Hannelore Cayre ‘ Richesse Oblige’

Quai du Polar 2021: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Number 2

Hannelore Cayre: Richesse oblige (Métailié)


One thing’s for sure now: you can’t find a single 5 foot 1, within thousands of leagues in any direction, for less than 8000 francs. But don’t worry about it, we’ll rip you away from that damned conscription and I’m sure that pretty soon you’ll be able to thank your sister’s husband who has things in hand. As a former military man he knows the cabarets where these people drink and knows better than anyone how to talk to them……
Your brother in law has chosen Brittany where, it would seem he has old friends who owe him one. He’s written to them. Now we’re waiting.***


Hannelore Cayre, the author of The Godmother, has set this her latest crime fiction in two different time periods, both of which have in common unbridled capitalism. The first part of the story is set leading up to the 1870 Franco-Prussian war during the French Second Empire period under Napoleon III. The army is formed by conscription with a draft lottery being held as each age group is eligible , much like in the US during the Vietnam war. But the rich are rich even after the revolution, forget equality, when you are drawn, your only requirement is that someone physically eligible turns up on the enrolment day, for the rich this is known as “military replacement”, where they buy a poor person to replace them. But for the De Rigny family, with the war looming, as Antoine’s enrolment day approaches, well there aren’t many poor left as illustrated in the opening paragraph.

The present day, Blanche de Rigny, from Brittany, poor, wearing orthopaedic leg braces since a drunken accident works photocopying documents for the police, earning a bit on the side by selling lists of numbers from condemned drug dealers telephones to get by, when one day she accidentally finds out that her name is linked to a rich family. She slowly tracks down the link between her and this family which still make money in Africa without worrying how they make it. She tries to contact “her family” but they want nothing to do with her and then slowly the survivors of this rich family begin to die, one being lynched by a mob in Africa, another by a drug overdose…. until there are only two left, the old “doyenne” and Blanche, maybe the rich are no longer the hunters:


My bosses want me to ask you the following question unofficialy: If by extraordinary bad luck another unfortunate event were to take place, what would be your plans for the Trust?
It’s something to do with fiscal efficiency in an island paradise full of palm trees is that it?
Yes, the British Virgin Isles.
If that family pays people to manage their fortune and these people, of their own initiative, decide to send someone all the way over here to check a civil register, there must be a huge amount of money involved wouldn’t you say?
Yes
I love island life. Tell your bosses that, it may calm them……***


An interesting book from a historical perspective but not up there with The Godmother

First Published in French as “Richess oblige” by de Métailié in 2020
*** my translation

The quote as read in French before translation

Une chose est certaine à présent: on ne trouve plus à des milliers de lieues à la ronde le moindre cinq pieds un pouce à moins de 8000 francs. Mais ne t’inquiète pas pour cela, nous t’arracherons à cette maudite conscription et je suis sûr que tu pourras bientôt remercier le mari de ta sœur qui a pris les choses en main. Comme ancien militaire, il connaît les cabarets où ces gens boivent et sait mieux que quiconque leur parler……
Ton beau-frère a donc choisi la Bretagne où, paraît-il, d’anciens amis lui doivent des services. Il leur a écrit. Nous attendons.

Mes patrons me demandent de vous poser la question officieuse suivante: si par extraordinaire un malheur arrivait encore, quelles seraient vos intentions pour le trust?
C’est un truc d’optimisation fiscale dans une île paradisiaque avec des palmiers c’est ça?
Oui, aux îles Vierges Britanniques.
Si cette famille paye des gens pour administrer leur fortune et que ces derniers prennent sur eux d’envoyer quelqu’un jusqu’ici juste pour consulter un registre d’état civil, c’est qu’il y a énormément d’argent, non?
Oui.
J’aime beaucoup la vie insulaire. Dites ça à vos patrons, ça les rassurera peut-être….

Joseph Incardona ‘The Subtraction of What is Possible’

Quai du Polar 2021: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Number 1

Joseph Incardona: La soustraction des possibles (Éditions Finitude)


There is a:
Fortune.
But it’s not a story about money.
Crime.
But it’s not a story about criminals.
Punishment.
But it’s not a story about execution.
Frienship.
But it’s not a story about mates.
Eroticism.
But it’s not a story about desire.
Cunning.
But it’s not a story about treachery.
Vanity.
But it’s not a story about ambition.
So, what then?
Nothing.
This is a love story.
Mine.***


The opening quote, placed before the first chapter initially didn’t attract my eye but on turning back I find that it describes the book well. The story may not be about these things but they are all present in this tragedy, set in Geneva, with a chain of events being slowly set in motion at the end of the eighties and leading to their almost inevitable conclusion.

This well written book, points out the weaknesses of the different links in this chain of flawed characters, there is Aldo Bianchi, a small time tennis coach making ends meet, but only just, as a gigolo with the middle aged women he coaches, he is unsatisfied and wants more from his life, by more understand more money, but how much is more? Aldo is the piece of the puzzle that is in the love story. But not with Odile, rich around 50 and Aldo’s latest paycheque.


Aldo has learnt what he needs to give in bed. From a certain point of view it’s not so very different from sport: technique, endurance, creativity.
Developing his own style.
But most especially: cash in on his youth and vigour. Let his older partner think that this youth finds its prolongement in her, that it continues even after the love making. It is the opposite of the fear of physical decline: the promise of eternal youth transmitted by fluids.***


Odile’s husband, René, an investor needs money to multiply the effect of his latest investment. This is Geneva, no one is too interested in where money comes from and René’s friend Max, a business lawyer can supply the funds.


This requires him to carry out certain manoeuvres so that his french clients can continue to escape from the tax man with Mitterand in power.***


But there are many grades of tax evasion, from the simple greed to laundering of criminal income, and you may well guess that this story concerns the latter. The machinery is put in motion when Odile recommends Aldo for the job of money smuggler to Max, carrying suitcases stuffed full of money over the Swiss border and leaving them in a locker at the tennis club.

There are so many other characters, each with their own part of the story, investment bankers ready to risk anything for a quick gain, petty criminals, organised crime and the new boy on the block, eastern european criminals. This complex story, its construction, and the slightly sarcastic style combine to make this a most enjoyable book.

First Published in French as “La soustraction des possibles” in 2020 by Éditions Finitude.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Il y a:
La fortune.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire d’argent
Le crime.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire de truands.
Le châtiment.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire de bourreau.
L’amitié.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire de copains.
L’érotisme.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire de désir.
La ruse.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire de trahison.
La vanité.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire d’ambition.
Alors, quoi?
Rien.
Ceci est une histoire d’amour.
La mienne.

Aldo a appris ce qu’il faut donner dans un lit. D’un certain point de vue, ce n’est pas très éloigné du sport: technique, endurance, créativité
Forger son propre style.
Mais surtout: monnayer la vigueur et la jeunesse comme un don de soi. Laisser croire à sa partenaire plus âgée que cette jeunesse prolonge en elle, qu’elle dure même après l’amour. C’est l’inverse de la crainte du déclin: l’espoir de l’éternelle jouvence transmise par les fluides.

Ce qui l’oblige à certaines manœuvres pour que ses clients de l’hexagone puissent continuer à échapper au fisc depuis que Mitterand est au pouvoir.

Announcing Quai du Polar 2021

Due to the ongoing Covid “situation” the book fair, the ‘Quai du Polar’ programmed for the beginning of April in Lyons, 14F35D31-6F4A-472B-936E-F5B001993C17France has been reprogrammed for July this year. This fair concentrates on thrillers and for more background try the official website.

As begun last year I’ve decided to read and to blog on the six books preselected for the readers’ prize due to be announced on the fourth of July and to announce my favorite, predict my winner before this date.
The following are the pre-selected books found on the official website, see below.

Hannelore Cayre Richesse Oblige (Métailié) 224 pages
Patrice Gain Le Sourire du scorpion (Le Mot et le Reste) 135 pages
Joseph Incardona La soustraction des possibles (Éditions Finitude) 400 pages
Gabrielle Massat Le goût du rouge à lèvre de ma mère (Éditions Le Masque) 480 pages
Sébastien Rutés Mictlán (Gallimard) 160 pages
Benoît Séverac Tuer le fils (La manufacture de livres) 209 pages

Literary Quotes (1) Tournier

To be found in the smallest room in the house

1. Michel Tournier

Café amer au point de n’être plus buvable. Un grand brame. Deux grands brames. Aucun soulagement. La seule consolation de la matinée est d’ordre fécale. Je fais inopinément et sans la moindre bavure un étron superbe, si long qu’il faut qu’il s’incurve à ses extrémités pour tenir dans la cuvette. Je regarde attendri ce beau poupon dodu de limon vivant que je viens d’enfanter et je reprends goût à la vie.
La constipation est une source majeure de morosité. Comme je comprends le Grand Siècle avec sa manie de clystères et de purges! Ce dont l’homme prend le plus mal son parti, c’est d’être un sac d’excréments à deux pattes. À cela seule une défécation heureuse, abondante et régulière pourrait remédier, mais combien chichement cette faveur nous est concédée
 
 
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Hervé Le Tellier ‘The Anomaly’


Mayday received Air France 006. Can you confirm the transponder code 7700?
The voice, in which a clear incomprehension can be heard, repeats:
Air France from Kennedy Approach, confirm the transponder is on 7700.
You did say Air France 006?
Affirmitive, Air France 006 mayday. I confirm the transponder is on 7700, we’ve come through a huge hail cloud, the windshield is cracked, the radome is probably damaged….
Air France 006 mayday, from Kennedy Approach. This is Air Traffic Control, what is your captain’s name please?
Markle sits there mouth wide open. No controler in his whole career has ever asked him a pilot’s name.***


This Goncourt winning book asks the question, if I was faced with myself how would I react? Would I welcome my other self ? Would I try to dominate my other self? Or would I try to annihilate my other self?

Air France 006, piloted by captain Markle on one of his last flights before retirement, comes through a momentous storm and carries out an emergency landing on the 10th March 2021. As the book slowly develops we zoom in on a number of people whose only link was to have been on this flight. There is Blake, a meticulous and successful french contract killer. There is Lucie Bogaert a successful film editor who has been slowly courted by the older architect, André, but who after her trip to New York becomes disillusioned with André, at the end of this chapter the police come to fetch her.

There are a number of other characters, notably Victor Miesel an unknown writer who on his return from New York writes a hugely successful book called ‘The Anomaly’ and Fehmi Ahmed Kaduna, alias Slimboy a little known rapper from Lagos who writes a world wide hit, ‘Yaba Girls’ on his return from New York.

And then in June, as illustrated in the opening quote, Air france 006 piloted by captain Markle appears out of nowhere in a clear sky, the same pilot, the same plane and the same passengers, Markle is passed from Air Traffic Control to Special operations FAA then to NORAD and is guided to a secret airforce base for landing.

The strength of the book is not to deal with how or why but to follow the people as they are prepared for and then brought to meet their other selves, and so yes, how will they react? What will they do? For instance Slimboy June hasn’t known the success of Slimboy March. Victor Miesel hasn’t written a successful book and Lucie June is still in love with André. And what about Blake?

This highly enjoyable book explores the worlds of a dozen or so passengers on this flight. And how was the US able to react so quickly when Air France 006 June appeared and what is the protocol 42?

First Published in French as “L’Anomalie” by Gallimard in 2020
*** my translation

The quote as read in French before translation

Mayday reçu Air France 006. Pouvez-vous confirmer le code transpondeur 7700?
La voix, où l’on décèle une profonde incompréhension, répète:
Air France de Kennedy Approach, confirmez le transpondeur sur 7700. Vous dites bien Air France 006?
Affirme, Air France 006 mayday. Je confirme transpondeur sur 7700, nous avons traversé un gros nuage de grêle, le pare-brise est fissuré, le radôme est sûrement défoncé….
Air France 006 mayday, de Kennedy Approach. Ici Air Traffic Control, quel est le nom du commandant du bord, s’il vous plaît?
Markle reste bouche bée. Jamais de toute sa carrière aucun contrôleur ne lui a demandé le nom d’un pilote.

The Booker Prize, Stop the Steal!

As I posted last week, having read all of the short listed books, my candidate was The Shadow King.

The liberal press has however incorrectly announced Shuggie Bain as winner of this election. Count Every Vote!

Due to the COVID situation I’m sure the electors have voted using postal ballots!!!

As of tomorrow my legal teams will be asking for manual recounts.

If the electors were wearing masks how do we know it was them?

There is clearly a risk here of fraud on a massive scale. STOP THE STEAL

I will have a candidate in the 2021 election

As for Twatter, it had better not censor me!!!!

The 2020 Booker prize “And The Winner Is”

As Mentioned in a previous post, this year’s Booker prize, with considerable help from Corona will only be discerned on the 19th of November. As promised I have now read and posted on all six books on the shortlist!!!

If you should agree or dissagree with my league table let me know

So with one week to go before the jury gives its verdict, in all humility, here is a quick run down/comparison of the books and my predicted winner.

Order of reading book number 2. Diane Cook, The New Wilderness

Inter generational strife is a common theme this year in the shortlist, the inter generational strife here is between Agnes and her mother Bea as Agnes is forced to grow up and fight to take care of herself and her community in this, yet another pesimistic dystopian view of the future.

6th place : Diane Cook, The New Wilderness


Order of reading book number 5. Brandon Taylor, Real Life

Wallace, a black research assistant in an all white environment is psychologically damaged by his upbringing and his parents and struggles a losing battle to be recognised for what he aspires to be, and to recognise himself in this white America.

5th place : Brandon Taylor, Real Life


Order of reading book number 1. Douglas stuart, Shuggie Bain

As for all of the books on the short list this includes inter generational relationships, here in the foreground as Shuggie’s mum destroys herself, her family and the young Shuggie through the drink. If your looking for hope, this is not the book for you! The reader feels as if he is there, standing in the disaster zone. You could imagine this filmed by Ken Loach.

4th place : Douglas stuart, Shuggie Bain


Order of reading book number 4. Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar

Another inter generational book, and to mind the most successful studies the conflicting stories of Antara and her mother Tara, in the past and as Tara becomes dependant and slowly loses her memory. Or is it Tara?

3rd place : Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar


Order of reading book number 3. Tsitsi Dangaremga, This Mournable Body

One of the other common themes to certain of the books is women fighting, here we see Zimbabwean women years after certain of them had fought in the wars of independance and Tambu’s struggle with herself, these ex-fighting women, the younger generation and her mother. An eye-opener to the role of African women in the fight fight for indepedance and its aftermath.

Runner up : Tsitsi Dangaremga, This Mournable Body


Order of reading book number 6. Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King

The story of Hirut and the war against the Italian fascist invaders in ’36. The poor in Ethiopia were poor and the rich priveledged as Hirut is raped by her employer/resistance army leader, because he can and because he knows he will die in the war leaving no decendance. Raped as her mother before her but finding some redemption and also revenge in her and other womens roles in the fight against the invader.

And the winner is : Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King

I do hope the official Jury gets the right answer !



Brandon Taylor ‘Real Life’

“Booker Prize 2020: 6 Books shortlisted for this prize.
“Real Life”: In order of reading book number 5.

In order to follow this event, I am writing articles on all six of the short listed books and will propose my winner before the official announcement.
Visit the official site for more details: Booker Prize 2020


Wallace stood on an upper platform looking down into the scrum, trying to find his particular group of white people, thinking also that it was still possible to turn back, that he could go home and get on with his evening.


Brandon Taylor takes us to a Midwest university where the research assistants are working hard for the opportunity of a career and thus life in academia. Taylor concentrates on a group of young researchers arrived at the same time. There was Miller, a tall lad from Indiana, Cole and his partner from the real world Vincent, Yngve whose father was a surgeon and whose mother taught history at a liberal arts college. And then there was Wallace, the book is really about Wallace who is up from Alabama and black, the opening quote telling us how he sees his friends.

This is yet another book in the selection with serious problems going forward from parent son relationships, Wallace whose mother drank weak beer all day because of her diabetes and whose father leaves them and somehow manages by this to define Wallace’s view of the world:


When I went to middle school my dad moved out of our house he says, he moved up the road into this other house my brother’s dad had built. It used to be an art gallery or something, a house first then an art gallery and then a house again, anyway my dad moved into it and he lived there, I wasn’t allowed to visit . He said he did’t want to see us any more. I asked him why and he said it didn’t matter why, it just was. He didn’t want to see us, me, anymore. Wallace is circling the rim of this old bitterness, can hear his dad’s voice rising up out of the past, that raspy laugh. He shook his head and smiled at Wallace put his hand on Wallace’s shoulder, they were almost equal height then, his fingers bony and knobby. He simply said I don’t want you here and that was it, Wallace was not granted an explanation for the break, for the severing of his family that left him in the house with his mother and his brother. He learned then that somethings have no reason that no matter how he feels he isn’t entitled to an answer from the world.


So, having just watched a documentary on Toni Morrison, I recognise a certain number of the messages in her writing here. Choosing to set the story in an almost exclusively white Midwest university lets Brandon Taylor give full rein to Wallaces feeling of estrangement in his own country, to casual racism and general lack of support for him from his “friends”. As Wallace has had difficulties with his studies, having to work really hard to catch up with the others from a lower starting knowledge base, he understands that in the eyes of some, this was not his initial dissadvantage and that the real dissadvantage will never go away. The smooth talking and racist Romain explains this to him against the background of non intervention from the others:


His deficiencies ….What Romain is referring to is instead a deficiency of whiteness a lack of some requisite saneness, this deficiency cannot be overcome the fact is no matter how hard he tries or how much he learns or how many skills he masters, he will always be provisional in the eyes of these people. No matter how they might be fond of him or gentle with him. “Did I hurt your feelings” Romain asks “I just want to be clear, I think you should stay, you owe the department that much don’t you agree?”
“I don’t have anything to say to that Romain”, Wallace says smiling. To keep his hands from shaking he clenches his fists until his knuckles turn to white ridges of pressure.
“Well think about it.” he says.
“I will thanks”. Emma puts her head on Wallace’s shoulder but she won’t say anything either, can’t bring herself to, no one does, no one ever does. Silence is their way of getting by because if they are silent long enough then this moment of minor discomfort will pass for them, will fold down into the landscape of the evening as if it had never happened. Only Wallace will remember it, that’s the frustrating part.


Amid Wallace’s difficulties with his supervisor who wants him to really consider what he wants to do with his life and his homosexual relationship with Miller where they come close to getting to know something about each other and the sub-surface violence of Miller scares him, he comes to realise that “Perhaps friendship is really nothing but controlled cruelty, maybe that’s all they are doing, lacerating each other and expecting kindness back.” And then there is this quote, the very essence of the book, which explains that Wallace just wants to be noticed and to be looked at as a person with this whole book explaining the impossibility of this simple wish:


Are you on that app?
Which app?
You know the one. Cole flushes as he says this looking away to the trees and to the long winding sidewalk that slopes down to the lake.
The gay one you mean?
That’s it yeah.
Oh yeah, I guess, sometimes.
Wallace deleted the app some weeks ago but this feels like a minor point Cole has always made sure to mention that he is not on the app and that he is relieved to have found Vincent before the advent of such technology, geo-location, finding the nearest queers for fucking or whatever. Wallace always has to keep himself from saying that Cole would have done well on the app he is tall and good looking in an average sort of way he is funny and quippy, gentle. He is also white which is never a disadvantage with gay men but Wallace says none of these things because to say them would disrupt Cole’s view of the average gay man as shallow and kind of stupid, they are shallow and kind of stupid but no more than any other group. Wallace only deleted the app because he had grown tired of watching himself be invisible to them, of the gathering silence in his inbox he wasn’t looking anyway but at the same time he wanted to be looked at the same as any one else.


This is a slow, persistant book, introspective about Wallace. What do you think he would/should do with his life from here?

First Published in English as “Real Life” by Daunt Books in 2020

Maaza Mengiste ‘The Shadow King’


“Booker Prize 2020: 6 Books shortlisted for this prize.
“The Shadow King”: In order of reading book number 6.

In order to follow this event, I am writing articles on all six of the short listed books and will propose my winner before the official announcement.
Visit the official site for more details: Booker Prize 2020



There is a madwoman on a wild horse blazing through the hills, she is stopping at every church and shouting into the heavens and calling wrathful angels down to Earth. She is a nun shifting into a hyena, an angry spirit screaming vengeance from the tops of barren trees. She is Empress Taitu resurrected to fight these ferenjoch….She is resplendent. She is a fearsome and shocking figure, something both familiar and foreign, frightening and incomprehensible. A woman dressed as a warrior, looking as fierce as any man.


Mazaa Mengiste takes us to the Ethiopia of Haile Selassie, Ras Teferi Mekonnen. To the invasion by Mussollini’s Italy in 1936 and the resistance by the people of Ethiopia. This is still a country of the oral tradition where heroic feats for the country are passed down from generation to generation, as with the ancient Greeks, through legend and song. The previous generation had already fought against the Italian invador and triumphed. Every child, boy or girl, has been taught from a young age by their fathers to load and fire a rifle. In this splendid story Mengiste tells us of a wealthy family, of their servants and of their fight. There are Kidane the head of the family and his wife Aster and their are the cook, known only as “the cook” and the young servant Hirut. As Kidane rides off to raise an army, Aster in the tradition of Ethiopian women decides to do the same. “We women won’t sit by while they march into our homes. This part, at least, the songs have gotten right.” We can see how this can easily become a legend as word of her gets back to the cook and Hirut as illustrated in the opening quote.

Despite great valour and their knowledge of the terrain Kidane’s forces are beaten and forced to the hills by a combination of the Italian’s use of north african soldiers, the Ascari, “those soldiers from Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, and even Ethiopia fighting for the Italians” and the use of aircraft and in particular mustard gas, which as with present day dictators, the Italians simply denied.

Mengiste tells us of the roles of women in Ethiopian society, born to serve and subject to men’s whims, we can imagine why some poorer Ethiopians sided with the Italians With Hirut eventually being raped by Kidane when he realises he will die in the conflict and leave no decendance. The story then moves on via two other major events to the climax of the story.

Firstly, the emperor in defeat flees to England, leaving his country men to fight a guerilla war, but the villagers have no will to fight on until Hirut notices the striking resemblence between one of the soldiers and the king. (The soldier himself named Minim, Nothing because he was born just after death of his older brother would be a modern psychiatrists meal ticket). Minim then becomes the Shadow King of the title with, as was the custom, two female bodyguards, Aster and Hirut.


Kidane glances into the field as the villagers fall to their knees. The emperor comes forward on his white horse, led by his female guards. Kidane takes in Hirut’s uniform, her proud stance, her fierce defiance, and sees his redemption.


Secondly, the sadistic colonel Carlo Fucelli builds a one room prison high in the mountains at a cliff edge, as he had already done in Libya. Fucelli uses the weakness of a soldier, Ettore Navarra whom he knows to be Jewish, As Mussolini begins his persecution, to force him to take photos of the prisoners. As Navarra writes in a letter to his father which he never sends:


Papa, they are making a prison that will hold no prisoners. They are going to fling men into the sky who have no wings. They are going to test the laws of gravity and terror and order me to photograph the ascent and fall. We are going to make Icarus and hurl him into the sun.


Eventually, when Hirut and Aster are captured and kept in this prison as bait to draw Kidane’s army out, Hirut watching The despicable Italian photographer recognises in him the forced subservience she has herself lived under and the sadism of Fucelli towards Navarra. Recognises yes, ultimately forgives, No as in an echo of her previous self he tries to bury a box of his personal photos and papers before fleeing:


Hirut wants to ask aloud what he is doing as he digs, but she already knows. Her heart twists in her chest as she realizes that she is watching an old version of herself, that girl who was a keeper of things she should not have claimed as her own. He is doing as she once did, in the naïve belief that what is buried stays that way, that what is hidden will stay unseen, that what is yours will remain always in your possession. He is being foolish.


This is an astounding book, easily the best I have read in a while. Buy it and enjoy it!

First Published in English as “The Shadow King” by Cannongate Books in 2020

Julia Deck ‘Private Property’


I knew about Annabelle’s hot pants. She had a whole collection, which she wore with high heels when she spotted a sucker at the agency. I’d also noticed to what extent hot pants make the person that wears them amusing, and just how much the listeners suddenly credit then with inimaginable wit.***


The Cardarecs are a middle class hipster Parisian couple, with middle class aspirations, to move from Paris, but not too far, to be able to benefit from more space, to get out doors a little but not to leave their Parisian lifestile behind. in this book read for the Roman de Rochefort.

He, Charles, a long term hypochondriac that she, the narrator, an architect, with their social consciences buy into a new eco-district in the suburbs, energy-neutral, low waste footprint etc. only to find that it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Any small set back sends Charles scuttering for his bed. The walls of the houses are paper thin, and the self-sufficient energy system has been under-sized. The Cardarecs could have made a go of it in spite of all this had it not been for their neighbours, the Lecoq family.

In this short sharp concise writing style Julia Deck tells the story of the neighbours from hell, Annabelle from the opening quote, young thirty something and her husband Arnaud, partying loudly into the early hours and eventually annoying the whole neighbourhood. After Charles complains about them in an informal neighbour’s meeting the Lecoq family cat is found dead and cut in half down in the trench in the street meant to bring gas to their houses. Then Annabelle dissapears.

When her body shows up on waste ground Charles is suspected and arrested, Arnaud the husband had been out all night with Patrick Lemoine, a neighbour who avoids going into too much detail about their evening out and as the narrator tells us:


Ok, Lemoine had never been able to get it up, it was a miracle that he had managed to knock her up, and that twice. And what’s more he had doubly lied. It most definitely wasn’t a coincidence that he’d come across Arnaud Lecoq at the Voltigeur the evening Annabelle had dissapeared. They had arranged to meet there and to go on to a private club where they had accidently met some time before and found that they had something secret in common.***


First Published in French as “Propriété privé” by Les Éditions de Minuit in 2019
*** my translation

The quote as read in French before translation

Je connaissais les microshorts d’Annabelle. Elle en possédait toute une collection, qu’elle assortissait avec des talons compensés quand elle avait flairé le gogo à l’agence. J’avais également noté à quel point les microshorts confèrent de l’esprit à celle qui les portent, et combien leurs auditeurs les créditent soudain d’une verve insoupçonnée.

Oui, Lemoine avait toujours bandé mou, c’était un miracle qu’il l’ai engrossée par deux fois. Et puis il avait doublement menti. Ce n’était absolument pas une coïncidence s’il était tombé sur Arnaud Lecoq au Voltigeur le soir de la disparition d’Annabelle. Les deux hommes s’étaient donnés rendez-vous. Ils étaient convenus de se rendre ensemble dans un club privé où ils s’étaient croisés par hasard quelques temps plus tôt, se découvrant par la même occasion un point commun inavoué.