Title: EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE
Author: Peter May
Publisher: Quercus Books
Half-Scottish, half-Italian Enzo MacLeod used to be one of the top forensics experts in Scotland, and now he lives in Toulouse, working as a university professor. Divorced in Scotland and widowed in France, he has an estranged Scottish daughter and a French daughter he has raised by himself.
As if his life isn’t complicated enough, he soon finds himself unexpectedly in the hunt for solutions to some vexing cold cases thanks to an ill-advised wager about the power of forensic science.
Meanwhile, in Paris, a man desperately seeking sanctuary flees into a church. The next day, his sudden disappearance will make him famous throughout France.
Deep in the catacombs below the City of Light, MacLeod unearths disturbing clues deliberately left behind by a killer. But as the retired forensics expert draws closer to the truth, he discovers he may just wind up the next victim for his troubles.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I so wanted to ‘like’ EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE by Peter May but, in the end, this one was a little too staged, with sluggish pacing. Moments that could have and should have been tense, and dramatic, were lost amid the travelogue descriptions that sucked up more than their fair share of page length. It’s all very well to set the scene, but quite another to go on and on with too much incidental detail, that it becomes tedious.
The characters themselves were under developed and, at times, a little too opaque, if not, obvious. The plodding French detective who smokes too much. The far-left leaning reporter who dresses like a film star. To the femme fatale psychologist MacLeod falls in love with who seems to be as clueless as Enzo. Never mind that one too many of the situation they found themselves in—whether finding convenient clues on Google, to someone standing on a plaque dedicated to a dead dog—were all a little to contrived for my liking.
The lead character of Enzo—who has already enjoyed an amazing life with two daughters by different mothers, a divorced wife, a dead mistress and a drastic career change resulting in moving to another country. All this before the book even starts—sounded too much like a drop-out hippie (think Scottish comedian Billy Connolly) rather than the respected forensic specialist turned professor he’s supposed to be. And for someone who was supposed to have been at the top of his game, a specialist in his field, he doesn’t know how to use a computer, is somewhat laughable. Suspension of disbelief is stretched to the max.
Add in the fact that he’s perpetually being on the derogatory side when in the company of women, from eyeing and ogling a 23 year-old student’s breasts to lusting after a woman he’s only just met, and the ex of one of his (supposedly) closest friends. It make the man come across as lecherous. Or, as a Scot might say, a dirty old man! Maybe the author was pouring a little bit too much of himself into Enzo than is considered healthy. Either way, it didn’t endear the character to me in any way, shape, or form.
That said, if you like the simplistic, Agatha Christie style kind of murder mysteries, where the befuddled hero steadfastly unravels all the arcane clues to their conclusion—contrived or otherwise—then you might like this. Otherwise I suggest you look elsewhere.