For an avid reader like me, every season has something to offer when it comes to reasons to read and the perfect types of books for that season. When été (summer) rolls around it always makes me want to grab a light, easy book that fits nicely in my sac to carry to the river or the park. Summer is a time of relaxation and fun, and a chance for your brain to slow down a little. At least that's what I tell myself when I reach for my roman policier. I'm not sure why I always feel a little guilty reading fluffy mysteries (honestly, my all time favorite genre) but I do. So I use summer as an excuse to get my fill. I also try to read as many of these easier books as possible in French because it makes me feel less guilty since I'm still making my brain work a little. They do tend to be written in less dense, less literary French with a more conversational tone which makes them easier to follow without pulling out the dictionnaire every other page. Big, heavy dictionaries are certainly no fun to throw in your beach bag.
If you're like me and you're looking for some great page turners that won't make your brain hurt, here's a rundown of some of my favorites. Some of them can be found in French, or in English if you prefer, and some of them are in English but take place in France.
Here are three French language recommendations to get you started:
1) Starting with one of my all time favorites, I highly recommend the Marseille Trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo. But I am going to warn you right now to have a bottle of Pastis or some good chilled rosé ready before you start reading. These books all take place in Marseille and both of those drinks are consumed regularly throughout the books. I can't read them without desperately craving a glass. These books all feature Fabio Montale, a detective who grew up on the streets of Marseille. The books are a little dark and gritty and really give you a feel for the town and the people who live there. Below are the French versions of the three books in order. If you are looking for these books in English, the first one is called Total Chaos instead of Total Khéops. These can all be found on Amazon in French or English. Click on the photo to find them on Amazon.
2) Next on my list is a book I read this year that takes place in the USA but is written originally in French. It is a long book (700 pages) and it did take me awhile to get into the book. However, I am glad I stuck with it because by the final third of the book I could not put it down. I had work to do, a daughter to take care of, a house to clean...didn't matter. I had to finish the book. The twists and turns just kept coming, page after page and by that point I was so invested in the characters that I was ready to go along for the ride. Might be a good vacation read if you are planning lots of pool time or beach time or airplane time. The book is La verite sur l'affaire Harry Quebert by Joël Dicker in English, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.
3) If you're more of a classics kind of reader and looking for a writer who has tons and tons of books, try any of the Inspector Maigret Mysteries by Georges Simenon. They are usually pretty quick reads and I find them entertaining. They are more psychological in nature and the main character, Maigret, is really quite a character.
For those of you looking to escape to France (or French Canada) without having to actually read in French, here are three authors to try with many books in each of their series:
1) The Aimée Leduc series by Cara Black takes place in Paris with each book in the series focusing on a different quartier. I have only read the first two. Something about the writing blocks me from really feeling like I am transported to Paris when I read these books but I can't put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me feel that way. They are however entertaining and full of interesting history and characters.
2) The Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker takes place in the Pèrigord region of France. I have only read the first book in the series and will need to read more before I can decide how I feel about them, though I was not terribly attached to the main character. The setting of these books is very different from the Paris of the Aimée Leduc series with an emphasis on small town French life which is always fun to visit, even just in your mind!
3) I have to add this series in because I like it so much even though it is not technically French. The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny takes place in Quebec and does make references to French language throughout the books which I really enjoy. There is also quite a bit of background and history on the struggles between French and English speaking Canada that I found very interesting. The main reason I love these books is because of the heavy emphasis in each case on the psychology of people and human nature. If you like really diving into the why behind what people do, you will like these books.
Final little note: In my sac right now I have Bien connu des services de police by Dominique Manotti. A folio policier that I picked up in the librairie in Lunéville the last time we were there. I just started it and will let you know how it is once I'm done. Then next on my list after that is la Fille du train by Paula Hawkins. Also looking forward to reading the Claude Izner series.
Have any good recommendations to add? Please leave a comment and tell me your favorite summer mysteries!