The Fly of Alexandria

Foreign SalesEnglish language (Le French Book)

How can one explain how a collector’s photograph, a nude from the end of the nineteenth century, has just fetched the highest bid ever seen in the London auction houses – 750,000 euros?  The photographer, Victor Leclair, though as famous in his time as Niepce or Nadar, was nevertheless ignored by biographers and critics for more than a hundred years.  There wasn’t a photographer of his generation, nor a writer, or researcher to remember him.

What triggered this record-breaking sale which set the photographic collectors’ market on its head?  Was it his enigmatic life and chaotic career, which led him to leave France to settle in Egypt where he would die in disgrace and total obscurity?  Was it the rarity of his pictures on the market?  Was it the technique used, a message uncoded a century later?

Marion Spicer and the policeman Didier Combes are called in by a curator to try to find certain pieces stolen from her museum, notably, two albums of photos by Leclair.  They will deconstruct the story of this photographer, demystifying a myth… starting from a fly in one photo – a fly, a recurring symbol in certain photos by Leclair (a symbol known as early as the Renaissance), which forces them to accept the existence of a man totally different from the one imagined.

Another voice makes itself heard through a private journal, the voice of Leclair’s wife, who thought she had married a famous photographer but discovered, over the course of the years with him in Egypt, her husband’s false identity.  It is she who, unable to admit the truth and let it be known, was to sow clues so that others might reveal it.

Thus, a hundred years later, Marion Spicer will discover that this woman, duped by life, was herself to dupe others by faking photos…

A long-time journalist specialised in art who has led investigations into the traffic of art objects and precious stones, the gemologist Anne-Laure Thiéblemont is currently editor-in-chief of magazines. She is the author of Le Collectionneur, the first in a detective series published in November 2006.  This is the second novel of the series which features the same investigators.


“With her second work, the “Marseillaise” has confirmed her talent: she pursues her exploration of the world of art and art collectors with ease and elegance.” Le Point