The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik
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October 26, 2012

Paris in October

'Fancy a short walk before lunch?' Verlaque asked Paulik when they were out on the street.
      'Sure. It's not yet noon. Where to?'
      Verlaque pulled a cigar out of his leather holder and snipped the end off and then lit it. He began walking. 'Just up the rue Brochant and then we'll cross over Clichy and go see my grandparents' place.' ...
       'We turn right here,' Verlaque said. Paulik followed the judge and saw a large green metal gate, the center big enough to allow a cart to pass through, which was closed, but on  either side were similar pedestrian gates, which were open.
       'A private street1' Paulik exclaimed. 'I've heard about these existing in Paris.'
      Both men passed through the gate and looked up the cobblestoned street. It was lined on either side by elegant houses, each one fronted with mature trees and gardens. The street went on for what looked like two city blocks.
      Paulik stood with his hands on his hips. 'I've never seen anything like this.'
      'It's an oasis, isn't it? The land was given to the city of Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. The only stipulation from the land-donor was that houses be built, not apartments, each one with a large front garden that would be planted with at least three trees.'
      Paulik looked up and saw that most of the houses still had at least two trees. The small metal gates that fronted each house, and the antique street lanterns, made the street look liked it belonged in a wealthy town in Normandy, or Poitou, at the turn of the century. 'Sheer Marcel Proust,' said Paulik.
      Verlaque smiled, took a puff of his cigar, and began walking. 'Isn't it. That's why my grandmother wanted to live here so badly.'

If you were reading a mystery set in Provence on the train coming home from work, and the judge and the commissaire found it necessary to go to Paris, would you mind going with them? And if you followed them on this walk, after they left the elderly lawyer's office, wouldn't you want to know if this intriguing place was real?

      'The noisy avenue de Clichy was far behind them. Birds raced around their heads and cats chased each other from garden to garden.  Verlaque stopped halfway up the street and smoked his cigar, reading a marble plaque before a small delicate white house. Paulik stopped beside him and read -- the residents had been killed during World War II for forging passports.
      'Notice how they specify that the men were shipped off to their deaths,' Verlaque said, 'but that the whole female forger, Colette Heilbronner, was killed here, on the spot.'
      They walked on a few meters and Verlaque stopped at what was so far the most beautiful house on the street. Made of a golden stone, the house was three stories high with large multipaned windows, and a simple front garden that sloped down to the front door.
      They looked at the house for a few minutes, Verlaque hoping to see one of the current residents, and Paulik pondering the fact that a wealthy Parisian couple -- who could have lived in the sixth or seventh arrondissement -- would choose to love in an unfashionable neighborhood in northwest Paris, albeit on a street with distinction and cachet. It made him understand the judge a little more.
      'Lunch?' Verlaque asked, smiling.

from Murder in the Rue Dumas, by M. L. Longworth

{images of the Cité des Fleurs found on Wikipedia, and here}


Lisa May said...

Gorgeous images that really bring the words to life! and now I'm curious about the book.

Audrey said...

Hi, Lisa May:
This is the second in a newish series... in the first one, I thought that Marine Bonnet (the female law-professor sleuth) should dump her boyfriend, the judge (Verlaque), but in this one he seems almost likable. And it's set in Provence, and there's lots of French food, so it's been nice company on the train.

JoAnn said...

I'm VERY tempted...

Thank you for visiting!

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