Quai des Polars 2020: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Number 5
Sites to visit linked to this proud event unfortunately now cancelled.
Emma, Marina-Sofia and the official event site Quai des Polars In order to support this event, hopefully I’ll manage to write articles on all six of the short listed thrillers and propose my winner before the official announce on the 4th of April.
In order to reach the largest readership possible for this attempt, I have created a website to publish my six articles and to propose my winner ****in French*** please go to my French website and don’t hesitate to make it viral
For a week, Bastia was invaded by reporters from 24 hour news channels: Breaking news, Violence in Corsica flares up again, our experts will explain the situation on this island so different from any other. They questioned the same politicians as ever, the same specialists, the same auto-proclaimed conciences of an island that was losing its own.
The narrator and disillusioned anti-hero of this story, a once promissing inspector who’d made his mark in the Paris area drug squad had transferred back to his native Corsica. But Corsica with it’s mixture of violence carried out by the Corsican mafia “la Battue”, the independantists and their propensity for plastic explosives and political assassinations, the corruption of the political figures make it a place where “continental politicians” interfere sending in external police investigative task forces. So, our narrator after reacting badly to one of these investigators talking of his shit hole of an island and the assholes that live there, and breaking his nose, is relegated to being the only member of the Bureau of Single Crimes:
9 times out of 10 the circumstances are enough for me to close the case because the culprit has gone mad in front of thirty witnesses or filled the victims answering machine with death threats before stabbing her over and over again in the throat, the chest, the stomach and in the genitals. The murderers and the victims I have to handle are to be found amongst the drunks the halfwits, abusive parents, rapists, debtors that balance their account by beating their creditors with hammers, childmurderers pumped up with benzodiazepines.***
With this background, Albertini delivers a taught thriller with two initial crimes, as always seemingly not connected, firstly a Maroccan building contractor, Mohamed Cherkaoui, guns down his family and kills himself and then secondly a woman is killed and then raped with witnesses seeing what appeared to be a military person leaving the scene of the crime. The narrator is handed the first case, if you don’t want something discovered give the case to someone incompetent.
As the stories progress, the inspector, drinking his way through his own demons uses his knowledge of the island to meet people from all of the different groups on the island, such as The captain Janek from the Foreign Legion, present on the island, or Francois Massa, the business man that had been giving Cherkaoui his work and who tells him of Cherkaoui:
But his successful business had gone to his head and done so quickly. After a bit more than two years he had begun to send the commercial director packing and to answer the phone when he felt like it. I tried to reason with him but it was no use, a right numbskull. Typical of North Africans when the succeed. I’m no racist… — Whats more you’ve got a Maroccan house keeper. — No Portuguese. Why? — Forget it.***
If you want to discover a complex but well explained intrigue with an understanding of Corsica, you couldn’t do better.
First Published in French as “Malamorte” in 2019 by JC Latès.
*** My translation
The quotes as read in French before translation
Pendant une semaine, Bastia fut envahie d’envoyés spéciaux des chaînes d’info continue: Breaking news, regain de violence en Corse, nos experts décryptent la situation d’une île pas comme les autres. Ils avaient interrogé les mêmes élus qu’à chaque fois, les mêmes spécialistes, les mêmes consciences autoproclamées d’une île qui perdait la sienne.
Dans 9 cas sur 10, les circonstances se chargent de ficeler les procédures à ma place parce que le coupable a pété les plombs devant 30 témoins ou saturé de menaces de mort le répondeur téléphonique de sa victime avant de la larder de coups de couteau dans la gorge, le thorax, l’abdomen et les parties génitales. Les meurtriers et victimes dont j’ai la charge se recrutent parmi les poivrots, les demeurés, les parents bourreaux, les violeurs, les débiteurs acculés qui soldent leurs comptes en tabassant leur créancier à coups de marteau, les infanticides shootés aux benzodiazépines
Mais le succès commercial lui est monté à la tête. Et vite, en plus. Après deux ans et quelques de collaboration, il a commencé à envoyer balader mon directeur commercial, à répondre au téléphone quand ça lui chantait. J’ai essayé de le raisonner mais il n’y a rien eu à faire, une vraie tête de mule. C’est assez fréquent chez les Maghrébins qui réussissent. Je ne suis pas raciste… —… D’ailleurs, vous avez une femme de ménage marocaine. — Non, Portugaise. Pourquoi ? — Laissez tomber.