Morning everyone! Today, I’m glad to be welcoming back to the blog Angela Wren, to talk about her recently published novel, Merle.
Hello Jennifer, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog today.
Your new book has just been published, can you tell me a little more about it?
It’s called Merle and it is set in the Cévennes in the south west of France. Unlike Messandrierre the majority of the action, in relation to mystery to be solved, takes place in the centre of Mende. Mende, which is a real city, is the préfecture of the département of Lozère, and it is here that my investigator Jacques Forêt is working.
Does that mean he’s now left the gendarmerie?
Yes, that’s right. He was having second thoughts about his role as a rural gendarme at the end of Messandrierre and in book 2, which begins a few months later, he has a new post as a senior investigator with the Vaux Group. The organisation is situated in two twin buildings right in the centre of the city.
But using a real location rather than a fictitious one – doesn’t that create problems?
I suppose it can do, but I guess it depends on the extent to which you use the location. For example, there is a scene where Jacques follows one of his suspects and yes, I do mention real street names. And I do know the city so well that I can actually have my characters discussing where the suspect might be going because they are ‘driving in the wrong lane’. To me that adds a greater sense of realism to the scene that other readers may recognise. As for the twin buildings – well they are a figment of my imagination – but I know precisely where they sit on either side of the actual street that does exist in Mende. And the crossing that Jacques uses to get from one building to the other, really is there!
This story has a business background, did that require a lot of research?
For the business processes that are detailed, the meetings that the reader is given insight to, the internal structure of the organisation and the work teams, no. I’ve spent a significant period of time working in business change and project management, so I drew on my already existing knowledge. I was able to take actual business policies and philosophies that I’ve used before and build them into my fictitious work scenario and thereby create a project that was possible and hopefully believable. As for the detailed information regarding IT systems, I did have to research that and I’m pleased to be able to say that I had a friend that could answer all of my questions.
And the city of Mende – why that particular place?
In the ‘reality’ of my books, Mende is about 30ks away from Messandrierre, so everyone in the village will go there. It also has a character all of its own. With a population of around 12,000 and an area of 14 square miles, the town sits in the high valley of the Lot at an altitude of 700m. So that’s a bit like living near the top of Cross Fell in the Pennines, but with better weather.
There has been habitation in Mende for over 2,000 years, the town’s history is varied and complex, having been raided and sacked on numerous occasions – not least during the Religious Wars. Now it is a prominent modern town that it is centred around its old medieval foundations. The narrow streets of the old Jewish quarter, the street names that echo the past, the remnants of the old city walls and the Basilica of Notre-Dame-et-St-Privat with its mismatched towers are all a testament to fascinating history of the place.
I found it hard to ignore such an amazing place and it will always be somewhere that I will keep coming back to again and again.
Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.
When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.
Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?
Merle – the second in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.