Cast Iron (Enzo Files 6) by Peter May

Secrets of the past…

😀 😀 😀 😀

cast-ironBack in book 1 of the Enzo Files series, Scottish forensic expert Enzo Macleod, now living in Toulouse, took on a bet that he could use modern forensic techniques to solve the seven unsolved murders that were described in a true crime book written by Parisian journalist Roger Raffin. A few years on, he is now beginning his investigation into the sixth murder, of a young girl, Lucie Martin. Lucie disappeared one day back in 1989, and no trace of her was found until the great heatwave of 2003 when her skeleton showed up in the dried-out shore of the lake near her home. Her parents believe she was murdered by a notorious serial killer who was active at that time, but he had a cast-iron alibi for the time she disappeared. Enzo has very little to go on as he reopens the case, but it soon becomes clear someone is out to stop him from finding out the truth…

Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I’m a big fan of Peter May’s work, going all the way back to his China thrillers. I admit, however, that the Enzo Files is the one series of his to which I’ve never really taken. In fact, I haven’t read them all – just the first two, then this one. But this is really due to a matter of personal preference than any real criticism of the books. May’s usual protagonists tend to be unencumbered by family ties, or to develop relationships as the series progress. But Enzo comes with a lot of family baggage, which gets added to in each book. Having left his first wife and their daughter, he moved to France with his new love, who then died giving birth to another daughter. So in the early books there’s a lot of working out of resentments with his first, abandoned daughter, Kirsty, and by the time of this book, both daughters have acquired lovers who featured in earlier cases.

Enzo meantime picks up women at a rate that would make George Clooney jealous, so that by the time of this book he has tense relationships with more than one ex. And in each story, some or all of his extended family get involved in the investigation. May does it very well, and keeps all the various personal storylines ticking over, but it’s just not my kind of thing – I find all the relationship stuff takes away from the focus on the plot (and I frankly don’t see what it is about Enzo that apparently makes him so irresistible to women). But I wouldn’t want to put other readers off – what I don’t like about this series may well make it particularly appealing to people who like their protagonists to have a ‘real’ life beyond the immediate plot.

As Enzo begins his investigation by visiting the victim’s family, he is unaware that his daughter Sophie and her boyfriend Bertrand have been abducted, until he receives a warning to stop if he wants to get them back safely. Naturally, this only makes him redouble his efforts! The strand involving Sophie and Bertrand’s imprisonment and attempts to escape is my favourite bit of the book. It takes us into traditional thriller territory with plenty of action and mounting tension, and May excels at this type of writing.

Peter May
Peter May

The main plot regarding Lucie’s murder is also excellent, showing all May’s usual skill at creating strong characters and interesting settings, and managing to have some credible emotional content to offset the action thriller side of the book. However, there is also an overarching plot to the series which comes to a climax in this one, and I felt there was perhaps a little too much going on and too many coincidental crossovers between the various strands. But May’s writing is a pleasure to read as always, and he manages to bring all the threads together well in the end. Some aspects of this work as a standalone, but because it reveals so much about the background plot, I would strongly suggest this is a series that should be read in order. Reading this one first would undoubtedly spoil the earlier books in a significant way. The first book in the series seems to be known as Extraordinary People now, though it was originally published under the title Dry Bones.

I hope my relatively lukewarm review won’t deter people from trying this series. Even with favourite authors, we all prefer some of their stuff to others, but any Peter May book is still head and shoulders above most of the competition. And this is as well-written and strongly plotted as always, while the French setting gives it an added level of interest. So, despite my personal reservations, I still recommend the series, especially if the complicated family relationships aspect appeals to you.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Quercus, via MidasPR.

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42 thoughts on “Cast Iron (Enzo Files 6) by Peter May

  1. Sounds like a thoroughly decent book, although I am not especially tempted. Background info and family baggage in books don’t appeal to me either, but I can see how for many readers it is an essential part of getting into a character. Nice review, FF!

    • Thanks, Lucy! Yes, on the whole I prefer my ‘tecs not to have a lot of baggage, but also not to be a ‘loner’ – my good friend Poirot, f’rinstance. BTW, I’m currently listening to your good friend Hugh narrating a Poirot book and a jolly fine job he’s doing of it!

      • It’s very much a personal preference, isn’t it? In a book I just like them to get on with detecting rather than worrying about lovers and spouses and kids and all that. Oh, I shall tell my good friend Hugh how much you are enjoying it! He does have a lovely voice, doesn’t he. I have a character in the next book called Hugh but now I’m a bit worried I might have to kill him.

        • Yes, me too! He does – and he manages to make Poirot sound not unlike David Suchet so it all fits with the pictures in my head – super stuff! I had about a zillion leftover Audible credits so I downloaded loads of them and loads of Joan Hickson reading Miss Marple – I’m in Christie bliss! Haha! You can’t kill him! You must make him the romantic lead…

          • His talents are endless!! Gosh, that sounds marvellous – you have hours of enjoyment ahead of you. I really must get in to audio books, they are such a great idea.
            Romantic lead?! Hmm! That is very tempting, but the whole reason I have been stuck with adding a murder is because I pointblank refused to do a romance. Whenever I try romance it just comes across like something from a Carry On film. Much safer with murder. But I just can’t kill Hugh. Anyone but Hugh!

            • I acquired some nifty bluetooth headphones which inspired all this downloading.The theory is I’ll be all active and stuff while listening. The reality is that I listen on the sofa until I quietly nod off… oh well! Hahaha! Well, I prefer murder to romance anyway! Less tiring… and no need to share cakes. Perhaps he could be the hero who saves the day!

            • Very swish, FF! Love the theory but can see how the nodding off could be a thing. I am always nodding off on the sofa. Once I fell asleep whilst watching Sharpe and when I woke up, Lovejoy was on. Confused the life out of me (I am so rock & roll!)
              Ah yes! Actually that’s brilliant – at the moment he hinders matters at every step whilst trying to help, so if he somehow saved the day at the end it would be great!! Thanks for that 😀

            • Hahaha! Nodding off is one of life’s true pleasures but one has to reach a certain level of… ahem… maturity to really appreciate it! And to think I used to mock my mother for never being able to make it through an entire espisode of Midsomer…

              I feel as if I’ve saved his life now… 😉

  2. I’ve loved all of Peter May’s books that I’ve read so far. That being said, I’ve not read any of the Enzo books or the China books. I do have the first China thriller here and think I’ll try to read it soon. I believe those books have been out of print perhaps as they are a little hard to find. Anyway, they seem to be appearing again, so I’m looking forward to trying them. And then maybe Enzo.

    • I thoroughly enjoyed the China thrillers when I read them way back when, and keep meaning to re-read them. The sense of place in them is brilliant! And I hope you like Enzo too, when you get to him… this is one of these situations where I really do think it’s me that’s the problem rather than the books…

  3. Peter May really is a gifted writer, isn’t he, FictionFan? I can see why you’re such a fan. That said, I’m not sure I’d immediately go looking for this one. Enzo isn’t exactly my kind of protagonist. But still, the story sounds great, and in May’s skilled hands, I’ll bet it works overall.

    • Yes he is, which makes me regret giving anything less than a glowing review. But one of the good things about him is that his series are all very different from each other, so it’s not surprising some of them will appeal more than others… and I’m sure these ones will work great for a lot of people. 🙂

  4. Great review! I didn’t think it was too lukewarm:) I have Coffin Road downloaded and I did start it but for some reason it wasn’t holding my attention so I’ll go back to it after I’ve finished a few others.

    • Thank you! And I’m glad it didn’t seem too negative – I felt I was being overly critical because I really do think this is just a matter of personal taste. If Coffin Road doesn’t grab you, I’d suggest The Blackhouse – that was the one that made his name, and is slightly different in format – less of a thriller and more… hmm… deep, maybe, is the word I’m looking for…

  5. Goodness. Enzo must be quite busy. Complicated family relationships are so scary, you know. Which reminds me, root for the Pats this Saturday. They’re the first seed in the AFC! Fighting in the divisional game. #excited Sorry. Off-topic.

    Peter May looks like me.

    • They are! That’s why you should stay away from girls! Who are they playing? I need to check who’s got the prettiest outfits before I commit…

      Eh?? Nah! He’s… you’re… nah!!!

  6. I’ve never read this author’s books. Since you mentioned this series was not your favorite, what book would you suggest to someone like me who has never read this author?

    • I’d definitely recommend the Lewis trilogy which starts with The Blackhouse. Although it’s a trilogy, each book stand on its own too. They were the books that really made his name – before that he had a steady following, but they’re the ones that made him a big star of the British crime writing scene…

  7. Well, I tend to align myself with you on the complicated relationships aspect, FF. There’s such a fine line between telling too much about a character and not telling enough. I love how uncomplicated Agatha made Poirot in her mysteries — we don’t expect him to bring along a lot of baggage!

    • Exactly! I’ve been re-reading Agatha recently – well, listening to audiobooks actually – and been admiring just how well she sticks to the plot. Every chapter moves it along, which can’t be said for a lot of modern crime writing, I fear…

  8. I do like Peter May’s writing as you know but unlike you didn’t take to the China series but this one sounds does sound like one I should try at some point. Your mention of the family relationships is a perfect example of what is off-putting for one reader is what another really likes…

    • I was actually thinking about you when I was writing this and thinking this series is probably more your kind of thing than mine, whereas the China books are more straight thrillers which I think I like more than you. Horses for courses! 😉

  9. “Enzo meantime picks up women at a rate that would make George Clooney jealous” Hahaha, thank you for that! Well, I must admit that I’m really curious about the French setting. I have read things that made me very angry. You can usually tell if the author did their homework or know the country they decide to include in their book and I’m looking for more authors who give a real taste of my country to their readers 🙂

    • Haha! Poor old Enzo – that was mean of me! I think you’d be very pleasantly surprised by the setting. It’s one of May’s real strengths, giving an authentic flavour of wherever he sites his books, and he’s actually lived in France for years so knows it well. In fact, I could be wrong, but I think the early books in this series were published in France before they come out in the UK.

  10. I feel like the #1 strike against the main character that would turn him off from women would child abandonment. Yeesh. Actually, the way he leaves women and gets new ones made me think of a detective James Bond type!

    Also, the coincidence of his family members always getting involved in the murder plot may stretch things for me a bit too much.

    • Yes, though in the first couple of books he kinda works through the abandonment thing with his daughter and they come to terms with each other, so May wasn’t portraying it as an OK thing to do really. But his phenomenal attraction for women does baffle me – maybe I just know too many middle-aged Scotsmen to see the appeal… 😉

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