer bound by police protocol, so in one sense he has the freedom of the amateur sleuth while still retaining his police contacts and experience. No more badge, though, and he no longer carries a weapon. It’s part of the fun (for me) in his new career, generally, and particularly in this novel to see how he manages to worm his way onto an investigation when the cops who are involved don’t want him. In this scene, his niece makes an appeal for him to investigate the death of a friend and co-ed, even though he’s in another country—the U.S.A.—and not his native Canada. Naturally, the local police, both municipal cops and State Troopers, aren’t going to appreciate his meddling. He knows it, and in this scene he presages that conflict for his niece, although she will urge him to overcome the obstacles anyway. This is a critical motif in the novel: how police departments, as well as an outsider cop, are suspicious and antagonistic toward one another, and how the difficulty of building trust and confidence plays out between agencies and individuals in law enforcement. Cinq-Mars will have to overcome considerable disdain pitching in as a Canadian, French-speaking, retired cop on an active and murderous case in New Hampshire.
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The Page 69 Test: Seven Days Dead.

My Book, The Movie: Seven Days Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue