the circle book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

In the remote southern French town of Marsac, a professor of an elite preparatory school is brutally murdered. It is a crime that even startles the experienced Commandant Martin Servaz, the regions leading investigator. Entering Marsac has Sevaz stepping into his own memories. He is a former student of the prominent school and spent his formative years in Marsac. Crime doesn’t seem to fit this academic community. The crime and subsequent episodes hit too close to Servaz’s life as his daughter is now attending school in Marsac.

The Circle by Bernard Minier is a taught thriller full of twists and secretive characters. Commandant Martin Servaz would rather be home with a book than at the bar watching the World’s Cup when he receives a call from his former lover pleading for his help. Without following protocol, Servaz and his partners drive to Marsac stepping into a convoluted mystery. Servaz functions on a cerebral level. This is apparent in his approach to an investigation. His internal speculation is offset by his detectives’, Samira Cheung and Vincent Esperandieu, outward methods to an inquiry and suspect questioning.

The Circle is Minier’s second novel featuring Commandant Martin Servaz, the first being The Frozen Dead. I had not read the first novel when I came to The Circle. Although The Circle contains some allusions toward the first Servaz novel, it is a complete story and I was not left wondering whom these characters were or what was going on. As a side note, events that happened in book one are summarized at times in The Circle so, if you don’t like spoilers, you may wish to read The Frozen Dead prior to reading The Circle. I had no problem with the references and intend to read the first book because I like the Commandant Martin Servaz character. His intellect, love of books, and classical music is intriguing.

I quite liked The Circle. Bernard Minier’s novel is engrossing. The writing style and translation are well done with hints of lyrical quality at times. The Circle, however, is not a quick read. This is a hefty book with a lot going on. The story seemed to spiral in a winding circular path leading into a dense center that encompasses the town of Marsac. The reader must navigate multiple layers of mystery, disturbing crimes, characters that are full of secrets, and an ominous shadowy presence to get to the heart of the novel. I recommend The Circle to any seeking an engaging, intellectual mystery.

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Minotaur Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.