Home > Crime Fiction, Literary Escapades, Polar > Literary escapade in Lyon – Le petit noir, a crime fiction independant bookstore and café.

Literary escapade in Lyon – Le petit noir, a crime fiction independant bookstore and café.

Now that we’re free to go as we please again, it’s time to resume Literary Escapades, even if it’s just a trip to a new bookstore.

During the lockdown, I bought vouchers to support local stores and I screened down all the bookshops listed there. That’s how I came across Un petit noir, a bookstore/café dedicated to crime fiction. It’s set in the Croix-Rousse quarter, Montée de la Grande-Côte, a zone classified World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The name of the bookstore is a play-on-word. In French, un petit noir is an espresso. And you all know what Noir means when it comes to crime fiction. Jean-Pierre Barrel, the owner, is undoubtedly a crime fiction afficionado and he really loves the good stuff. No mainstream crime fiction there. Librairie. Café. Polar. That’s his motto. According to his website, he enjoys his crime fiction laced with black humor and underlying analysis of our societies. That sounds a lot like me.

The librairie is split in three parts. One part with bookshelves, one part for the coffee counter and one room in the back to sit, sip and read and to hold literary events, around crime fiction, of course. With Jean-Pierre Barrel’s permission, I took a few photos of the librairie.

Hardbacks and BDs,

Paperbacks, sorted by region.

The shelves with used books by a coffee nook:

The coffee counter and the cash register:

I came out with four books, three from writers I’d never heard of.

I purchased a second Benjamin Whitmer, Cry Father. I had enjoyed Pike and wanted to read something else by him.

Vintage by Grégoire Hervier. It’s a debut novel, a crime fiction road a trip around the world with rock’n’roll as a background. It’s not available in English but it’s been translated into German and published by Diogenes.

Petits crimes contre les humanités by Pierre Christin, a polar set in a university where professors in literature and arts receive anonymous hateful emails. Who is behind it? The author writes scenarios for BDs and collaborated with Tardi or Bilal; it’s published by Métailié, it should be good.

L’envol du faucon vert by Amid Lartane, a crime fiction set in Algeria in the black 1990s. Crime mixed with politics, sounds interesting. It’s published by Métailié too and it’s rare to find Algerian crime fiction.

After Un petit noir, I went to another bookstore to find the mainstream crime fiction I needed for a gift and got myself Money Shot by Christa Faust. I enjoyed her Choke Hold, the follow-up of Money Shot and I wanted to read it.

Final book haul for the day:

I had a lovely afternoon, walking around the city again, browsing through books and discovering a new bookstore. Since there are around 50 bookstores in Lyon, I still have room for other Literary Escapades.

Have you been visiting your favorite bookstores recently?

  1. June 7, 2020 at 9:58 am

    So you’re free to come and go as you please? We still have restrictions here, though they’re easing…


    • June 7, 2020 at 9:58 am

      Yes, we are. There are precautions in shops, though. (masks, gel, not too many people in at the same time…)


      • June 8, 2020 at 2:41 am

        As we say here, the easing of restrictions doesn’t mean the virus has gone away, just that they have room for you in the hospitals if you catch it…


        • June 8, 2020 at 7:37 am

          Certainly. We still need to be prudent and that’s the case in public transport, at work, in restaurants. Things are not back the way they were but life has to resume.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. June 7, 2020 at 10:13 am

    Sounds like an excellent bookshop discovery and a libraire after my own heart!


    • June 7, 2020 at 10:17 am

      Yes! I’ll go back, that’s for sure. Plus, I need to explore the Croix Rousse quarter a little more.
      I’ll take you there when you come to visit. One day. After all this…

      Liked by 1 person

      • June 7, 2020 at 4:02 pm

        I explored the Croix Rousse with my children once on a trip to Lyon – had to go through all the traboules, went to the silk-maker’s museum, saw a bookshop (but not this one). I cannot wait to come back to Lyon! Love it so much.


        • June 7, 2020 at 4:48 pm

          I want to do that too, with a city guide to have access to the traboules.
          I hope you’ll be able to visit soon.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. June 7, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    Lyon, I looked it up, has a population of half a million, or two million for the wider metropolitan area. So twice as big as Perth with maybe five times as many bookshops, I’m jealous. Un Petit Noir looks wonderful, and so do the books you chose.


    • June 7, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      I took the yellow pages and roughly counted the bookstores. I eliminated the specialized ones (like the one that only sells cooking books or the ones specialized in religious books) and I counted only one for names with several stores, like Decitre. I focused on Lyon intra-muros. I didn’t count the bookstores in the whole metropolitan area. Let’s hope they’ll survive the COVID19 crisis. (During the first phase of the lockdown, there was a debate about whether they were first necessity stores or not.)

      Un Petit Noir is a great one I’ll be visiting again. If you stumble upon books by Benjamin Whitmer or Christa Faust at the library, go for them, I think you’ll like them.


  4. June 7, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Ours haven’t reopened yet. That looks great though.

    The Christin and the Lartane both sound particularly interesting to me. One because I love plots driven by poison pen letters for some reason, so much drama, and the other because the politics sounds interesting.


    • June 7, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      One of these days, you’ll have to visit Lyon, especially during the Quais du Polar festival.

      I expect the Christin to be dark and humorus, poking fun at the academic world. The Lartane sounds more like Yasmina Khadra.


  5. June 7, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    No, I’m still almost entirely at home. The coffee/crime shop sounds like a great find.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 7, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      How long since the lockdown? I think it was almost at the same time as us, around mid-March.

      You’d love the atmosphere of this bookstore and the kind of books they sell.


      • June 8, 2020 at 6:22 am

        Actually I started the lockdown here before it was official. On March 7th.


        • June 8, 2020 at 7:38 am

          That’s a long time ago. Three months. Wow.


  6. June 7, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    I’m not at all as much into crime fiction as you are, but this specialised bookshop sounds great. I’m glad you were able to enjoy this closer-to-home literary escapade, and I hope you enjoy the books. I really enjoyed Lyon when I visited about three years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 7, 2020 at 7:47 pm

      I’m happy with my purchases, I trust the publishers and I’m sure the books will be good.

      Lyon is a beautiful city, worth visiting.


  7. June 7, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Lovely! I’m glad to hear your bookshops are open again. What a pleasure it must have been to have a leisurely browse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 7, 2020 at 10:34 pm

      I had a lovely time. Only fellow book bloggers know how much we miss browsing through a bookstore shelves.


  8. June 7, 2020 at 8:54 pm

    I’m jealous…. Ours are still shut, so who knows when we’ll be able to browse again? But I’m glad you had a lovely time! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 7, 2020 at 10:36 pm

      How long have your shops been closed now?
      I missed going to bookstores more than any other shop.

      The only thing that went before a bookshop was the hairdresser. Mirrors were afraid to reflect my hairdo at the end of this lockdown. 🙂


      • June 8, 2020 at 10:19 am

        We went into lockdown on around 23rd March, so it’s a long time. Plus I miss the charity shops too. As for haircuts – I have a husband who can hold a pair of scissors and cut in a straight line, so I’ve survived! ;D


        • June 10, 2020 at 7:34 am

          It is a long lockdown time, 2.5 months.

          Lucky you to have an in-house hairdresser! 🙂 I heard they won’t open again before the beginning of July in UK.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. June 7, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    Such a nice store. Although I think I have only bought coffee there. Someone else likely bought some books. It was always a place to at least duck in whenever I descended the giant staircase.

    Croix Rousse is where we thought we would live at first, up there with the Lyon bobos. There are a lot of nice things to eat up there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 8, 2020 at 7:36 am

      Yes, it’s a nice store. There were some books set in Lyon, like the Bouhier. I’ll have to go back to check on that. (any excuse is valid, isn’t it?)

      Croix Rousse is a great neighborhood, one I don’t visit as much as I should.

      I hope you’ll be able to come back to Lyon soon.


  10. June 8, 2020 at 9:25 am

    That’s a very nice book shop. There was a similar one, just across the border in Lörrach, in Germany. Sadly, it closed within a year.

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 10, 2020 at 7:35 am

      That’s sad, about this German bookshop. I’m not sure the other of Un petit noir makes a good living out of it but I sure hope the librairie will survive.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Vishy
    June 8, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    Glad you had a wonderful time visiting bookshops, Emma! I love this idea of a crime fiction bookshop dedicated to non-mainstream books. ‘Un Petit Noir’ looks like a wonderful place. I want to visit, I want to visit! 😁 You got some wonderful books! Enjoy your new books. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 10, 2020 at 7:36 am

      Thanks for your good wishes, Vishy.
      I hope you can visit Lyon one day, it’s a great city.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vishy
        June 17, 2020 at 8:09 pm

        Hoping to visit some day, Emma 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. buriedinprint
    June 11, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    What fun to indulge in a professionally curated collection. One can’t help but come away with new-to-read writers’ works in hand. It’s interesting to read about people browsing in bookstores. I’ve recently placed a curbside order with a small, indie shop, and that felt very adventurous to me; I think it will be some time before I am prepared to go into a bookstore or any other store just to browse. But, then, our case rate is even higher than it was when Toronto went into shelter-in-place mode, it’s just that the rate isn’t growing beyond the point that health care facilities can respond as needed. In many other Canadian cities, I’m sure people are happily browsing in bookstores once more too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 12, 2020 at 10:49 pm

      It’s really a great bookstore.

      I didn’t know things were that serious in Toronto. Take care.

      Going back to bookstores was a real treat for me, I could spend hours there.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. June 30, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    nice place! There are lots of bookshops in Chicago, but God knows when I’ll dare take the train to go there again (I live in the suburbs). There’s no bookshop in my city, BUT an awesome public library, that just reopened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 2, 2020 at 7:22 am

      Yes, it’s a nice place.
      How big is your city?


      • January 31, 2023 at 4:16 pm

        50,000 and no bookshop! There used to be a few, but they closed before I got there. There are several bookstores, including independent, with great authors events, in neighboring suburbs though


  1. November 28, 2020 at 10:46 am

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