Book Review: Moon Over Tangier by Janice Law

Moon Over Tangier
A Francis Bacon Mystery
by Janice Law
Mystery/Crime/Gay Protagonist
Mysterious Press/Open Road Integrated Media
Release Date: August 2014
4.5 Stars
Review Copy from Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher


In colonial Morocco, a painter navigates a conspiracy of forgery, corruption, and murder.

For Francis, life with David grows more dangerous by the day. When sober, he is charming, but when he drinks, he is violent, slashing Francis' paintings and threatening to gut the painter, too.

When David leaves London for Morocco, Francis cannot help but follow this man whom he loves but can no longer trust. In Tangier, they find a thriving community of expats who guzzle champagne while revolutionaries gather in the desert.

But in Morocco's International Zone, death does not wait for rebellion.

After Francis identifies a friend's Picasso as a fake, the police call him in to investigate the forger's demise. If he refuses, they will throw David in jail, where inmates and the DTs will kill him within the week. Between the bustle of the city and the emptiness of the desert, Francis finds that in Morocco, even the fakes can be worth killing for.


I read the sub-title, A Francis Bacon mystery, and assumed that there is a series of books featuring Francis Bacon. All true, but it was only as a I started reading and realised the main character was a painter that it finally clicked. It was the Francis Bacon, famous painter and I felt rather foolish that I hadn't connected the name already.

Although this is the third in the series, it works well as a standalone novel and at no point does the reader feel out of their depth.

The book opens with Francis being threatened by his long-term lover, David, who then ups sticks and moves to Morocco. Francis has little choice but to follow, for David is the love of his life and he can't do without him, despite David's drunken outbursts and abuse. David was a war hero and the scars on his psyche are not only skin deep. Francis wants to help him, but has no idea how, and they both chase after pleasure with other men in Morocco, all if it fleeting.

At a party hosted by one of David's ex-pat friends, Richard, their host is keen to show off his newest acquisition, a Picasso that Francis realises immediately was fake. Voicing these suspicions out loud soon as Francis on the run from the police, a murderer, Soviet spies and British ones too. What has he stumbled onto? And how can he keep David safe from all of it?

This is a wonderful, rip-roaring adventure, with lots of derring-do and stiff upper lips, as would have been the case in those days, set shortly after the Second World War. The author vividly paints the era and the locales in the book, from the hot, sultry and spicy heat of Morocco, to the grey and washed-out city of London.

I don't know much about the artist Francis Bacon and it was intriguing to find him the protagonist in a crime novel, but it worked very well. The readers knows, or gleans quickly from the book that Francis is gay, but it was not something to be discussed openly in those days, but people knew it went on. Francis' sexual encounters are hinted at, not described, but you do know they happen.

It is a very well-written novel, everything to do with the mystery gets tied up, nothing is left hanging. My one niggle was that a lot of the spelling and word choices were American, rather than British, which I would have expected in a book mainly about British characters and British set.

All in all a great read if you want a bit of adventure without leaving your armchair.


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