* 4.5 stars *
Many people visiting Paris will have taken a tour of the catacombs - that ethereal world beneath the busy streets of the French capital. These are the public parts, accessible for a small fee, but the tourist tunnels are just the beginning. Seventy feet beneath the surface, well below the Métro and the RER, there lies a vast network of mines and tunnels not accessible to the general public.
Some of these tunnels have access to Government buildings, schools, and hospitals. Now, imagine if those tunnels were utilised by a terrorist organisation - using explosives or some noxious substance that could kill those going about their daily business in the buildings and streets above whilst evading detection themselves below!
This is the terrifying scenario that Inspector Khalid Sadiqi of the counter terrorism squad is faced with in City of Dark. The opening scene is at the Val de Grace military hospital where the prime minister has been assassinated. This is a particularly secure facility, but it appears that his killer accessed the building from the catacombs, and also left behind messages taunting his pursuers.
Sadiqi teams up with Canadian engineering student Antonia (Toni) Corrigan in his quest to catch the killer. Toni is an expert on the catacombs, her knowledge is second to none - don’t forget that this claustrophobic world below Paris is a place where it’s easy to get lost and find oneself continually hitting dead ends, and the likelihood of never finding your way out is entirely possible, so Sadiqi definitely needs her knowledge, if he’s to discover the killer’s lair.
This was an exciting and well researched storyline, with much historical and political detail. The surly Sadiqi contrasts with the bubbly and quirky Toni, but though Sadiqi is drawn to her romantically, he’s not entirely sure she’s trustworthy.
Well written, with a frightening but credible scenario. I could see this transferring to the big screen quite easily, and I would be first in the queue to see it!
The Paris catacombs. The city’s subterranean shadow. Hundreds of kilometers of tunnels. A land of history and legend, where the underground explorer treads a fine line between reality and irreality. Below the City of Light, this is the City of Dark. As the top inspector on the counter-terror squad, Khalid Sadiqi thought he knew everything there was to know about the city's weak spots. But even he is rattled when he arrives at Val de Grace military hospital and discovers that not only has the Prime Minister been assassinated, but the catacombs were used to break into the secure facility. As if that weren’t enough, the killer has left behind puzzling messages making the attack feel like a warped game of cat-and-mouse. As the link to the catacombs crystallizes, Sadiqi teams up with Antonia Corrigan, a vibrant foreign engineering student who enlightens him on the world below the city. Not only does she have intricate knowledge of the layout of the underground tunnels, she also knows all the myths and legends that will provide deeper insight into the case. But will her knowledge of the tunnels below ground be enough to stop the mayhem above?