The town of Marveil is home to the largest prison complex in Europe. Like an undesirable neighbour, an evil twin. They are both of the same size. Exactly three hundred and forty five acres. If you fold the map of Marveil about its centre, the town and the prison cover each other entirely, with the symmetry of a Rorschach image.***
welcome back into the world of Olivier Norek, the ex-police detective set in the 93 pronounced ‘nine- three’ the poorest of the départements immediately surrounding the city of Paris and as the opening quote tells us he has not given up his social criticism of modern day France, here of the carceral system, you will never be ready to find yourself in the prison he describes here of Marveil. An extra quote for the comparison between the two worlds he describes and the difference between the already unfavored world of Marveil and the hell of its prison:
Five hundred meters from the town centre where families could be found doing their weekly shopping, were the first barbed wire fences protecting the crumbling town walls from the concrete monster with the oppressive layout. It was described as “A model of the French prison system” at its inauguration in 1970. Today it is nothing more than a violent jungle which the prison guards control at distance without daring to enter the prison cells or the exercise yard.***
The crux of the story is a mercenary Boyan Mladic who is locked up in Marveil and the machievelic plan set up by the corrupt attorney Tireto who organises a break in to the police evidence room in the town of Marveil in order to remove the physical proof against Mladic. In order to ensure that the actions cannot be traced back to him or his client, he suggests to a Corsican group that they break in to obtain the evidence against one of their group and gives them the numbers of four other non related lots of evidence in order to muddy the waters:
Hello Mr Darcy. Attorney Tireto calling.
-I’m in trouble? answered the man almost out of habit.
-Quite the opposite. An opportunity. Boyan Mladic still worries you as much?
– it’s what I asked him to do and what he knows that worry me
-you had described him as loyal all the same.
-Boyan is a soldier. A legionnaire and a mercenary, he won’t talk even if he’s beaten, of that I’m sure. But prison stretches even the deepest loyalties…I’m worried that for the right bargain he could talk. How do you intend to handle this?
-By getting him out. But by getting someone else to do the dirty work.
-With no ay of tracing it back to me or any of my companies?
-There is no need to worry. Even they won’t know they’re working for us.***
We follow each of the incarcerated protagonists in Marveil and the relationships between them whilst at the same time on the outside the police group of Captain Coste, the same as in previous stories of the series, Code 93, follow the events as their own police station is robbed and they cannot understand the links between the stolen evidence:
Its not the number of pieces of evidence the were stolen today that perturb us so much as the absurdity of what was taken. A personal computer, a luxury watch, a CD containing wire taps, a GPS and a hunting knife. Five separate pieces of evidence from five different enquiries, carried out by five different police services. And mostly objects of no value. even the crimes are unrelated.***
The story contains murder, kidnapping, pedophilia and extorsion on the outside, in a world we learn that is much safer than the world in the prison, as the police team, always one step behind, slowly get to grips with what is happening.
Olivier Norek’s police world is steeped in his own experience, but I don’t think that it will encourage youngsters to become policemen. This was the second book of his ’93’ series, although this one was also interesting, I think I’ll leave it there.
First Published in French as “Surtensions” in 2016 by Michel Lafon
*** My translation