TOM MITCHELTREE – Blink of an Eye. Grant Reynolds #1. Intrigue Press, hardcover, 2004. No paperback edition.

   It’s always nice to get in at the top of a new series, especially a promising one, and here Tom Mitcheltree introduces an interesting new sleuth in Grant Reynolds, an American in Paris who investigates crimes involving American tourists before they are referred to the FBI for the Legal Attache at the American Embassy.

   It’s an interesting setup that has considerable leeway for the character as both detective and man.

   Reynolds is a former cop who quit after a tragic incident (nothing new there), a fine arts major, ex-Military Intelligence, and lawyer who has stumbled into a dream job in the City of Lights, albeit one that comes with multiple rules, like never carrying a gun, and working at the sometimes limited patience of the French police. Do something, but don’t actually be seen to have done anything, is the rule of the day.

   His first case, almost before he can get well started, involves the murder of the granddaughter of an American billionaire and the son of a Bolivian diplomat in a Paris alley.

   A simple enough case.

   Or so it seems.

   Reynolds introduces himself to the Maigret-like Inspector Gerard (I hate when Americans and the Brits insist on calling French Commissaires Inspectors, but they will do it) who is investigating the case.

   Granted the Maigret demeanor of Gerard and failing to call him a Commissaire put me a little off, but Mitcheltree soon overcomes that minor faux pas, thanks to Reynolds being a personable character, and a decent understanding of Paris that many fail in conveying. I do wish though American writers would understand not all French policemen are large men with mustaches. You would think they would have read one French mystery writer besides Simenon.

   Reynolds role puts him in an interesting position in that while still being a cop of sorts he has no more power than a private eye and no real legal standing, but still has access to the police and their investigations through Gerard who thankfully is an intelligent and capable policeman and neither comical nor colorful.

   As with any good crime novel, the fairly simple murder Reynolds wets his toes on proves to be far more complex and dangerous than he expected. An international hit man has killed the two young people and as Reynolds looks farther into the crime, he finds himself revisiting an old romance with a well-to-do young lady from his college days, and soon enough the Assassin has targeted Reynolds who has gotten too close, if he’s not quite sure to what.

   The mystery is good, there is a decent amount of suspense and a well done ending where Reynolds gets the upper hand, all adding up to a debut that, if not spectacular, is solid and shows some promise for the character. The writing is clean and literate, takes flight once in a while without being showy or pretentious, and the characters are well drawn and likable.

   I like this one better than you might think from the review. The writing is clean, the protagonist likable and interesting without being overdrawn, his angst believable but not beat over the reader’s head, and the elements are better handled than most debuts, plus Mitcheltree makes none of the mistakes so many American writers make in using a Parisian setting.

   It’s not merely that he understands the geography of the city, he gets the reality and the unreality of the city right, the ordinary day to day Paris as well as the legend. The last American writers to do half so well with Paris were Peter Stone in Charade, Marvin Albert’s Stone Angel series, and David Dodge. That’s pretty good company for any writer.

       The Grant Reynolds series —

1. Blink of an Eye (2004)
2. Death of a Carpenter (2006)
3. Crime of the Heart (2011)
4. The Conspiracy of Silence (2012)
5. Swan Song and Other Lullabies (2016)