cover image In the Shadow of the Fire

In the Shadow of the Fire

Hervé Le Corre, trans. from the French by Tina Kover. Europa, $27 (512p) ISBN 978-1-60945-617-7

Le Corre (After the War) brilliantly integrates a mystery plotline into a vivid evocation of a lesser-known period in French history in this enthralling novel, which won the French Voices Prize. For a few months in 1871, Paris was ruled by the Paris Commune, a radical government that controlled the city, until the so-called bloody week in late May, when the French army retook it. The novel opens from the vantage point of three Commune soldiers, led by Sgt. Nicolas Bellec, several days before the start of that combat. As Bellec and his comrades prepare for the ground assault they know is coming, he faces another challenge. A cab driver, “covered in hair, like an animal,” has been kidnapping young women. Bellec’s fiancée, Caroline, becomes one of the unknown abductor’s victims, and the sergeant searches desperately for her, aided by Antoine Roques, who was with the Sûreté before joining the Commune’s efforts. That search continues through the end of the Commune’s reign, giving Le Corre an opportunity to display his gifts at writing tense scenes, with the outcome of both the bloody week and the quest for Caroline unknown. Fans of Armand Cabasson won’t want to miss this one. (Mar.)