1930's Paris is a setting ripe with potential for the noiriste, thrumming modernity sitting cheek by jowl with the squalid remnants of the previous century. Bohemians, expatriates, dubious businessmen and the occasional vamp with cinematic bounce. And, in this case, Salazar; an Englishman abroad, world-weary but given to bouts of concerted decadence, a battle-scarred veteran of Passchendale and the Somme, now passing his time as a private detective.
A not particularly experienced one it has to be said. With just two cases in his filing cabinet Salazar has spent more time playing chess with his landlord than running down villains, but when Marie Poncelet, a young woman with a reticent demeanor, comes to him wanting to find a mysterious Belgian stockbroker, Salazar's interested is piqued. The missing man, Gustave Marty, has a suitably shady past, an eye for the ladies and other people's money, and everywhere Salazar goes doors are slammed in his face. Reputations are fragile things after all.
Salazar's hunt takes him through Paris' swanky financial houses, where the money men may have just as much to hide as the elusive Marty, and connections which are just as deadly. He is a dogged investigator though, not one to back down at the first hard blow, and a chance encounter with an old flame from his life in England brings a tentative hopefulness into Salazar's ennui-riddled life. It also brings a point of vulnerability and if he wants to enjoy a future with his rediscovered love the case will have to be solved, no matter what the danger.
And what of Marie Poncelet, Salazar begins to wonder. What could a girl like her possibly want with a man like Marty? Is she a jilted lover, a victim of his scheming, or something else entirely?
Salazar is a cracking debut, part noir, part period romp, with touches of nifty wit leavening the dark subject matter. The eponymous hero is a neat spin on the classic P.I, deeply troubled not beyond redemption, a fighter when he needs to be and a thinker the rest of time, with a smart eye trained on the city at this particular point in history. There are allusions to surrealism and Freud, reflections on financial dirty dealing and the effects of warfare on the people left behind. Lynch has clearly researched his setting thoroughly and Paris of the 1930's is richly evoked, familiar enough that visitors will delight in recognising the spots they know, transformed by a layer of grubby glamour so deftly conjured that I read it craving Gitanes and black coffee.