cover image Bed of Nails

Bed of Nails

Antonin Varenne, trans. from the French by Siân Reynolds. Quercus/MacLehose, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62365-125-1

French author Varenne makes his U.S. debut with this riveting noir. Demoted from elite homicide detective at Paris’s CID for unwelcome whistle-blowing, Lt. Richard Guérin discovers an unexpected respite investigating suicides, until the outsize brain perched atop his scrawny torso starts to discern suspicious coincidences in several deaths. Guérin’s emerging conspiracy theory gains traction when a fresh case—that of the onstage exsanguination of American Gulf War vet turned fakir Alan Mustgrave during an S&M performance—connects the detective with like-minded John P. Nichols, a Franco-American psychologist who doesn’t believe Mustgrave’s death was accidental. The accelerating, increasingly deadly action zips from Paris’s Luxembourg Gardens to the bucolic Lot district, hurtling a passel of eccentrics sympathiques, including Guérin’s unflappable football-besotted sidekick Lambert, against the spiky reality of the human condition or, as the despairing detective describes it, a “complex mass alternating between hazardous free will and anarchic disintegration.” (Nov.)