Some 30 months after setting down the opening line of the sixth Franck Guerin novel (which is still in place, despite the fact that I gutted and rewrote the opening third of the story about nine months ago), Iíve finally finished the first draft. Naturally enough, this initial version has many flaws which will have to be dealt with before publication becomes a feasible option, but there is one in particular that currently preoccupies me Ė Iím far from sure the story could be read with satisfaction by someone who hasnít delved into at least a few of its predecessors. I think this is the first time such a statement could be unequivocally made with regard to the Franck Guerin series. Wasp-Waisted and Night-Scented are standalone novels, requiring no previous knowledge to be completely accessible. From Loose-Limbed onwards, readers might be a little lost upon encountering, say, Gabriel Agostini if the book in question is their first outing with Franck, but I donít think their experience suffers greatly as a result. In writing the new one, though, I shrugged off any sense of obligation to explain characters and references from the previous novels. It seems to me highly unlikely that anyone will pick up the sixth instalment in a series without any knowledge of the earlier episodes, so I donít see why I should burden the veteran reader with clumsy explanations of who, say, Sonia Delemazure happens to be, or why mention of a glass of Henriet champagne should raise a wary eyebrow. Understanding glancing references inside a fictional universe is a pleasure in which loyal readers justly delight (Balzacís ďComedie HumaineĒ is chockful of such rewards), and it seems niggardly to deprive them of their fun just for the sake of the novice.