L'Homme au ventre de plomb - Jean-François Parot
The second book in the Nicolas Le Floch series, this is competently written historical crime fiction. Its English title is The Man with the Lead Stomach. Set in Paris in 1761, it features young police officer Nicolas Le Floch, who investigates a murder which appears to be linked to political intrigue at the very highest level of French society.

Quite apart from its historical setting, the novel has a somewhat old-fashioned feel. It starts with a traditional locked room murder mystery and includes a number of crime fiction set pieces, such as a dénouement in which all is explained at some length by the investigator. One thing I don't like about this style of crime fiction is that the investigator knows things which the reader doesn't, so it's impossible for a reader to work out the whodunnit and the whydunnit before the investigator reveals all. Not that I like resolving a mystery before the investigator does - in fact I hate it - but I want the clues to be there so that I could've worked it out if only I'd been smart enough to do so.

Parot weaves real-life historical figures and events into the narrative, which adds interest. It probably would've added more interest if I was familiar with politics in pre-revolutionary France. I'm not, so I suspect that lots of detail passed me by. Parot also uses food as a device to locate the narrative in its historical setting, with regular descriptions of meals and the method of preparing particular dishes. For someone interested in food, this is a welcome feature of the novel, although it becomes a little predictable. After a while it's very easy to tell when a character is about to go into recipe-sharing mode.

I'm glad to have read this book in French. Doing so slowed me down somewhat, for although my French is reasonable, I feel compelled to check every unfamiliar word in the dictionary, rather than just work out the meaning from the context. I read the first book in the series last year and I'll probably read more of them, although I'm not in a rush to do so. There are a few other French crime fiction novels on Mt TBR which I plan to check out first.