We’re so pleased to have author Alex Mandon with us today to introduce his new novel Murder on the Champs-Élysées, book one in the new Belle-Époque Mystery series.
Thanks so much for having me on The Novel Approach today!
I’m very excited about this book because it’s what we authors call a “book of the heart,” which means it’s a story that’s been nagging at us for a long time. It’s often a story idea that isn’t considered mainstream enough for a publisher to be very excited about taking on, and often it’s a departure from the other types of book or story an author writes. Or for some other reason, it’s particularly near and dear to the author’s heart.
The name Alex Mandon is actually a pen name I adopted for this particular series only, mainly because it’s very different from the other types of books that I write under my “regular” name. Under that name, I’m an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author, and I’ve written for several major publishers over the last ten years and dozens of books—but due to contractual agreements, I’m unable to write this particular series under my “normal” name. 🙂 Nevertheless, since this is a book of my heart, it was something I had to write. I actually waited almost ten years before I felt I was ready to do so, and I’m very pleased with the result.
Having said that, I have to go on and say that I loved writing Murder on the Champs-Élysées so much, and it’s gotten such fantastic reviews and feedback, that there will definitely be more Inspector Devré and Lucie books. I’d always intended for this to be an ongoing series of mysteries, and that intent has been confirmed. The second book, Murder on Rue de la Paix, will be out in early 2018. That book will center around the world of fashion and haute couture in Paris at the time—specifically, the impeccable and legendary House of Worth.
One of the reasons I wanted to write a series set in 1900 Paris is because the time period is absolutely fascinating—and it’s filled with so many exciting changes with technology and science. And because there was, at the time, a definite layer of hedonism and opulence over the dark and dirty bowels of the City of Light, that just makes the setting ripe for murder. So the setting itself is just as much a character as Devré and Lucie. The Belle-Epoque is the time of art deco, and the World Expo in Paris, the Metro opened, the cancan was invented near the Moulin Rouge, and the very distinct art forms in posters and labels by Mucha became mainstream. The clothing was ostentatious and beautiful, Maxim’s was the place to see and be seen, and artists like Picasso and Monet lived in Montmartre. The motorcar was being developed (there were races down the hilly streets of Montmartre) and the anarchist movement was gaining steam.
Also, at the time, Paris was a literal hotbed of strides in forensic science. Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne was the head of the University of Lyon, in Paris, and he was a brilliant pathologist who made great advances and taught many things to his team of pathologists. He solved numerous crimes due to his studies and experiments in forensic science—and everything was cutting edge. I thought it would be fun to explore and share how some of those advances were made during that time period.
Having a main character who happens to be gay was another element that I thought would be fun to explore in the series, particularly as I made him be an officer of the law. While sodomy and homosexual acts weren’t illegal in Paris at the time, they were frowned upon—and an entire school of thought, particularly in law enforcement, taught that homosexuals were more inclined to be criminal than heterosexuals. So for Devré to be dealing with his sexual preference while trying to uphold the law—and keep his own secret—I thought would be a great source of conflict.
And then there are les grandes horizontals: the famous, wealthy, and often outrageous uppercrust courtesans of Paris. The Princess Dianas, Grace Kellys, and Angelina Jolies of their time, they were hounded by the press and their every move was scrutinized and reported on. They were a constant source of fascination to the men and women of Paris and throughout Europe—often because they were women who were independently wealthy, who chose their own lovers in lieu of getting married, and who were the benchmark of fashion and celebrity. I wanted to write about a strong woman who fit this description, and thus created La Balise.
I hope this whets your appetite to embark on the mystery that Devré and Lucie solve! I look forward to diving back into the research of turn-of-the-century Paris for my next book, starting very soon.
About the Book
Paris, 1900. The height of the Belle-Époque: decadence, wealth, hedonism…and murder.
Homicide investigator Guillaume Devré stands for the silenced victims, bound to seek justice as he makes his way from the wide boulevards frequented by the tout-Paris to the narrow byways of Montmartre, to the shadow of the Tour Eiffel and the lush elegance of Maxim’s.
When the most famous courtesan in Paris becomes the prime suspect in the death of a wealthy young man, Inspector Devré is reluctantly drawn into the opulent parlors and witty manners of high society. As the investigation unfolds, he must contend with a bloodthirsty press and the outrageous behavior of his suspect…as well as his own prejudices and unfulfilled needs.
Devré soon realizes that solving this murder could expose him and his darkest secret.
Murder on the Champs-Élysées is the first in a new series featuring Inspector Guillaume Devré, a homicide detective from la Sûreté who lives a secret life on the fringes of respectable society, the powerful courtesan known as La Balise—with secrets of her own—and the gruff but brilliant American pathologist Dr. Jackson.