Rocco and the Nightingale
Synopsis: When a minor Paris criminal is found stabbed in the neck on a country lane in Picardie it looks like another case for Inspector Lucas Rocco. But instead he is called off to watch over a Gabonese government minister, hiding out in France following a coup.
Meanwhile, Rocco discovers that there is a contract on his head taken out by an Algerian gang leader with a personal grudge against him.
The novel is available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rocco-Nightingale-Inspector-Lucas/dp/0995751013 (change the .co.uk to your country).
Author biography: Adrian is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of twenty-two crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book (at the back of which I get a credit!), a young adult ghost novel and two collections of short fiction.
As many crime novels do, the story alternates between the criminals and police, and poor Rocco has the added complication of babysitting a reluctant African dignitary – accompanied by his bodyguard – with scant support from Rocco’s superiors. Over the course of the novel, we meet a variety of Rocco’s colleagues and a fine array of the underworld’s finest.
As a former dog owner, I liked the comparison between one of the victims and a sheepdog “that didn’t understand what he’s supposed to do. Good at running but crap at following the whistle.” Funny.
Humour is often evident in crime novels, and it’s well known that the police (in real life) make jokes to keep themselves, and their colleagues, sane. Another particularly amusing line was (and I assure you that it doesn’t refer to a child but a man from the Interior Ministry): ‘Rocco wondered if drop-kicking the little tyke down the stairs could be done without losing his job, and decided not. Maybe he could put sugar in his petrol tank… or something stronger.’ (Don’t try that at home!)
There was plenty of conflict – good vs. evil as well as antagonising characters – and well paced.
This is the fifth novel in the Rocco series. I’ve not yet read the previous stories so came to this one as a standalone reader and didn’t feel that I had (a) missed vital information that had already been covered in the previous novels that we should have had here; nor (b) information where it feels it’s been over-explained.
Rocco himself is highly professional and dedicated, wanting to solve the cases he’s involved in (and one’s he’s relieved of). He’s wily, and cleverly outplays a younger colleague without her knowing to suit his end without the reader losing any respect for him because we know it’s in the best interest of the case.
And now for writers…
- The best piece of writing advice is to ‘show’ not ‘tell’. An example in this novel is ‘The old man looked shocked’ which is fine but it’s always best to have the character doing or saying something, e.g. ‘The old man’s mouth dropped open, his eyes wide’… or something better! 🙂
- Exposition is a lesser-known term. It’s where two characters are talking about a topic they both are familiar with and know a piece of information but one has forgotten it and asks the other to remind them. It is a technique some authors use to provide information for the reader’s benefit. This may not have been Adrian’s intention but it’s a useful occurrence as I get to tell you about it. So, in this case we have…
Character 1: ‘Maybe the information was rubbish.’
Character 2: ‘What was it again?’
- There were few clichés, which are fine in dialogue (up to a point – one character only) but less so in narration and an example is ‘nip it in the bud’.
- At times, the story strayed into present tense, e.g. now, here, this, today etc. When writing in past tense, the narration should stay in past tense so the equivalents would be: then (although most ‘now’s can actually be removed), that, the previous day / a day earlier / the day before etc. Dialogue will be present tense regardless.
- There were also points where it wasn’t clear who the he / she / him / her was where there were two characters of the same gender in the same scene or conversation. An example would be: ‘Rocco wasn’t so sure. It was the end of a long road, and time would tell if the charges stuck and Farek went down. He had no illusions about what a clever lawyer could do…’. The ‘He’ means Rocco but the last male name mentioned was Farek so the reader could think it was Farek who had no illusions.
It was an intricate plot, cleverly weaved, but I didn’t feel lost or confused, the expertise of the author of so many (twenty-two) novels. It was interesting to see how the threads would converge at the end.
Although crime is my favourite genre, I’m not normally a reader of historical fiction. With the occasional reference, e.g. telex rather than fax or email, and characters being threatened with the guillotine, it felt like a contemporary story and for me, an enjoyable read.
Rating: 5 out of 5