The Black Jersey by Jorge Zepeda Patterson, Random House 2019 hardcover / ebook, mystery, 314 pages.
Every July, for years now, we watch the Tour de France on TV. In addition to seeing the beautiful French countryside, mountains and villages, there is the race itself. Highly skilled professional cyclists give their all for a stage win, or even to win the yellow jersey and stand on the podium in Paris at the end of the grueling two week race. Each year we get to know some of the cyclists and teams as we watch and cheer on our favorites.
So when I saw this new novel, which takes place at the Tour, I couldn’t resist.
Marc Moreau, a professional cyclist with a military past, is part of a top Tour de France team led by his best friend, an American star favored to win this year’s Tour. But the competition takes a dark turn when racers begin to drop out in a series of violent accidents: a mugging that ends in a broken ankle, a nasty bout of food poisoning, and a crash caused by two spectators standing where they shouldn’t. The teams and their entourages retreat into paranoia, but they must continue racing each day. The mountain inclines grow steeper and the accidents turn deadlier: a suspicious suicide, an exploded trailer, a loose wheel at the edge of a cliff. Marc, an ex-M.P., agrees to help the French police with their investigations from the inside and becomes convinced that the culprit is a cyclist who wants to win at any cost. But as the victim count rises, the number of potential murderers—and potential winners—dwindles.
Marc soon begins to realize that his team has been helped the most by the murderer’s actions, and in the final stages of the race Mark himself emerges as the only cyclist left who could possibly beat his best friend and win the Tour.
I liked this a lot, and I learned a good deal about the race, in spite of following it for several years. Whether or not you’re interested in pro cycling, you might consider this one.
Meanwhile, what are you reading?