Review: The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

Review: The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti and Jacques RavenneThe Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne, Anne Trager
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Antoine Marcas #2
Pages: 266
Published by Le French Book (NY) on June 7th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Gold. Obsession. Secrets. Following the murder of a Freemason brother, Antoine Marcas uncovers unsettling truths about gold and its power to fascinate and corrupt. A priceless sword is stolen and deaths ensue setting the Freemason detective on a case of Masons turned bad. A clue points to mysteries and conspiracy about elusive pure gold, launching a frantic, deadly race between two symbolic places the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. A captivating plot weaves alchemy and the Middle Ages into a modern-day thriller. Part of an international, best-selling series that has sold 2 million copies worldwide, with vivid characters, an evocative international setting, and history darker than midnight. For readers who love ancient myths, secret societies, chilling narrative and modern speed."

My Review:

shadow ritual by eric giacometti and jacque ravenneJust like the first book in this series, Shadow Ritual, The Lafayette Sword reads very much like a thinking person’s DaVinci Code. Only better, because the story in the end is much more firmly grounded in reality and makes much more sense, while still taking the reader on a thrill-a-minute ride.

In this book, we actually begin with three stories. In the 21st century, our hero, Paris Police Detective Antoine Marcas attends a regular meeting of his Freemason Lodge, only to discover not one, but two dead bodies inside the sanctuary. One is an initiate, and one is an old and dear friend. His chase of the killer nearly ends in his own death, but the killer, spares his life at the last moment for reasons unknown to Marcas. He’s heard his assailant’s voice, but the face was masked.

Also in the 21st century, we read the emails of a mysterious cartel code-named Aurora. Aurora’s purpose is to manipulate the price of gold, for the benefit of its members, of course. Aurora buys up the gold uncovered in Shadow Ritual, but it isn’t necessary to have read that book to enjoy Sword.

But if you love thrillers, these are marvelous.

There is also a plot thread in the 14th century. We follow Nicolas Flamel as he is forced to record the confession under extreme torture of a young woman. She accompanied Isaac Benserade to Paris, and her late master was burned to death by the Crown for plotting against the king. In truth, it was all a plot to find Isaac’s book of alchemical formulas. The Crown is broke, and desperately needs a miracle. Turning base metals into gold would certainly qualify as that miracle.

For those wondering why the name Nicolas Flamel sounds familiar, Flamel was a real historical figure, but he is better known to 21st century readers as the creator of the “Philosopher’s Stone” or “Sorcerer’s Stone” that was sought by Voldemort in the first Harry Potter book.

Back to The Lafayette Sword, and, the search for it.

As the story progresses, at first the reader is left wondering why these three threads are bound together in this book. They do not seem connected. All very interesting, but not necessarily converging.

But as Antoine chases the killer, and the secret that the man is searching for, these disparate trails come together. And when they do, the action, and the danger, heat up to boiling point. Or to the temperature of gold fever.

Escape Rating A-/B+: For the first half of the book, the reader is wondering how and why the various disparate plot threads are finally going to come together. At the halfway point, they start to braid together in a way that will keep the reader turning pages furiously until the end.

For those who enjoy complex riddle stories like The DaVinci Code and National Treasure, there is plenty of meat to chew on. The quest for the killer and what is driving him delve deeply into Masonic history, and also into the history of both the American and the French Revolutions.

But like so many good thrillers, we also get a fight to the death both at the base of the Statue of Liberty and among the metal lattice of the Eiffel Tower. Both tourist destinations are linked by a surprising secret.

In the end, however, the mystery comes down to very human motives, and very human reason. Or unreason. One man has gone off the rails, pursuing a secret that for once, really does exist – but can’t be revealed.

We see the chase through the eyes of Antoine Marcas. He is both Freemason and cop, and in this case must parse his divided loyalties in order to reach justice without revealing secrets he is sworn to keep. And we see his internal conflict, not just about the almost opposing calls on his loyalty, but also his doubts and fears. And his abiding concern that his devotion to his duty has taken him away from his son. Marcas is both a dogged investigator, and a deeply troubled man.

And that makes him fascinating to watch. I am looking forward to hopefully next year, or whenever the next of his adventures will be translated into English.

Review: The Winemaker Detective Mysteries: An Omnibus by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

Review: The Winemaker Detective Mysteries: An Omnibus by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel BalenThe Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Anne Trager, Sally Pane
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Pages: 309
Published by Le French Book Inc. on December 5th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Two amateur sleuths gumshoe around French wine country, where money, deceit, jealousy, inheritance and greed are all the ingredients needed for crime. Master winemaker Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile Lanssien solve mysteries in vineyards with a dose of Epicurean enjoyment of fine food and beverage. Each story is a homage to wine and winemakers, as well as a mystery. In "Treachery in Bordeaux," barrels at the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate in Bordeaux have been contaminated. Is it negligence or sabotage? In "Grand Cru Heist," Benjamin Cooker's world gets turned upside down one night in Paris. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover. He and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and very particular heist. In "Nightmare in Burgundy," a dream wine tasting trip to Burgundy that turns into a troubling nightmare when Cooker and his assistant stumble upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era. This made-for-TV series is "difficult to forget and oddly addictive" ("ForeWord Reviews").

My Review:

The Winemaker Detective Omnibus combines three books that were originally published separately; Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist and Nightmare in Burgundy. As these are the first three books in what is now a 20 book plus series in the original French, this little omnibus is a convenient way to start on this tasty little series about making wine, living the Epicurean life in France, and murder.

Each of the books in this series is novella-length, so this combined introductory collection makes for a decent book-sized book without being overwhelming.

treachery in bordeaux by jean pierre alaux and noel balenThe stories feature the internationally acclaimed Anglo-French winemaker and wine commentator Benjamin Cooker, and his young assistant Virgile Lanssien. Poor Virgile’s job interview opens Treachery in Bordeaux, and he and his new boss are immediately thrust into a tale of wine sabotage, real estate shenanigans and death.

This is a relatively straight-forward case in many ways, with the original crime – what happened to the wine? – relatively easy to guess, both for the reader and the newly hired Virgile. Figuring out whodunnit and even more interesting, whydunnit make the story. The portrait of the winemaking region of France and the processes used to create and preserve the wine and the winemaking business itself are fascinating.

But Treachery in Bordeaux is mostly a book that sets up later stories. Once Cooker figures out the shortlist of who might have done the crime, the wrap-up is quick and almost anti-climactic. We see Cooker agonize much more over writing the next edition of his famous wine guide than we observe him thinking about the case.

grand cru heist by jean pierre alaux and noel balenFor this reader, Grand Cru Heist was the best of the three stories in the collection. All of the characters and situations are set up in Treachery in Bordeaux, and we see the partnership of Cooker and Lanssien gel. And we see Benjamin Cooker thrown very much out of his element, as we watch him recover from a carjacking in Paris. While he is recuperating in Tours, he runs across a congenial fellow wine collector, a Russian prostitute, and a staged murder-suicide that conceals two murders. Meanwhile back home, a friend’s collection of rare wines is being stolen from auction houses around Europe. And only his friend’s wines, no matter what other treasures are stored in those warehouses.

So while Cooker mourns the loss of his vintage car and his even more precious notes for his next Guide, he finds his recuperation aided by involving himself in both the police investigation and the hunt for a thief. It’s not a complete surprise when that congenial wine collector, the murders and the thefts all turn out to be part of the same messy business. But it is fun.

nightmare in burgundy by jean pierre alaux and noel balenIn Nightmare in Burgundy, Cooker is off to Burgundy, a completely different winemaking region than his native Bordeaux. While Cooker is in Burgundy for a wine judging event, he stumbles across a case that takes a very unfortunate turn.

Someone is leaving Biblical verse graffiti, in Latin, painted on the walls and inside the houses of several villages in the Burgundy area. Whoever is leaving the quotes from Psalm 102, it is someone in a lot of pain and obviously not a typical tagger. When the painting spree starts causing collateral damage among the villagers, Cooker steps in to figure out not just who is in such terrible anguish, and causing so much more.

By the time I got to Nightmare in Burgundy, it felt like reading all three stories back to back was too much of a good thing all at once. Perhaps I was a bit hungover from all the wine talk! So while these stories are individually lovely, I would recommend pacing oneself and resisting the impulse to plow through them all at once.

Escape Ratings: Treachery in Bordeaux, B-: Grand Cru Heist, B: Nightmare in Burgundy, B

The Winemaker Detective banner

This post is part of a Pump Up Your Book Tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.