Tag Archives: Enzo MacLeod

‘Cast Iron,’ by Peter May

Cast Iron

Here we have the final novel in Peter May’s Enzo Macleod mystery series. Years ago, Enzo, a forensic scientist, made a bet that he could solve a series of famous French cold cases described in a book written by a friend. Two cases are left, but they’ll both be unraveled by the end of Cast Iron.

In 1989, 20-year-old Lucie Martin was murdered, her body hidden in a lake. In 2003, due to a drought, the body was uncovered and examined. The skeleton had a broken hyoid bone, a sign of strangulation. Suspicion settled on a pimp named Regis Blanc, who had been convicted of strangling three prostitutes, and who had been dating Lucie. But he had a “cast iron” alibi.

In 2011, Enzo Macleod turns his attention to the Lucie Martin case. He thinks there’s more to the matter than earlier investigators guessed. And – intriguingly – he discovers a link to a previous murder he solved, though he wasn’t able to identify the person who paid for that murder for hire. This he will learn in Cast Iron. And clearly he’s getting too close to the truth for somebody, because a threat of violence is directed at someone near and dear to him.

As I mentioned in my last review, Enzo has grown in character through the series. I still don’t entirely like him, and I don’t think he’s ever really taken responsibility for some of his sins against others. But he’s better than he was, and this book brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. Three narrative threads are actually tied up at the end. Two I saw coming, but one came right out of left field and was an entertaining surprise.

Recommended, with cautions for language and mature themes.

‘Blowback,’ by Peter May

Blowback

Peter May’s Enzo Macleod mysteries are growing on me, mainly because Enzo himself is growing. Enzo is a Scottish criminologist living and working in France. He has made a bet that he can solve seven famous unsolved French murders, and he’s working his way systematically through the list. Blowback is the fifth in the series, and this one takes him into the rarefied world of French haute cuisine.

Seven years ago, chef Marc Fraysse, who operated a three star (the highest rating in the prestigious Michelin Guide) restaurant in a remote French village, was murdered just when rumors were circulating that he was going to lose a star. Enzo travels to the village, where he meets an attractive local police woman who eagerly helps him with his inquiries (a pleasant surprise). He goes to stay at the restaurant/hotel, where the victim’s brother and widow make him generally welcome. But Enzo doesn’t trust them entirely, and has insinuated a personal spy into the staff.

Meanwhile, Enzo realizes that some tensions and feuds in the victim’s history echo broken relationships of his own – notably with a half-brother he never mentions to anyone, and the son he fathered with a woman who demanded he have no contact with the child. Hopefully he will find or make some second chances, and not succumb to the errors that brought Marc Fraysse down before his time.

I found Enzo Macleod kind of superficial when I started reading the books. I’m gratified to see him growing with each installment, becoming more and more a grownup and increasingly controlling his passions. I enjoyed Blowback. It also got pretty suspenseful toward the end.

Recommended with cautions for adult stuff.

‘Freeze Frame,’ by Peter May

Freeze Frame

This is the last book in the Enzo Mysteries series that is currently available for Kindle.

In Freeze Frame, police forensic expert Enzo Macleod, who lives and operates in France, takes up a cold case involving the murder of an English citizen shot to death 20 years earlier in his home on an island off the Brittany coast.

This book departs from the series’ usual protocols. Enzo is on his own this time, not surrounded by his supportive team of two daughters, their boyfriends, and his female assistant. And this story assumes the form of a classic, “cozy” puzzle mystery. The murder victim had asked, before he died, that his study be preserved exactly as he left it, until his son returned. His son, he said, would immediately understand certain clues he’d left. Unfortunately, the son died before ever seeing the murder scene. His (the son’s) widow has preserved the study untouched ever since. It’s Enzo’s challenge to decipher a puzzle involving secrets and private jokes shared by two men long dead.

I liked Enzo a little more in Freeze Frame than I did in the previous books. He actually exercises some sexual restraint this time out, and a personal challenge that confronts him finds him taking what I consider the right side on a controversial issue.

I’d read the next Enzo book if the Kindle version were available, but for now I’ll be patient. Recommended, with cautions for what you’d expect.

‘Blacklight Blue,’ by Peter May

Blacklight Blue

I kind of cooled to Peter May’s Enzo Macleod mystery series after the last volume I reviewed. But I picked the thread up again with Blacklight Blue. I’m pleased to report that some of the quirks that annoyed me in previous books have been moderated, and I enjoyed the book well enough.

This time out, Enzo has just gotten a diagnosis of terminal cancer from a doctor, when (in short succession) one of his daughters is nearly killed by a bomb, his other daughter’s boyfriend’s business is burned down, and all his credit cards are stopped.

It all seems to relate to the latest in his cold case investigations. A former forensic scientist, Enzo has made it his crusade, based on a bet, to clear up a number of unsolved French murders (though Scottish-Italian, Enzo lives in Paris). His investigation of the murder of a “rent boy” takes him (along with his usual entourage – his daughters, their boyfriends, and his female assistant) to the Auvergne region of France, where he faces a relentless enemy and a deadly confrontation on a mountainside.

I was pleased that the earlier, half-comic theme of Enzo’s devastating attractiveness to every women he meets has been downplayed. This time out he limits himself to a sympathetic female ski instructor who provides his party with a convenient hideout.

My enjoyment of these books is reduced by the fact that I don’t actually find Enzo a very appealing character. Yet I keep reading the books, so it can’t be that bad. Peter May is a good writer.

Recommended. Cautions for the usual stuff.

‘The Critic,’ by Peter May

The Critic

This the second book in the Peter May mystery series starring Enzo MacLeod, who debuted as a character in Extraordinary People, which I reviewed earlier. I don’t think I like this series as much as I like May’s Hebrides novels, but he’s a good storyteller, and there’s plenty to enjoy in The Critic.

The critic of the title is Gil Petty, a prestigious American wine critic who disappeared on a working trip to the vineyards of the Gaillac region in France. His fate was unknown for a couple years, until one day his body appeared staked up like a scarecrow in a vineyard at harvest time. It had clearly been preserved in wine since his death.

Our hero, Enzo MacLeod, makes Gil Petty the next challenge in his missing persons bet. A friend has written a book about unsolved disappearances in France, and Enzo has made a bet with him that he can solve several of them. Enzo is a half-Italian Scotsman, but has lived in France for years, teaching his specialty, forensic science.

Enzo moves into a small cottage near a chalet, and in semi-comic fashion nearly his whole circle of amateur assistants gather around him uninvited – his daughter and her body-builder boyfriend, his young, sexy assistant, and his on-and-off girlfriend. Another drop-in is the estranged, beautiful daughter of the late Mr. Petty, from America.

Enzo is hampered by the suspicion of some of the growers, and by constant sexual tension with almost every female (except his daughter) with whom he comes into contact. Enzo’s attractiveness to women is played mostly for laughs, and it causes him more problems than any satisfaction he gets.

But the mystery is serious, and Gil Petty is not the last victim of a ruthless serial killer.

Like all Peter May mysteries, The Critic is pretty good entertainment. Cautions for language and adult situations. There are some hints of political views, but only in passing.

‘Extraordinary People,’ by Peter May

Extraordinary People

I’m becoming a fan of Scottish writer Peter May. Extraordinary People, which seems to be the first book of a new series, only added to my enthusiasm.

Enzo MacLeod (half Italian, half Scottish) is the father of two daughters. One, whose mother died, adores him and lives in France. The other, whose mother he divorced, will not speak to him. However, she too lives in France.

Enzo used to be a forensic scientist for the police, but now he teaches biology at the University of Toulouse. As a sort of a lark, he makes a bet with a friend, a journalist who’s writing a book on unsolved disappearances. Enzo bets him that he can solve the disappearance of a famous professor, public intellectual, and film critic about ten years before.

Quickly he is able to identify a skull discovered in a metal case in the catacombs of Paris as that of the missing man. Along with the skull various items were found, and Enzo believes they are clues to the motive and murderer. He begins to run the clues down, using the resources of the internet, which did not exist when the man was murdered. Along the way he gradually learns that someone is following his investigation, someone willing to kill him and those he cares about to keep old secrets.

The form of this mystery is one I don’t generally buy into – the serial puzzle mystery, where the detective has to solve a series of obscure riddles to solve the crime. Such things happen in real life, I think, never. In outline, this story resembles the National Treasure movies, which I found contrived and unconvincing.

But May plays the game at a much higher level, and while I recognized the implausibility of the plot, I still had a good time following it. Enzo is an ambivalent character who can sometimes repel the reader, but his growth in maturity and self-knowledge is part of the story.

Cautions for the usual stuff, plus a couple naive comments in the Dan Brown line. But overall I enjoyed Extraordinary People very much.