Death on the Marais – Adrian Magson

Rocco1 Let’s start with a bit about the author.  I fear that in some quarters Adrian Magson may be better known for his contributions to Writing Magazine, but in Magson we have a prolific writer.  He wrote short fiction and features for women’s magazines, contributing over the years to worldwide publications, as well as writing comedy material and stories for BBC radio before turning to crime thrillers.  By the time Crème de la Crime was sold to become an imprint of Severn House, Magson had notched up five novels with them.  Then, last year, in the space of only two months Magson launched two new series: the Harry Tate spy thriller series with Severn House and the Inspector Lucas Rocco mystery series with Allison & Busby.  Here, the focus is on the first Lucas Rocco mystery, Death on the Marais which comes out in paperback in May 2011; the second in the series, Death on the Rive Nord follows in August.  The Rocco series is set in France in the 1960s.  Magson’s prolific skill for such a venture stems from time the author spent living in northern France in the late 1950s.   And now for the novel…


1963 sees an initiative in France to broaden police operations and this leads to Lucas Rocco’s move from the hustle and bustle of Clichy in Paris to the village of Poissons-Les-Marais in Picardie.  It also leads to an uncomfortable reporting line change for Rocco where he finds himself reporting to Commissaire Massin, his former army CO whom he last saw cowering in foxhole in Indochina.  His move allows for no bedding-in period where, on his first day and unusually for the locals, a murdered young woman is discovered dressed in Gestapo uniform and lying in a British military cemetery.  When the dead woman’s identification is confirmed, her father, a war hero and post-war major industrialist, denies that she is dead.

Following a harrowing prologue that focuses on the actual death, the opening scenes of this novel are imbued with some delicious and welcome humour as interloping Rocco deals not with the locals, but more the true case, that they deal with him.  His move, and indeed his investigation are both fraught with political machinations as well as difficulties on a practical level, for example getting a phone line installed (a ‘who you know’ as always and even then).  The plot involves some unusual input and its originality draws you in, gripping to the last.  Without doubt, the character of Lucas Rocco is of great appeal to lady readers. 

In small ways, this wonderful novel could have been even better.  The historical context was later lost where a focus on the plot led to this reader forgetting we were in the 1960s.  The introduction to each chapter started with a quote about our protagonist, to put Rocco in context and create further tension in light of the change.  It ended abruptly, leading this reader to wonder if there’d been an error in the production of the book.  Neither did the quotes make an obvious lay for what followed in each chapter; there was no perfect match to the actions that ensued.  It is best to ignore or not be committed to these quotes.  But these, as I say, are small issues.

In conclusion, it’s an honour to disclose that Death on the Marais is a great read for its mystery, plot and introduction of a new series character that should become a biggie in the crime fiction world.  Rocco rocks! 

And as my first introduction to Magson’s novels I have to say I am very impressed.  I have not come across anyone else to take that angle on plotting.  He takes police procedural and mixes with the psychological when it comes to families, and it’s as horrendous as it comes due to the deeds done.  Sleep well dear reader; but perhaps not after reading this one.

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4 thoughts on “Death on the Marais – Adrian Magson

  1. David Belbin

    I’m looking forward to reading this one. It’s one of the novels shortlisted for the first East Midlands Book Award, by the way, winner announced in June.

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