Written by Canadian author Joseph Robert Janes, The St-Cyr and Kohler Mysteries is a historical crime series set in Occupied France during World War II. Police inspector Jean Luis St. Cyr of the Sûreté Nationale watches the German tanks roll into Paris from his office window. When Gestapo agents burst through his door, he is destroying confidential documents with the care that is his trademark.
As the Nazis take control of the city, they allow St-Cyr to remain at his post, solving the everyday crimes which do not stop simply because there is a war on.
St. Cyr and Kohler Series in Order:
Every entry in the St. Cyr and Kohler book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Mayhem (1992) During the Nazi occupation of Paris, Police inspector Jean-Louis St-Cyr is assigned a partner, Bavarian detective Hermann Kohler, a bullish man who is as brutal as St-Cyr is refined. Today their work takes them to a suburban forest, where a well-dressed young man has been found murdered and stripped of identification. Nearby lies an expensive beaded silk purse. Although it appears to be a crime of passion, its roots lie in the savagery that wartime nurtures and occupation lets run free.
- Carousel (1992) It is December 1942, and the Parisian Gestapo agents pass their days by executing dissidents and plotting the destruction of the Resistance. Homicide detectives Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler, meanwhile, must make do solving the gritty crimes with which the Nazi elite do not bother. Just hours after they learn that St-Cyr’s wife and child have died, the partners confront an ugly murder that turns out to be very glamorous indeed.
- Kaleidoscope (1993) The train ride from Paris is supposed to take four hours, but a Resistance bomb has snarled the tracks, and detectives Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler are fourteen hours behind schedule. By the time they arrive in Provence, they are travel-weary but intrigued. Even in wartime, it’s rare to investigate a murder by crossbow.
- Salamander (1994) In a packed movie theater, an usher notices two women enter and leave just before the show begins. Moments later, the theater goes up in flames, and 183 people perish in the stampede to escape. By the time investigators Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler arrive from Paris, the charred bodies are frozen solid. It is two days before Christmas, 1942, and the people of Lyon are terrified. As the detectives try to unravel what happened in that packed movie house, the arsonists plan their next attack.
- Mannequin (1994) Joanne was a neighbor of St-Cyr’s who answered a modeling ad and never came home. By the time St-Cyr and Kohler break down the door of the supposed agency, all that remains are snapshots of Joanne and others posing naked at gunpoint. Complicating their search is a massive bank robbery perpetrated the day Joanne disappeared.
- Dollmaker (1994) Feared by the British, beloved by his crew, Kapitän Kaestner is a killer with a hobby: the manufacture of high-quality dolls. Before World War I ruined their business, generations of Kaestners produced the finest dolls on the continent. The shopkeeper’s death comes not long after he and Kaestner fail to revive the dollmaking trade. Now, shrouded by a blackout, St-Cyr and Kohler begin the unenviable task of pinning a murder on the pride of the German fleet.
- Stonekiller (1995) In the woods of the Dordogne, farmers and their pigs hunt the forest floor for truffles. It is June 1942, and one such farmer has found something unusual: the postmaster’s wife, murdered and left to rot beneath the trees. By the time police inspectors Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler arrive from Paris, she has been dead four days, and the flies have begun to feast.
- Sandman (1995) It is January 1943, Hermann Kohler and his partner, Jean-Louis St-Cyr, examine the corpse of a murdered girl. This slender schoolgirl is the fifth victim of the serial killer named Sandman. Like the others, she was stabbed to death with a knitting needle and left in plain sight—in this case, in a birdcage in the Bois de Boulogne. Kohler can do nothing for this girl or for his own sons, but for the sake of France’s children, he will send Sandman to the guillotine.
- Gypsy (1997) A tip comes in to the Gestapo, warning of an impending burglary at the Paris Ritz. The target is the room of a special attaché to the German Ministry of Production, where a safe contains a cache of diamonds intended for use in arms manufacture. When inspectors Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler arrive, backed up by a Berlin cop, the safe is intact. But when they turn the dial to inspect its contents, it explodes.
- Madrigal (1999) Six hundred years before the Germans conquered Paris, the pope came to Avignon to rule the Roman Church from afar. In January 1943, Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler visit the former Papal Palace—not as tourists, but as detectives. Where once the pope spoke to God, a woman has had her throat cut.
- Beekeeper (2001) During winter, the bees of Paris huddle into spheres, sacrificing some of the drones to keep the queen warm. In the winter of 1943, as rationing limits access to luxury goods, those at the top of Parisian society think nothing of sacrificing the poor for the sake of the black market. The latest casualty is a beekeeper, murdered in his apiary after getting in the way of a smuggling operation. The next night, burglars rob his hives, taking several kilos of honey at the expense of 300,000 bees.
- Flykiller (2002) In February 1943, as the war turns against Germany, Marshal Philippe Pétain administers his puppet state from the spa town of Vichy. In his eighties, but still able to admire a pretty face, he asks to borrow the mistress of one of his subordinates. Before she arrives, the girl is murdered. Fearing a plot against his life, Pétain calls in inspectors Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler.
- Bellringer (2012) Before the war, the hotels of Vittel hosted the wealthiest members of French society. Now, in the winter of 1943, two of France’s most luxurious resorts have been converted into an internment camp. For two years, the prisoners have lived quietly, but now they are beginning to die. An American woman is found stabbed through the heart with a pitchfork. By the time inspectors Jean-Louis St-Cyr and Hermann Kohler arrive from Paris, rigor mortis and the February frost have frozen her solid.
- Tapestry (2013) It is February 1943, and Paris is under a blackout. While investigating a burgled stamp collector’s shop, they get a call telling them that they went to the wrong crime scene—they were supposed to have been sent to comfort a woman who was attacked for running around with Nazis and their collaborators. The rapist’s timing was perfect—so perfect that the two detectives wonder if they were deliberately sent to the wrong place.
- Carnival (2014) In February 1943, in Alsace, St-Cyr and Kohler have been summoned to a POW camp where soldiers and résistants manufacture textiles on the grounds of a deserted carnival. Two prisoners of this garish, decrepit circus have killed themselves, and the jailers must at least make a show of finding out why.
- Clandestine (2015) A bank-owned cargo van is parked near the crumbling monastery, its contents ransacked, its passengers murdered. The killers took small bills but left behind a bounty in smuggled champagne, cheese, and coffee. Even more confounding is the expensive pair of high heels left behind. Were the thieves from the Resistance, or from the underworld? Who is the mysterious woman who was wearing those shoes? St-Cyr and Kohler have a feeling that the answers are hiding in the cold French rain.
What should you read if you like the St. Cyr and Kohler novels?
If you like this J. Robert Janes’ St. Cyr and Kohler reading order, you may be interested in The Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr , The Inspector Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd, The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.