Benoît Séverac ‘Tuer le fils’

Quai du Polar 2021: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Number 4

Benoît Séverac: Tuer le fils (LA MANUFACTURE DU LIVRE)


The simple cop who had to carry on leading a group reduced by a quarter of its manpower – but not of its workload – for several gloomy weeks, sometimes even years, until the bosses can be bothered to appoint a new candidate for suicide, brand new, not yet damaged, just like the one who’ll sit behind Husseren’s desk to take his place.***


A crime book needs cops with gimics, a contrasting team under pressure with internal strife. Tick all the boxes, Cérisol the group leader married to a blind woman, eats jam, not just a bit, jars at a time, even more when he’s under pressure and yes at fifty percent sugar that can’t be good for his health. The other three in the undermanned group, see the opening quote, are Nicodemo an ageing portuguese catholic who’s worked with Cérisol for years and the young cop starting out with all to prove:


Grospierres was the intellectual of the team; one of those overqualified unemployed young having to reduce their career ambitions. He would have liked to change the world and found himself a civil servant earning less than two thousand euros a month.***


Soon after the convicted murderer, Matthieu Fabas is released from jail his father is found murdered in his home and Matthieu had been seen thretening him on his doorstep the previous day. Write about a subject you’re comfortable with, so Fabas whilst in prison attends a writing workshop where he is encouraged to write about himself. Severac himself has lead just such prison workshops. The story goes through several false paths until the police discover Fabas’s written work, describing the relationship between himself and his hateful father. They bring him in for questioning where we get to follow Cérisol’s technique:


There was silence in Cérisol and Nicodemo’s small office. Fabas seemed lost in his thoughts; meanwhile, Cérisol set his pawns out again on the board. It was a first game, he didn’t want to show his hand too soon.***


An honest story, just not my cup of tea.

First Published in French as “Tuer le fils” in 2020 by La Manufacrure Du Livre.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

le petit flic qui devait continuer à diriger un groupe amputé d’un quart de son effectif – mais pas de son travail – pendant plusieurs mois moroses, parfois des années, jusqu’à ce que la hiérarchie daigne enfin nommer un nouveau candidat au suicide, flambant neuf, pas encore abimé, comme celui qui s’installerait un jour dans le bureau de Husseren pour prendre sa place.

Grospierres était l’intellectuel de la brigade; un de ces jeunes surdiplômés au chomage qui devait réviser à la baisse leurs ambitions professionnelles. Il aurait voulu changer le monde et se retrouvaient sous la barre des deux mille euros mensuels dans la fonction publique.

Le silence se fit dans le bureau exigu de Cérisol et Nicodemo. Fabas semblait perdu dans ses pensées; pendant ce temps, Cérisol replaçait ses pions sur l’échiquier. C’était une première partie, il ne tenait pas à dévoiler son jeu trop tôt.

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