Last weekend I finished reading Danse Macabre, the third novel in the Neve & Egan crime novels series. The author, Cristelle Comby is on a blog tour and I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. I’ve also read Russian Dolls and Ruby Heart, the previous books in the series, and reviewed the latter in December 2013. I enjoyed the previous novels’ upbeat, humorous approach to crime fiction so when I started the latest book I knew what to expect and was looking forward to it.
Here’s how the author describes Danse Macabre: “Private investigators Alexandra Neve and Ashford Egan are hired to succeed where the police have failed, to safely return home a missing ballerina. With no lead to pursue and no idea who could be behind the young woman’s kidnapping, they soon find themselves at a loss as to what to do.
To make matters worse, the heart of England seems to be caught in the middle of a little Ice Age. With snow endlessly falling and Tube lines either too cramped up to use or out of service, it is a pain to do any legwork in the huge metropolis.
Oh, and because trouble never comes alone, there may also be a serial killer on the loose in the streets of East London…”
The novel is aimed at the new adult market but, with its skilful use of humour, it sits well in the cosy mystery genre too. It has that upbeat feel to it and, even in the most gripping moments of the story, undercurrents of humour run through it. It isn’t sugar coated though. The gruesome details of the crimes are not glossed over but the author doesn’t dwell on them either. They provide a sense of reality to the story without overwhelming the reader.
The plot incorporates expected elements of the murder mystery while throwing in a couple unique twists, including the killer’s motivation for his crimes. Some developments in the storyline I saw coming but not all of them. But that wasn’t important as the increasing tension as the pair of private investigators got closer to solving the case kept me reading. When I was satisfied that everything had been neatly tied up at the end of the story I was surprised by the twist that brings about the cliffhanger ending. Generally I’m not a fan of such endings but, since I want to know what happens next, I’ll forgive the author as long as she releases the next book soon.
For me, the essence of these novels is the relationship between the main characters and their development from bumbling amateurs to professional investigators. Each story is told convincingly from Lexa’s point of view. She’s a young, spirited woman who is learning and maturing with each case she encounters. Her business partner, Ash, is older and more guarded about his thoughts and feelings than his vibrant partner but he is slowly revealing the depths of his character. With each snippet that he divulges, I want to know more. Lexa and Ash are each quirky in their own ways and form a strong partnership. I like the way they are gaining skill and confidence as investigators with each new case they tackle. The author depicts their tender yet respectful relationship through their subtle verbal and physical communication, using a minimum of dialogue. Detective Stenson, who is their ally and Lexa’s love interest, is the right balance of a man with a maverick streak and a tough cop. He is often the catalyst that gives the investigative duo access to information and evidence to help them solve cases. There are stereotypical elements to several of his police colleagues but, as minor characters, the way they are depicted fits the genre of the story.
Like the previous books in the series, Danse Macabre has a witty and feel good element that enervates the novel. Despite the grisly subject matter, it left me feeling uplifted. The novel is written in a simple but effective style. Since English isn’t her native tongue, I am impressed with the author’s command of the language. My one criticism of the novel relates to the prologue: I didn’t think it was necessary as the author fills in any background information that readers who have not read the previous books in the series will need as the story unfolds.
I see this novel as one that will appeal to a wider audience than the new adult market it is aimed at. Readers who enjoy cosy mysteries as well as general readers will also enjoy this story.
About Cristelle Comby:
Cristelle was born and raised in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, in Greater Geneva, where she still resides. Thanks to her insatiable thirst for American and British action films and television dramas, her English is fluent. She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting.
Danse Macabre is her third new-adult novel, and she’s hard at work on the next titles in the Neve & Egan series.