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O'Brien, Martin - 'The Dying Minutes'
Paperback: 480 pages (Jan. 2013) Publisher: Arrow ISBN: 1848090625

It was a woman's voice. A voice Jacquot knew. That familiar lilt, the softness bordered by a rougher edge. He looked up, wiped a forearm across his eyes, and squinted into the sun.
"They said I'd find you here," the voice continued. And then he saw her.

1972: South of France: Madrague. The blackest of night on the quayside as the three of them transfer the heavy bars of gold onto the boat. They have nearly finished when a shot cracks out and the woman's young companion falls. The older man hisses out the words, "Quickly, quickly..." as he fires up the boat's engine and casts off. Crouching, the woman zigzags towards the quay's edge. More shots are fired and she leaps out over the water into the darkness.
1999: South of France: Madrague. The friends sail out past the islands, ready to commit the old fisherman's body to the sea he loved. Coffee and apple brandy, then a few words spoken as they lower his wrapped and weighted body into the waters. Some weeks later a lawyer is summoned by his dying client to the prison just outside Marseilles. The client's crimes go way back and he knows everything about everyone. He smuggles a small packet into the lawyer's hand, his "pension" he used to call it, but now it is not needed and he instructs the lawyer to use it to settle some of his old scores and to have some fun. The lawyer collects a heavy hold-all from the left-luggage office and hauls it back home. He opens it and is astounded to find jewels, cash and even gold bars. But the hold-all also contains a wallet of cassettes, photos and zip-lock bags containing small items and some scraps of paper.

Chief Inspector Daniel Jacquot has just seen his wife leave for a restorative Caribbean trip after their recent ordeal. Daniel himself is still off work recovering from a bad leg wound and today he is meeting his friend, the old harbour master, for lunch and a long-promised meeting with the mysterious "Constance". And "Constance" is a surprise indeed a boat willed by an old fisherman to whoever the harbour master considers will take good care of her. The harbour master has picked Jacquot. And while Jacquot, a fisherman's son, is getting to know and love "Constance" the murders begin. They grow into a network of killing and torture that draws the old-time gangster syndicates into a war and triggers a police investigation led by Isabelle Cassier, an ex-colleague and lover of Jacquot's. Then Isabelle walks back into Jacquot's life and is determined to stay.

THE DYING MINUTES is Martin O'Brien's seventh Daniel Jacquot title, following on from BLOOD COUNTS. This time Jacquot finds himself caught up in the clash between warring gangsters from the Port's "old days". One, at the end of his days of empire, is still brooding over the loss of the gold bullion from a 1972 heist; all are brutal in their hunt for the gold and payback. Martin O'Brien, an ex-travel editor at British Vogue, creates a vivid picture of his favourite city of Marseilles and Jacquot, his ex-Rugby International turned police detective, is a strong character with a love of life and living. In this book O'Brien has created a huge cast of characters but has established them as individuals so deftly and brings them to life so successfully that I absorbed them all well perhaps a little confused during the grand finale. But that's OK. It is quite a grand finale. His sharp plotting sustains the suspense and the short graphic chapters keep the pace going. Certainly, on the strength of my enjoyment of THE DYING MINUTES, I can look forward to the pleasure of exploring a new crime series in Martin O'Brien's "Daniel Jacquot" books. With a sense of place and atmosphere conjured so well that I felt that I had sat in the sun, eaten the black olives, drunk the wine and dangled my feet in the water I can only say that this creates a whole new definition of "holiday" reading. Bring me more.

Read another review of THE DYING MINUTES.

Lynn Harvey, England
January 2014

Lynn blogs at Little Grey Doll.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 25/01/2014 16:28