by Peter May
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2010
ebook available? Not currently
Freeze Frame is the fourth in a series of mysteries by Peter May known as “The Enzo Files.” The series follows Enzo McLeod, a Scottish expat with a background in crime scene analysis who currently teaches in Paris. On a bet, he sets out to prove that he can solve each of an assortment of cold cases detailed in a book by Parisian journalist Roger Raffin by applying modern scientific techniques to each. He’s 3 for 3 at the outset of Freeze Frame, but he begins with the unsettling feeling that this may be his first failure….
The Description (from IndieBound.org): A promise made to a dying man leads forensics ace Enzo Macleod… to the study which the man’s heir has preserved for nearly twenty years. The dead man left several clues there designed to reveal the killer’s identity to the man’s son, but ironically the son died soon after the father. [Freeze Frame] takes Enzo to a tiny island off the coast of Brittany in France, where he must confront the hostility of locals who have no desire to see the infamous murder back in the headlines. An attractive widow, a man charged but acquitted of the murder–but still the viable suspect, a crime scene frozen in time, a dangerous hell hole by the cliffs, and a collection of impenetrable messages, make this one of Enzo’s most difficult cases.
The Review: I must confess that this was the first of the ‘Enzo Files’ that I had read, so I was a little worried at the outset that I may be lost without the previous three installments already under my belt. Happily, that wasn’t the case, though I might have understood Enzo’s relationship woes better had I read the others first. At any rate, I was attracted to the whole forensic science aspect of the description, expecting detailed crime scene investigation and a peek at modern scientific techniques utilized in criminal justice. Based on the above description, you would expect something similar, wouldn’t you?
Actually, very little science or forensic technique played a role in this book. In fact, checking fingerprints on a wine glass is about the only forensic science that got applied within its pages. So you think I’m disappointed, right? Not at all! While my first ‘Enzo file’ turned out to be completely different than I expected, what it did turn out to be was a fun little puzzle mystery full of twists and turns and hidden clues that kept me interested right up to the tidy (if not entirely unexpected) ending. Sure, it’s unusual to have actual forensics play so little a role in a mystery centered around a forensics expert. But what Freeze Frame lacked in scientific detail, it more than made up for in intrigue, believable characters, and a setting drenched in well-crafted Channel Island charm. Peter May clearly did a lot of research for this book, both regional and historical. The result is a very enjoyable modern mystery.
The Bottom Line: The kind of mystery that I would describe as a “fun” read. Nothing overly gritty, no deep science, but an intriguing puzzle with a likable lead character: a cozy, lazy-Sunday kind of book. I’ll be adding the first three to my TBR list, for sure.
[My sincere thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing me with an advance copy of this book for review.]