The Sirens of Suspense

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Writing has always been a passion for Frédérique Molay, author of the international bestseller THE 7th WOMAN. She graduated from France’s prestigious Science Po and began her career in politics and the French administration. She worked as Chief of Staff for the Deputy Mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and then was elected to the local government in Saône-et-Loire. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. After THE 7th WOMAN took France by storm, Frédérique Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, with three in the Paris Homicide Series. The second Paris Homicide mystery, CROSSING THE LINE, came out in September, and the third—THE CITY OF BLOOD—is scheduled for release in January.


Find Frédérique on Facebook and via Le French Book on Facebook and Twitter

FRÉDÉRIQUE MOLAY: Rediscovering Idealism item1b

Do you feel there are any distinct differences between crime fiction and thrillers written for American versus European audiences?

Every country invents heroes based on their history, social reality, culture and own literary tradition. This is even truer today in European countries. For many years European countries had simply translated masters of genre fiction or written pale imitations, but now, from Florence to Oslo and Moscow to Barcelona, with a stop in Paris, of course, you find all manner of stories about cops, PIs, reporters and lawyers uncovering secrets and investigating behind the scenes.

I’m reminded of something Raymond Chandler wrote in The Simple Art of Murder (1950): “It’s not a very fragrant world, but it’s the world you live in.” From this perspective, hard-boiled American anti-heroes like Marlowe have been more damaged by life than their European counterparts. And their moral compass is not always in line with the law. There is nothing “pure” about it; it is necessarily impure, at the heart of the action, spattered by the filth of the world. It comes through as a solitary ethical stand, based on collective values and maintaining self respect and personal integrity while standing in the mud.

If you look at Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Maigret, you find them confronting a mystery, the manifestation of a disturbance in the social order, that can ultimately be resolved. In American noir, however, there is no return to order. Disorder remains in a society based on money, where violence is structural. This perspective gives the genre a much more radical political role.


You’ve been called the French Michael Connelly, what’s your reaction? How do you feel your styles are similar and how do they differ?

I’m honored by the comparison, as I’m an unconditional fan of Connelly. I feel pretentious trying to find similarities in my work. Michael Connelly’s novels are solidly anchored in the real world. Each one is inspired by what’s happening in the world. So are mine. Harry Bosch is a charismatic hero, capable of empathy with victims and culprits, as is Nico Sirsky. Bosch is a hero who grows over time, with his readers, as does Sirsky. Furthermore, over time, Connelly has created a gallery of characters, upon which he calls depending on the needs of the story. Among them is the city of Los Angeles. For me, it’s Paris. In Connelly’s books, you get a precise view of the workings of the American police and justice system. I focus on the realities of French institutions. Bosch however, is more of an old-school cop than Sirsky. I hope that is not all we have in common. Connelly is a master of suspense.


Did your career in politics influence your writing?

Managing projects and writing speeches certainly contributed to how I can imagine investigations and the attention to detail required. Other than that, politics dulled my idealism, and to find it again, I use the characters in my books.


What made you choose a male protagonist for your series?

The French writer François Mauriac, wrote “Heroes in novels rise from the contract the writer has with reality. As the fruit of this union, it is perilous to try to determine what belongs to the writer, what he took from himself, and what the outside provided.” All I can say is that I wanted the main character to head up the Criminal Investigation Division in Paris. This I knew when I visited the division and met the man who held that position at the time—a man who necessarily served as inspiration for the character.

As a woman writer, writing a male character allows me to get by a little more incognito. Nobody asks what I have in common with my male hero. And maybe the man I portray is a kind of ideal man for the woman I am, a man who understands women and loves them the way they are. I will add that I have a soft spot for the superheroes from Marvel comics, and Nico Sirsky is a bit of one for me.


Can you tell us a little about CROSSING THE LINE? What’s coming next for you?

Each of my stories is inspired by stories I’ve heard or read about, or people I have met. For Crossing the Line, I happened to be invited to the headquarters of France’s largest body donation center at a medical school in Paris. There, I met the people who handled the bodies, along with professors and students. I found myself in a room, standing near a cart covered with a blue sheet. When the tech pulled away the sheet, I had the beginning of my story. All I had to do was invite Chief Nico Sirsky to join me at this not-so-typical crime scene, and then to ask just how far we would go to defend those we love from the worst. Then I set it around the Christmas holidays, at a time when Nico’s love story with Dr. Caroline Dalry was just taking shape.

I’m really looking forward to the third Paris Homicide mystery coming out in English. The City of Blood will be released in January. There, we have a change of scenery. I was inspired by a famous artist named Daniel Spoerri. In 1983, before 120 witnesses, he had a huge work of art buried in a trench that was 120 feet long and eight feet deep. In 2010, the National Archeological Institute organized a dig with the city’s prestigious university to unbury the work. This story was too tempting for the mystery writer in me. What do you think archeologists would find three decades later? You’ll have to read it to find out.





COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW by using the Comments box further down on this page, or on our Facebook page and be entered to win a copy of CROSSING THE LINE! (There are two copies available, a hard copy for U.S. entrants only, and a digital copy for international entrants.)



Book she wishes she could read again for the first time: There are way too many books that come to mind.

What she's reading now: THE BLAZING WORLD by Siri Hustvedt.

Greatest fear: A mother's fear for her own children.

Writing ambience: Often musical.

Period in history she'd like to visit: The future, out of curiosity.

Favorite independent bookstore: Librairies de Port Maria, on a port in Brittany, where the sea breeze mixes with fun comments made by the staff.

If she could have one superpower: Spiderman is my favorite. There's no rational explanation.

Favorite big or small screen detective: I love Jessica Fletcher, and the whole Criminal Minds team.

If she could have a drink with any author: Michael Connelly, who else?!.