The Dark Angel, a Lola and Ingrid investigation

On the one hand, there’s Lola. A grumpy retired policewoman who cannot get by without her two best friends: red wine and jigsaw puzzles. On the other, there’s Ingrid, an American in love with Paris. By day she gives the best massages in the city, and her long nights are wilder still…
Their paths might not have crossed were it not for the murder of a young neighbour. Vanessa Ringer’s body is found in the flat she shared with two school friends, mutilated in the most cruel and unusual manner.
Suspicion falls on Maxime Duchamp, a charming restaurateur whose suave exterior hides a tragic past. Convinced of his innocence, Lola and Ingrid hit the streets to unmask the real killer.
Meanwhile, lying low, the victim’s spurned lover, a high-stakes thief with one last heist to go, is plotting his revenge. His inner demon, the Dark Angel, has foreshadowed all…


The Dark Angel, a Lola and Ingrid investigation
Ingrid and Lola # 1
Winner of the « Grand Prix des Lectrices de Elle » (2005)
Translated by Nick Caistor
Publisher: MacLehose Press (hardback), ISBN-10: 0857052136



By Marsall Taylor
January 21, 2014

Jean-Paul, Noah and Farid have just stolen 1,500,000 euros from a Paris bureau de change. Farid insists on giving his share to his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa … and the next day her two flatmates find her murdered and mutilated. The main suspect is her restaurateur employer, Maxime, a charmer with tragedy in his past. Luckily he has a good friend, Ingrid, who calls in ex-cop Lola to help her investigate…
This is the first of a series, which let me meet this unlikely and intrepid duo properly: Parisian policewoman Lola, rude, determined, and definitely retired, and American Ingrid, masseuse by day, and with a surprise night-time occupation. Both were larger-than-life characters, and I enjoyed the building relationship and snappy dialogue between them, as Ingrid prised Lola away from her jigsaw of the Sistine Chapel and back into police work. I loved the Parisian setting – Paris is my favourite city, and Sylvain brought it to life vividly: sights, sounds, smells. The prose flowed from one person’s view to another, and the story moved swiftly, with plenty of twists.
A new, zany detective team, in an elegantly-written story that goes for atmosphere rather than gore. Highly recommended.

By Raven, Crime Fiction Lover, the site for die hard crime & thriller fans
January 18, 2014

Opening with a fast paced hold up of a Bureau de Change, the The Dark Angel instantly drops you into the seedy underbelly of Parisian life. The culprits – Jean-Luc, Farid, Noah and Menaham – represent disaffected young men the world over. Tapping into the immigrant backgrounds of Farid and Noah in particular, straight away Sylvain conveys a realistic examination of the road to crime that such disaffection can cause.
After the robbery Farid disappears to his girlfriend Vanessa’s home to share his loot, but she is later found murdered in horrible fashion and the money is gone. Lieutentant Jerome Barthelmy from the 10th arrondisement police embarks on the murder investigation. He is still reeling from the departure of his old boss, Lola Jost, and struggling to cope with the sheer buffoonery of his new immediate superior officer. So Barthelemy calls on the redoubtable ex-comissioner Lola to air his frustrations, and her involvement in the case is cemented from this point.
By turns referred to as ‘the fat lady’, ‘the pain in the neck’ and the even less complimentary ‘the bitch’, Lola Jost is a short, unhealthy, foul tempered but has excellent powers of detection. Having left the force following the death of a colleague, she’s struggling to adjust to mundane civilian life, and despite her protestations, is all too eager to participate in the investigation. She is imbued with a natural caustic wit and if ever a character was said not to suffer fools gladly, she is it.
In an inspired piece of plotting Lola teams up with Ingrid Diesel, a statuesque American health freak with a colourful and well-travelled background, whom she meets through Maxime Duchamp, who himself is a key suspect in the case. Ingrid loves Paris and works as a masseur and an exotic dancer. Herein lies the strength of the characterisation, as the two women so defined by their differences, physically, culturally and emotionally, mesh together perfectly as a crime fighting duo par excellence. The humour and natural badiage between the two women leads to some real laugh-out-loud moments as Lola’s dour cynicism is pitted against the puppy dog eagerness of the lively Diesel. Interestingly, through their characterisation, Sylvain’s depiction of Paris takes on a different effect, filtered through the seen-it-all despondency of Lola as a native, and the wide-eyed enthusiasm of Diesel for the city as a visitor. So, we get to see the good and the bad nature of life within the city itself.
The girl’s body was mutilated in a cruel and unusual manner, and suspicion falls on Maxime Duchamp, a charming restauranteur whose suave exterior hides a tragic past. Convinced of his innocence, Lola and Ingrid hit the streets to unmask the real killer, one whose gruesome methods are inspired by a morbid obsession with Japanese manga.
Duchamp was enjoying a dalliance with one of the murdered girl’s flatmates, and as more of his back story is revealed it seems impossible that he wasn’t involved in Vanessa’s murder. However, Lola has an instinctive suspicion of the seemingly open-and-shut case and Ingrid has the hots for the charming Duchamp herself. So they set out to clear his name and discover the real killer, outside the auspices of the Paris police force. As the aforementioned Jean-Luc and the robbery gang enter their line of sight, Sylvain intertwines their involvement with the murdered girl leading to a well-constructed and intriguing tale of jealousy, greed and murder with a surprising conclusion.
It is unusual to find a crime novel that works on so many levels simultaneously in terms of characterisation, location, plotting and dialogue. However, Sylvain achieves this with aplomb, producing not only an extremely readable murder mystery that is defined by location and the social exploration of its plot, but also by her depiction of the two main protagonists and the humour that ensues. I was delighted to discover that this is only the first of a series to be published in the UK featuring Lola Jost and Ingrid Diesel, and will await the others with a sense of impatience. A wholly satisfying read.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars

January 5, 2014

Despite a mutilated corpse and a daring daylight robbery where Kalashnikovs are the weapon of choice, there is a pleasingly old-fashioned quality to Dominique Sylvain’s Parisian murder mystery.
There is an echo of Chandler’s gallant, world-weary Philip Marlowe in grumpy former police commissioner Lola Jost. There is a salute to Agatha Christie in the way the prime suspect is finally confronted and shamed by a chain of evidence pointing to their unequivocal guilt. There is also a strong flavour of Simenon in the way she evokes Paris through the inviting fug of its glowing cafés, after-hours clubs and shady denizens with guilty secrets they are reluctant to share.
Sylvain seems to have a particular preoccupation with weather. The Dark Angel unfolds in a Paris on the cusp of winter. The fragile light, weeping skies and soggy streets around the Bois de Boulogne are the marks of a city gripped by a damp chill that penetrates the bones.
The murder of a young woman called Vanessa also chills. She has been strangled. Both of her feet have been cut off using a butcher’s meat cleaver. There are a handful of suspects, but the finger of suspicion points to suave restaurateur Maxime Duchamp. The fact that his first wife was also brutally murdered casts a shadow over his claims of innocence.
There is a brisk efficiency in the way Sylvain sets out the pieces of her puzzle. The narrative is a pacy page-turner that invites the reader to join the dots and play detective, working out the connections between Vanessa’s murder and the robbery at a bureau de change on the Champs Élysée that nets the gang €1.5 million and loose change in dollars and yen.
The plot is intriguing enough, and Sylvain successfully weaves a spider’s web of unexplained events, suspicions and compelling motivations. There is also a dry wit sprinkled across the proceedings. A doorman’s face is “as expressive as a cold cut of lamb”. A character walks “a good distance before finding a taxi, a threatened species in Paris, especially at night”.
More appealing is the way she develops the central characters. Retired detective Lola Jost is described as someone who “always emerged triumphant from the worst possible situations”. Scarred by tragedy, she has embraced retirement as a warming comfort blanket. She spends her days consuming red wine and diligently attending to jigsaw puzzles.
It is no life for a woman with a healthy curiosity, a quotation for every occasion and the tenacity of a terrier. Vanessa’s murder happens in her neighbourhood and draws her back into the detective game, encouraged by Ingrid Diesel, an American masseuse in Paris who also has a reputation as a mesmerising striptease artist by the name of Gabriella Tiger.
The odd-couple friendship that blossoms between the two women becomes the heart of the novel. They bicker and banter, finding unexpected common ground in their very different approaches to life, and eventually solve a murder that brings Lola back to life and provides the key to unravelling other mysteries.
Sylvain has an obvious fondness for old movies. Lola wears “a raincoat buttoned up to the neck. It was the kind of coat Bogart wore in old films, except that it looked much better on him.” It is the way she blends the world of Bogart and Jean-Pierre Melville with the modern age of manga and mutilation that gives The Dark Angel its distinctive flavour. It is also a welcome antidote to the dominance of Scandinavian Noir, Nordic Noir and the fifty shades of grey and gruesome that seem to define a good deal of modern crime-writing.
Sylvain acknowledges a Paris of extremes and the city’s underclass of immigrants and unfortunates, but she has no inclination to turn the stomach, nor has she any appetite for shock-value tactics. The Dark Angel is concise, plot-driven and mercifully unlikely to give you sleepless nights.
In the characters of Lola and Ingrid Sylvain has created a partnership that leaves the reader with a sense of anticipation for their further sleuthing adventures. All told, this is a highly readable introduction to what could well become a series of Lola and Ingrid investigations.

By Philip Robinson, Irish Examiner
December 23, 2013

Dominique Sylvain’s thriller has the usual twists and turns — and the obligatory dead body — expected of a crime novel. But what sets this typical piece apart from the others is the sleuths out to unmask the killer.
Set in Parisian backdrop, beautifully described with vivid realism, a beautiful girl is found murdered and the clues lead in many directions. Enter an unlikely detective partnership; Lola a bitter, wine loving, jigsaw-addicted retired police commissioner and Ingrid, an American masseuse/striptease artist.
When the finger points at a restaurateur with a dark past it seems to Lola and Ingrid that the law has the wrong man. The hunt for the real killer plays out alongside the story of the deceased’s lover, a thief with revenge on his mind. Both plots work well together and the writing is superb, however it does miss a little pace to keep me really turning the pages.

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