Don’t Turn Out the Lights (Commandant Martin Servaz #3), by Bernard Minier

Eight stars

Continuing with another Bernard Minier novel, I noticed a distinct change in this series. Whereas the first two novels were definitely crime thrillers, this one has morphed into something psychological, but still holds a strong story to keep the reader fully engaged. Christine Steinmeyer is prepared to go out on Christmas Eve when she noticed an unmarked letter in her post box. Opening it, she discovers a letter expressing that the writer intends on killing themselves and that she, the reader, is to blame. Baffled, Christine seeks to learn if she received this letter in error, but no one else seems able to determine the intended recipient. During her Christmas Day radio broadcast, a caller reaches Christine on-air to ask how she could have let someone die. Spooked, Christine is more determined to find out who is behind this and how she can stop the game. Meanwhile, Martin Servaz is on leave from the Toulouse Police, having checked himself into a facility to handle some traumatic events in his recent past. He is haunted by horrible nightmares, though is sure that he will be able to overcome them, given the time to process. He receives a random envelop one day, in which he finds a hotel key card from a high-end establishment. With little to do, Servaz follows the message left for him and makes his way to the hotel, only to learn that the room associated with the card has an ominous past. An artist took her life the year before, but there is no suspicions or foul play. Still, for many who know Servaz, he does not let this go lightly, beginning an exploration into this woman and what might have led to her demise. As Christine continues to probe her own mystery, messages begin appearing at work and by email, attributed to her. She hears things and cannot sleep, sure that someone is following her. The deeper she probes, the less things make sense and those around her have given up on her. When she finds herself in the crosshairs of the police, she knows that she is being toyed with, but cannot finger the culprit. Servaz’s off the books investigation soon finds a thread that brings Christine into his own probing. Might there be a correlation between these two cases? Minier branches out with a wonderful novel that takes readers down many a dark corridor and leaves them guessing until the final page, when the closing paragraph is left to resonate. Perfect for those who enjoyed the first two novels and readers who enjoy a dark, psychological thrillers that develop at their own pace.

Those who follow my reviews will know that I find foreign language thrillers to differ greatly from my usual English reading fare. They tend to be much darker and use characters whose angst pushes the story into odd directions. Bernard Minier is one author whose novels meet this criteria, particularly as they take the reader into the struggles of Commandant Martin Servaz. However, in this case, it is processing the horrible reality of what he has come to presumed followed the closing of the previous novel. Servaz is back, though plays a secondary role in this piece, at least in its central focus and drive. He seeks to come to terms with the likely death of a past lover who was kidnapped by a killer he put away years before. While not actively working, his mind seeks a mystery that he can solve which is why the ‘hotel key curiosity’ is right up his alley. The reader plunges into this investigation with him, keeping him occupied enough not to think of the past. That said, he does have a brief encounter with his daughter, who brings stunning news and permits the reader to witness some of the Commandant’s character development. The primary focus of the novel is Christine Steinmeyer, whose fall from glory is documented through a spiral of intensifying acts and revelations , hinting that the mental health struggles from her youth may have resurfaced. Additionally, the reader learns much about this woman’s past and how the death of her older sister may have been a long path full of red flags that no one noticed. As Christine professes her sanity, the reader can only wonder who is pulling the strings of these seemingly inexplicable actions that see her lose the trust of many. With a number of other characters who push the story along, Minier has crafted a strong collection of entities to propel this novel of a differing genre into being success. Minier does well to individualise this story without leaving the series fan feeling cheated or out of sorts. The slow advancement of the overall plot works well, as Minier is never one to get to the point in short order. Peppering the narrative with both operatic and space references, the reader can learn a great deal while trying to solve these parallel mysteries that seem to have a similar thread. By the end, the reader can breathe a sigh of relief, only to be pushed over with new information in the epilogue to stun them and pray that the fourth novel will soon be on hand.

Kudos, Monsieur Minier, for another great piece. I am eager to get my hands on the next in the series when it has been translated!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: