The Madonna Of Notre Dame
by Alexis Ragougneau
Release date: October 11, 2016
at New Vessel Press
This is a tangled thriller with a murder not easily solved.
A woman’s body is found in the ambulatory of the chapel, Our Lady Of Seven Sorrows. Seemingly, she’s been there for hours. No one realized she was dead.
Now, it’s a scramble to discover who killed her and what message they were sending by posing her body and leaving it at such a public venue.
I’m not familiar with the working of the Catholic faith so I found it fascinating to read a story that delves into the inner workings. And the translation to English was well done, the story flowed quickly.
This was unfamiliar territory, the church and the foreign setting, and I enjoyed the rich descriptions that helped me to visual and appreciate the beauty of such settings.
The intriguing cast of character’s, including the police and priests, made this a straight through read for me as I unraveled the clues and finally found out who killed the Madonna and why. I was surprised, yet not surprised. Surprised at who did it. Not so much as to why.
I’d recommend this to those who enjoy a tightly written thriller with a good dash of mystery.
Fifty thousand believers and photo-hungry tourists jam into Notre Dame Cathedral on August 15 to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. The next morning, a stunningly beautiful young woman clothed all in white kneels at prayer in a cathedral side chapel. But when an American tourist accidentally bumps against her, her body collapses. She has been murdered: the autopsy reveals disturbing details. Police investigators and priests search for the killer as they discover other truths about guilt and redemption in this soaring Paris refuge for the lost, the damned, and the saved. The suspect is a disturbed young man obsessed with the Virgin Mary who spends his days hallucinating in front of a Madonna. But someone else knows the true killer of the white-clad daughter of Algerian immigrants. This thrilling novel illuminates shadowy corners of the world’s most famous cathedral, shedding light on good and evil with suspense, compassion and wry humor.
A little farther, he greeted two cleaning women who were
finishing sweeping the north transept, hushed a group of Chinese
tourists whose cackling echoed through the cathedral, which was
otherwise still quiet at that time, then, pushing his cart, set off
along the black and white tiled floor of the ambulatory. That’s
when his colleague, the guard, came to mind. Immediately, he
saw her. Or rather, in the half light, he just made her out.
The bombshell was indeed there, at the very end of the
ambulatory, perfectly still, alone, as though delicately placed on
the bench outside the chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows.
Gérard approached and started emptying the nearest candle
rack. The few candles lit by the first visitors of the day spread
more shadow than light, so that what he was able to distinguish
was a form rather than a body, a profile rather than a face. She
was wearing a short white dress made of such sheer fabric it followed
closely every curve, every bend in her flesh. Her black
hair, shimmering in places, cascaded over her neck and shoulders
like a river of silk. Her hands, joined in prayer like those
of a child, rested on her bare thighs. On her feet, held demurely
together under the bench like those of a schoolgirl, she had a
pair of high-heeled pumps so white and varnished that it was
futile to resist a glance. They underlined her slender ankles and
the contours of her calves.
Gérard lost himself in the contemplation of this stunning
figure, forgetting for a moment his boxes of candles, his cart, his
hassles, and the monotony of his work as sacristan. However, he
was soon interrupted by the crackle of a radio, the one he wore
at his belt, emitting his name.
“Guard to sacristan … Gérard? … Gérard, do you read me?”
“Yes, I can hear you. What do you want?”
“Did you go look?”
“I’m right here.”
“Is she still there?”
“Yes. Good as gold.”
“Definitely explosive … You were right.”
He put back his walkie-talkie with the guard’s laughter still
resounding from it, then, somewhat reluctantly, finished cleaning
out the candle rack. Behind him, a handful of worshippers
were already entering the chancel, where the nine o’clock
Mass was about to begin. He had to get the necessary liturgical
accessories ready. Father Kern was officiating this morning, and
Father Kern did not tolerate delays.
A little later, he again had occasion to go through the ambulatory.
An automatic dispenser of medals stamped with Ave
Maria Gratia Plena had just become jammed and a tourist, a
corpulent American woman, was tormenting the refund button.
In the chancel, the Mass was following its course. Father
Kern was delivering the day’s homily in his metallic, authoritative
voice, plunging the cathedral into a respectful silence. As he
opened the cover of the medal dispenser and the jammed coins
fell one by one as though from a piggy bank, Gérard ventured
a glance at the young woman dressed in white. She was there,
she hadn’t budged, her hands still clasped together on her pale
thighs, her two pumps still united. Outside, the sun was rising
straight up in line with the chapel and, penetrating the stained
glass in the east, was starting to bathe the young woman’s translucent
face in a red and blue halo worthy of a Raphael Madonna.
Motionless on her bench reserved for prayer, protected by a rope
that isolated her from visitors and gave her the appearance of a
holy relic, she stared at the statue of the Virgin of Seven Sorrows
with an oddly vacant expression.
Gérard closed the medal dispenser and took a couple of steps
toward the young woman in white, but the American tourist was
already ahead of him. She took a bill from her handbag and
pushed it through the slit in the stand, then took four candles,
which she lined up on the nearby rack before lighting them one
by one. Their flickering light finally illuminated the girl’s face.
The tourist crossed herself and approached the bench. In a
heavily accented whisper, she asked the young woman in white if
she could sit next to her in order to pray. Still motionless, the girl
did not deign to reply, her eyes as though transfixed by the statue
of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. After repeating her question
and still not obtaining an answer, the American deposited her
posterior on the bench, the wood groaning slightly beneath her
weight. Then, as if in slow motion, as if in a nightmare from the
dead of night, the white Madonna slowly nodded. Her chin came
down on her chest then, gently, almost gracefully, her whole body
toppled forward before collapsing on the checkered tiles.
That’s when the fat American woman started to scream.
Author Alexis Ragougneau
is a playwright and
The Madonna of Notre Dame is his first novel.
He has worked in Notre Dame Cathedral
helping monitor tourist crowds
and knows well its infinite secrets
and the forgotten souls who linger in its darkest corners.
Buy the book: on Amazon
You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below.
Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]
Global giveaway open to US residents:
1 winner will receive a copy of this book