Award Winning Fantasy with a Twist!

Armchair Travels

It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a series on American TV that wasn’t home renovation, so maybe that’s why thoroughly enjoying character driven crime stories on French TV! The forensics may be a little problematic, and the male leads tend to be eccentric, solo operators who can see what nobody else does (thank you, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!), but two themes are jumping out at me. The first – when lead character aren’t stereotypes and second – where there’s a glimpse of fascinating differences between regions, the added pleasures of a good travelogue!

Detectives is set in Paris. Phillipe Roche runs the agency established by his father who’s semi-retired to a houseboat on the Seine. He’s a classic skirt-chaser with some excuse; his wife left him and two kids to care for orphans in Africa. He’s reluctantly partnered with Nora who’s former national intelligence agency and willing to finance operations. That turns out to be a new cover for her, but of course, she doesn’t share that until mayhem ensues. The grandfather, the kids, and the rest of the family are the real charm, alternating between wanting out of th family business and unable to resist the opportunity to snoop just a little!

Cherif is is set in Lyons where Paris is referred to as a distant other, sometimes with envy but ultimately as wouldn’t want to live there. Kader Cherif is Arabic and always smiling which is pretty good justification for his uniqueness. He makes a point of interviewing suspects over mint tea in his apartment across the street from the station to the irritation of his uptight colleague who’s transferred from Paris. He’s forever getting a cup of coffee or bringing someone a cup of coffee in tiny paper cups which if true means that police in France are walking around buzzed on espresso shots. There’s a strong comic undertone to the series with the lead characters dressing in outrageous costumes to go undercover and minor characters regularly breaking the third and fourth wall with speculation about what will happen next.

Alexandre Ehle is set in Bordeaux. She’s a  very different lead, probably somewhere on the Autism spectrum. It’s very telling that she repeats, “bodies don’t lie.” She collects body parts of famous murders, sleeps on the gurneys, and compulsively pursues leads she uncovers and eventually shares with her police inspector brother. He is alternately exasperated and worried by her because she had no sense of personal risk and not much of social convention. But largely because she’s completely open, people tell her their secrets even as she runs afoul of her bosses and cannot manage dating at all!

Inspector Dupin is set in Brittany where natives are very proud of being Breton and disparaging of Paris. Dupin gets seasick and doesn’t like fish, especially mussels for breakfast. The dialog is German as much as French – I can recognize nein instead of non, and danke instead of merci – with the odd English phrase thrown in. According to Wikipedia, Bretons speak the Gallo dialect of French but also Breton, a Celtic language most closely related to Welsh.

So a few recommendations to hold you until you can get to the passport office! What’s on your summer viewing list?

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