Quai du polar 2022: And The Winner Is

Quai du Polar 2022: So here we are, with the event on time this year, I’ve had time to read all six of the short listed thrillers, img_0271-1 Here then is my “official” Winner. Let’s see if the event jury get it right on the 4th of April……………

Olivier Bordaçarre Appartement 816 (L’Atalante) 160 pages. France is entering its 30th straight month of isolation for its inhabitants. A book with a certain humour, A more interesting read than I had at first imagined .

Max Izambard Marchands de mort subite (Rouergue) 352 pages. A political thriller set in central Africa, if you want your thriller to inform you, within the bounds of fiction then this is it. I enjoyed the read and would love to see the film

Hervé Le Corre Traverser la nuit (Rivage) 320 pages. Jourdan, police commander tries to hold it all together working nights in Bordeaux, some of the criminals are pretty messed up. An easy read


Elsa Marpeau L’âme du fusil (Gallimard) 192 pages. The straightforward life of the country, with its unwritten rules known to all, a subtle story in this no frills community.


Gabrielle Massat Trente grammes (Le Masque) 450 pages. Yannick’s body is rejecting his second liver, if you ask me his second liver should be rejecting Yannick! I like my crime with a dash of credibility,

Michèle Pedinielli La patience de l’immortelle (L’Aube) 224 pages. Nothing is over telegraphed, but as the story goes on, lead after lead head nowhere as Diou looks for the killer of a journalist in corsica. Really not sure that this book is better than last year’s selection by the same author.


And finally, I’ve gone with:
Max Izambard Marchands de mort subite (Rouergue).

 The official event site Quai du Polar

 

Gabrielle Massat ‘Trente grammes’

Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 6

Gabrielle Massat : Trente grammes (Éditions du Masque)


The truth is, Yannick, that you dont want to see us kill each other, right? Aslanov is like a father to you, and me, I’m the love of your life. From your point of view we’re in a Shakespearian drama.***


I’ll keep this short, Yannick, who works for a russian mafia person, Aslanov, handling his money laundering through works of Art scheme is found by his lover Phoenix, part Ouzbek, part Russian in a near critical state after being force fed 30 grammes of paracetamol, to make it look like a “suicide”. so here are the two charachters from the opening quote.
Yannick, then, is a main character who, after a liver transplant, drinks, takes drugs and seeks out a different partner each night for “wild” sex. Yannick’s body is rejecting his second liver, if you ask me his second liver should be rejecting Yannick! Well last years “detective” was blind. How about sex with the detective as here:


I can’t decide if I should be happy or worried about your invitation. Then I remembered your appetite for oral sex and decided to be overjoyed. Yannick looks her over, amused. To be more accurate, the climbing hall isn’t the lie that Boussaïdi serves up to her husband and her two adolescent kids to justify her absences, only a part of the truth:***


Yannick’s brother, Olivier is wheel chair bound after a car accident and his lover Phoenix works as Aslanov’s assassin. After selling a stolen “Bacon” to Mboyo, the nigerian Drug queen of Toulouse, Yannick comes up with the idea of getting a fake painted, authenticised and destroyed, enter Darya, russian of course, who inhabits the painter in order to create the fakes. here this means Francis Bacon, a very disturbed painter.


One evening he receives a short sharp SMS from Olivier telling him that Antoine Riva had accepted his invitation to the Opening Night. At the time, Yannick could no longer remember why he had been so set on meeting up with the Expert, then it came back to him, and he gets another crazy message from Darya/Francis and says to himself that he’ll come back to it later.***


Enough! This was a long book, and as improbable as last year’s, The taste of my mother’s lipstick, This book really did not please me, I like my crime with a dash of credibility, hope they stop choosing the same authors for multiple years…..

First Published in French as “Trente grammes” in 2021 by Éditions du Masque.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

La réalité, Yannick, c’est que tu ne veux pas nous voir nous entre-tuer, n’est-ce pas? Aslanov est un père pour toi, et moi, je suis l’amour de ta vie. De ton point de vue, on est en plein drame shakespearien.

Je n’arrivais pas à décider si je devais me réjouir ou m’inquiéter de ton invitation. Puis je me suis souvenue de ton appétence pour le sexe oral et j’ai décidé de me réjouir. Yannick la détaille, amusé. Pour être tout à fait juste, la salle d’escalade n’est pas le mensonge que Boussaïdi sert à son mari et ses deux ados pour justifier ses absences, seulement une partie de la vérité:

Un soir, il reçoit un SMS laconique d’Olivier lui annonçant qu’Antoine Riva a accepté l’invitation à son vernissage. Sur le coup, Yannick ne se rappelle plus pourquoi il voulait tant rencontrer l’expert, puis ça lui revient, et il reçoit un autre message délirant de Darya/Francis et se dit qu’il verra ça plus tard.

Michèle Pedinielli ‘La patience de l’immortelle’

Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 4

Michèle Pedinielli : La patience de l’immortelle (L’éditions de l’aube)


Letizia is dead, it doesn’t make any sense. Because I only know ne Letizia, she’s Jo’s niece, the daughter of his sister Antoinette. But Jo’s niece, his sister Antoinette’s daughter, is a magnificent young woman who has no reason to die.I sometimes come across her face on the television when the regional news are on when by thumb zaps onto France 3 Corsica where she is the news anchor, well dressed in her suit, as if to hide her juvenile face.***


Diuo, from last year’s selection for the same prize, well they are faithful to their writers, this is one of two writers who were also present last year, is asked by her ex husband Jo to go to Corsica to investigate his niece’s death. Letizia from the opening quote is found in the boot of her car, in the middle of nowhere in Corsica, shot at close range and then burned with the car, presumably to destroy any clues. Well when a journalist is shot dead you look into their investigations which is what Diou does, whilst the police warn her off and question the person she was due to meet that night, an isolated sheep farmer. Where the police get short shrift, Diou, who lived on the Island at the beginning of her first marriage to Jo is able to get some information, although she gets no help from Antoinette on from Antoinette’s sister in law , Diane who with her grown up son Pasquale lives with Antoinette after her husband is shot dead in a hinting accident, and as often in Corsica, the perpetrator was never found. And then Letizia husband goes missing:


Nothing special happened on my first morning alone, until I walked into the bar. I sat down at the same table, Ange brought me a coffee without sugar and didn’t leave at once. “Jean Noel has disappeared.” I dropped my tablet I was getting out of my bag. It fell on the cup making a terrible mess, the owner grabbed his tea towel to mop up whilst I tried to limit the mess. Without a word, he went back to his percolator and returned with a new espresso. I was still there mouth wide open.***


Nothing is over telegraphed, but as the story goes on, lead after lead head nowhere, swindles to make money from previously non constructible land or drug trafficking involving Diane and Pasquale lead nowhere. Diane tries to see Antoinette but is always sent away by Diane.


I get back in the car to cross the village up to Antoinette’s house. I must stop thinking of it as Antoinette’s house because it’s Dianes’s house too. Speaking of the devil….The pigheaded one is sweeping out the yard. She looks up seeing me coming. Before I could even open my mouth to say hello, she marks her territory. “You can’t see Antoinette, she’s in bed. She’s been resting since the police left. – They told you about the case? – No.” As if I could expect anything else. Suddenly I realise, almost with joy: Diane isn’t the incarnation of Colomba, but of Cerberus, the dog guarding hell.***


I’m really not sure that this book is better than last years selection, Après les chiens, and since last year’s didn’t win…..

First Published in French as “La patience de l’immortelle” in 2021 by L’éditions de l’aube.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Letizia est morte. Ça n’a toujours pas de sens. Parce que Letizia, je n’en connais qu’une, c’est la nièce de Jo, la fille de sa sœur Antoinette. Mais la nièce de Jo, la fille de sa sœur Antoinette, est une magnifique jeune femme qui n’a aucune raison de mourir. Je croise son visage parfois à la télévision à l’heure des informations régionales quand mon pouce zappe sur le canal de France 3 Corse où elle présente les journaux, vêtue d’un tailleur strict, comme pour faire oublier son visage juvénile.

Ma première matinée solitaire n’a pas été remarquable, jusqu’à ce que j’arrive au bar. Je me suis installée à la même table, Ange m’a apporté un café sans sachet de sucre et n’est pas reparti tout de suite. « Jean Noël a disparu. » J’en lâche la tablette que j’étais en train de sortir de mon sac. Elle tombe sur la tasse, ça fait un bordel monstre, le cafetier saisit son torchon pour éponger pendant que je tente de limiter les dégâts. Sans un mot, il retourne à son percolateur et revient avec un nouvel expresso. Je n’ai toujours pas refermé la mâchoire.

Je reprends la voiture pour traverser le village jusqu’à la maison d’Antoinette. Il faut que j’arrête de penser à «la maison d’Antoinette» parce que c’est aussi celle de Diane. Speaking of the Devil… La Raidissime est en train de balayer dans la cour. Elle lève la tête en me voyant arriver. Avant même que j’aie ouvert la bouche pour la saluer, elle édicte sa loi. Tu ne pourras pas voir Antoinette, elle est couchée. Elle se repose depuis que les policiers sont repartis. — Ils vous ont donné des informations sur l’enquête ? — Non. » Comme si je pouvais m’attendre à autre chose. Soudain, ça me saute aux yeux presque joyeusement : Diane n’est pas l’incarnation de Colomba mais celle de Cerbère, le chien qui garde les enfers.

Elsa Marpeau ‘L’âme du fusil’

Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 5

Elsa Marpeau : L’âme du fusil (Gallimard)


I was at home, I’m in my element, with my son, engaged in teaching him about nature, flora and fauna, teaching him the most beautiful subject, the world about us, as it is, the world the cracks beneath your feet, that’s covered with leaves, that’s crossed by streams – not the one we created, heavy, suffocating under layers of concrete and asphalt, the city that smothers you, the city that screeches, the noise of horns, car motors, of people shouting on the pavements, where no one breathes because the true city is underground in the metro.


Philip lives in a small hamlet in the deep in the counryside, he doesn’t work and spends his days waiting for his wife to come home from work and his son Lucas to come home from school, not much to keep him going except the camaraderie with his few friends and most important of all to his eyes, to initiate his reticent adolescent son to the ways of the country in contrast to city life as illustrated in the opening quote. But the arrival of a stranger from the city will change everything. Julien’s city charm will seduce some, Philip for instance and repulse others, mostly his friends.


The arrival of a Parisian in our backwater was far from normal. For him to windup here, either he had relatives in the area, but we would have known, or he was hiding. But from what, from who? I’d made my mind up to find out. To learn how he earned a living, what he was hiding , what he was up to.***


Philip is troubled by Julien at first, wants to understand why he is there and finally invites him to dine with him and his friends, in a hamlet you know your friends your whole life and know everything about them, this is the contrast Elsa Marpeau brings to the story, a contrast that is not particularly flattering for either Philip and his friends or Julien. Guns are of course commonplace in a hunting community and We learn or begin to understand the pull hunting has on Philip.


The parcelling out of land in country towns shows the foolishness of private property – parcels of 1 meter square in size, slicing across your land, belonging sometimes to a bloke living kilometers away…..It’s one of the reasons I like hunting: hunting relies on other laws, other rules, territory extends beyond administrative aberrations – the land isn’t parcelled out, isn’t divided up, the land remains indivisible.***


Julien doesn’t seem to work and wins regularly at poker with the friends after dinner, Lucas warns his father that he has seen Julien cheating but Philip does nothing, basking in the fact that Julien is his friend. But as things begin to go wrong and the book reaches its climax, the worst possible end awaits Philip.

The straightforward life of the country, with its unwritten rules known to all, sometimes harsh, where alpha males still rule comes into collision with the cupidity of city life. Elsa Marpeau has written a subtle story of what initially seems a straightforward no frills community.

First Published in French as “L’Âme du fusil” in 2021 by Gallimard.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Le découpage des terres, dans les villes de campagne, révèle l’ineptie de la propriété privée – des parcelles d’un mètre carré de large, striant votre terrain, appartiennent parfois à un gars qui loge à des kilomètres de distance….C’est une des raisons pour lesquelles j’aime la chasse: la chasse, c’est d’autres lois, d’autres règles, des territoires qui s’étendent au-delà des aberrations administratives – la terre ne se parcellise pas, ne se découpe pas, la terre reste indivisible.

L’arrivée d’un Parisien dans notre trou perdu n’avait rien de naturel. Pour qu’il atterrisse ici, c’est soit qu’il y avait de la famille, mais on l’aurait su, soit qu’il se cachait. Mais de quoi, de qui? J’étais fermement décidé à l’apprendre. À savoir comment il gagnait sa vie, ce qu’il venait dissimuler, ce qu’il mijotait.

j’étais chez moi, dans mon domaine, avec mon fils, chargé de lui apprendre la nature, faune et flore, lui apprendre le plus beau des enseignements, le monde autour de nous, le vrai, celui qui craque sous les pieds, qui se couvre de feuilles, qui dévale les cours d’eau – pas celui qu’on a créé, plombé, étouffé sous des couches de béton et d’asphalte, la ville qui t’asphyxie les tripes, la ville qui beugle, brouhahas de klaxons, de moteurs de voiture, de gars qui gueulent sur les trottoirs, où plus personne ne respire parce que la vraie ville citadine est sous terre, dans le métro.

Olivier Bordaçarre ‘Appartement 816’

Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 3

Olivier. Bordaçarre: Appartement 816 (L’Atalante)


I’m 1m71; I weigh roughly 75 kilos; I was born on the 2nd of November 1989 at 7.30 in the morning; I live at number 9 rue Emmanuel-Bronstin; I’m 41 years old; I wear size 41 shoes; my Sanipass number is 1891178283712 33; according to my bill from Ravi, I’ve eaten 81 125 gram tins of tuna (10.12 kgs) and 50 750 gram tins of chick peas (37.5 kgs) since the start of the Total General Isolation. That’s to say one tin of tuna every two days for six and a half months; one tin of chick peas every four days.


Didier Martin, simple accountant seems to be holding it all together, even if he is writing his diary in small print on the wall of his apartment where he lives with his wife Karin, his adolescent son Jérémy and his dog. He had to go through his diary to be sure of the facts, France is entering its 30th straight month of isolation for its inhabitants, the last six months have been IGT, Total General Isolation, that is to say Didier, his family and his dog have not been able to leave their apartment at all for the last six months. The detail in his diary entries concerning himself and his diet illustrated in the opening quote tells us something of the strain he is under and the following quote tells us of how his mind is telling him that isolation is normal, maybe even beneficial to fight against….loneliness.


You have to accept the evidence, living with your times is necessarily living without movement. Without flow we can do everything with a simple internet connection. It’s exactly what is happening with Rezo isn’t it? Aren’t we in touch with our friends, our families? We can see each other, talk to each other, exchange information, help each other get over problems. Thanks to the virus, digital connections have replaced all of our actions from everyday life and saved people from loneliness.***


Food is delivered by drones, which also ensure the rules are followed and waste is evacuated in plastic bags without human intervention. But as you can imagine the situation in a strain on interpersonal relations within the family, his son Jérémy is an asshole, his wife doesn’t always agree with him and his dog pisses and shits on the balcony floor that he has to clean up every time ( why only him you might ask):


I wouldn’t mind making other efforts, write inside our kitchen cupboard doors, for instance, or on the closet walls behind the shoes, but, when I propose something that goes a little in her sense looks at me silently and the walks off. Discussion is impossible. I asked her, then, once and for all (and Im writing it down in black and white today), not to shout any more. She’s free to express herself, she can criticise me as she wishes, I’m not totally opposed to dialogue, but without shouting. Without shouting. Otherwise. It just isn’t possible. We wont be able to carry on like that. The three of us live together in this apartment, we can’t do that without rules.***


Didier does some pretty normal things under the circumstances and evacuates the body parts in the plastic waste bags. At the end of the IGT it would seem that a large number of people in France are “missing”.

A book with a certain humour, the deliveries being taken over by a company named after the largest river in North America, Mississippi, for instance. A more interesting read than I had at first imagined but again this would not be my choice for the winner.

First Published in French as “Appartement 816″ in 2021 by L’Atalante.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Je mesure 1 mètre et 71 centimètres; je pèse 75 kilogrammes environ; je suis né le 2 novembre 1989 à 7 heures 30 minutes; j’habite au numéro 9 de la rue Emmanuel-Bronstin; j’ai 41 ans; je fais du 42 de pointure; mon numéro de SaniPass est le 1891178283712 33; d’après les factures récapitulatives du site Ravi, j’ai mangé 81 boîtes de thon de 125g (10,12 kg) et 50 boîtes de pois chiches de 750g (37,5 kg) depuis le début de l’Isolement Général Total. C’est-à-dire une boîte de thon tous les deux jours pendant six mois et demi une boîte de pois chiches tous les quatre jours.

Il faut forcément se rendre à l’évidence. Vivre avec son temps, c’est vivre désormais sans mouvement. Sans circulation. On peut tout faire grâce à une simple connexion Internet. C’est bien ce qui se passe au niveau de Rezo, non? Est-ce qu’on n’est pas en lien avec ses amis, sa famille? On peut se voir, se parler, échanger des informations, s’aider à surmonter un problème. Grâce au virus, le numérique a pris le relais sur l’ensemble des actions de la vie courante et sauve les gens de leur solitude.

Je veux bien faire d’autres efforts, écrire à l’intérieur des portes des placards de la cuisine, par exemple, ou sur les murs du cagibi derrière les chaussures, mais, quand je fais une proposition qui irait un peu dans son sens, Karine me regarde sans rien dire et elle s’en va. Quand je fais un pas en avant, elle me fauche. Comme elle l’a toujours fait. Elle s’en va. La discussion est impossible. Je lui ai demandé, donc, une bonne fois pour toutes (et je l’écris aujourd’hui noir sur blanc) de ne plus crier. Elle est libre de s’exprimer, peut tout à fait critiquer ce que je fais, je ne suis pas fermé au dialogue, mais sans crier. Sans crier. Sinon, ça ne va pas être possible. On ne va pas pouvoir continuer sur ce ton. On vit à trois dans cet appartement, cela ne peut pas se passer dans ces conditions.

Hervé Le Corre ‘Traverser la nuit’

Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 1

Hervé Le Corre: Traverser la nuit (Rivages Noir)


Jourdan lets Desclaux veer off suddenly to the meeting with the minister and the police unions, for now they’ve got our backs up there. They know they can only hold on by force, and that they can count on us as long as we can count on them. And so the orders are clear: hold the street, that’s what they said, tough on the one eyed men, after all they’ll be kings in the kingdom of the blind that they’ll soon be heading back to, deep in their dens, and one handed men will know which paw to wank with.Ok they didn’t exactly use those words, it’s my interpretation. If someone’s killed we can always count on the Internal Affairs to show that he was allergic to the rubber soles he took in the head.***


Jourdan, police commander tries to hold it all together working nights in Bordeaux. Whilst he’s out in a apartment checking out another gruesome crime scene; the husband has shot his wife in the shower, then his children and dragged them to lie together in the living room before dissapearing, his team pull in a drunk sleeping under a tramway stop seat. The drunk who seems not too bright is covered in blood and in the police station grabs a gun and jumps out of a window to his death. The next day they sis over that there is a woman killer, soon to be a serial killer on the streets. All seems to be wrapped up as the blood on the drunks clothes matched the killed woman and Jourdan’s boss tells us the bosses have their backs, illustrated in the opening quote.

But of course it isn’t over, Jourdan is working to stay saine but of course his job is the problem and he doesn’t sleep at night. There is of course a parallel between the worn out hunter, the policeman and the worn out killer:


He spoke to the dog, all the while stroking his head, he asked him what he was doing there, me I’m waiting for dawn to rise, but I need to sleep, of course you, you don’t care, you can’t understand. He told him everything that he wanted from his impossible sleep and a new day dawning so very different from all the others, a really new day, you see, with people I wouldn’t know, who wouldn’t know anything about me and wouldn’t ask me anything.***


Throw in a story of family violence that Jourdan takes too seriously and there you have it: there’s nothing new under the sun but this is a well told story and some of these criminals are pretty messed up.

An easy read, not my winner

First Published in French as “Traverser la nuit” in 2021 by Payot et Rivages.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Jourdan laisse Desclaux dévier soudain sur la rencontre entre le ministre et les syndicats de la maison, pour l’instant ils nous soutiennent là-haut. Ils savent bien qu’ils ne peuvent tenir que par la force, et qu’ils pourront compter sur nous tant qu’on pourra compter sur eux. Et puis les ordres sont clairs: tenir la rue, voilà ce qui a été dit, et tant pis s’il y a un peu de casse, tant pis pour les borgnes, après tout ils seront roi au royaume des aveugles où ils retourneront bientôt, au fond de leur tanière, et les manchots sauront avec quelle paluche ils fauts se branler. Bon ça n’a pas été dit tout à fait en ces termes, c’est moi qui interprète. S’il y un mort on peut toujours compter sur les Boeufs pour démontrer que le mec faisait une allergie au caoutchouc des semelles qu’il aura pris dans la gueule.

Il a parlé au chien tout en caressant sa tête, il lui a demandé ce qu’il faisait là, moi j’attends que le jour se lève, mais il faudrait que je dorme, bien sûr toi tu t’en fous tu peux pas comprendre. Il lui a dit tout ce qu’il attendait de son impossible sommeil et d’un jour qui se lèverait si différent des autres, un jour si différent des autres, un jour vraiment nouveau, tu vois, avec des gens que je ne connaîtrais pas, qui ne sauraient rien de moi et ne me demanderaient rien.

Max Izambard ‘Marchands de mort subite’

Quai du Polar 2022: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Book read Number 2

Max Izambard: Marchands de mort subite (Editions Rouergue)


Anne had disappeared in one of the most unstable parts of the planet. During the Christmas Eve meal, she had presented him with a comprehensive view of all of the different forces present in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, before concluding that she would have to begin all over again in a year’s time because of the alliances, the territories controlled and the front lines were forever changing.***


Here we have a political thriller set in central Africa, Uganda and its border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The background is the Genocide in Rwanda, and the more or less autonomous regions at the east of the DRC, regions full of gold mines, controlled by warring groups and foreign countries, chief amongst them Uganda. So if you want your thriller to inform you, within the bounds of fiction then this is it:


But what I’ve read is that, you would need to prove, supplying referencing documents, that the gold refined and exported came excusively from certified mines, with no links to armed groups. In other words Gold must not feed conflicts. That’s without doubt the problem holding back Muller, because certified mines in the Congo, you can count on the fingers of one hand.***


Ann, a young French journalist with a conscience has been investigating gold trafficking in the Congo, firstly from Uganda and then she goes missing as she tries to investigate from the eastern Congo. When her father turns up to try to find her the background is, as I mentioned, interesting and the story is well told. At the Embassy, there is the careerist Ambasadress, not wanting to be involved “I’ve heard she is close to the President. Same year at ENA. A real Mafia”. The alcoholic Consul who knows something but drinks to forget, the ex-military security officer “his assured muscular stance with his chest slightly puffed out, perpetualy stood to attention, unconsciously giving away his military training”. Alas all a little too much of a caricature for me. The real interest for me comes from the African side, the journalists and students, the military loyal only to itself and the power struggle within Uganda with the president’s power coming from the smuggled gold which he couldn’t allow to be interrupted and the smugglers he must protect. What role did the French embassy have in protecting the Ugandan President?

I enjoyed the read and would love to see the film.

First Published in French as “Marchands de mort subite” in 2021 by Editions Rouergue.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

Anne avait disparu dans l’un des endroits les plus instables de la planète. Lors du réveillon de Noël, elle lui avait dressé un tableau complet des forces en présence dans l’est de la République démocratique du Congo, avant de conclure dans un sourire qu’elle devrait recommencer son explication dans un an étant donné que les alliances, les territoires sous contrôle et les lignes de front changeaient en permanence.

d’après ce que j’ai pu lire, il faut pouvoir prouver, documents à l’appui, que l’or raffiné et exporté provient uniquement de mines certifiées, sans lien avec des groupes armés. En d’autres termes, l’or ne doit pas alimenter de conflits. C’est sans doute là-dessus que bute Müller, car des mines d’or certifiées au Congo, on les compte sur les doigts d’une seule main.

And The Official winner IS

Quai du Polar 2021: You’ll maybe remember my  Last Post giving the winner of the reader’s prize, (well this reader anyway), so lets see how close the official Jury got:  

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Let’ see then, my winner was … Joseph Incardona “La soustraction des possibles” (Éditions Finitude). This complex story, its construction, and the slightly sarcastic style combine to make this a most enjoyable book.

So How did the “Official Jury” do…….Well they chose:

Patrice Gain “Le Sourire du scorpion“(MOT ET LE RESTE). This uncomfortable story is based on the true life events of a genocidal criminal arrested in Lyon in 2011.

 

Well This was still a very good choice, it would have been my number 2 ……………………but who am I after all?….. Congrats to Patrice Gain.

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.

Patrice Gain ‘Le sourire du Scorpion’

Quai du Polar 2021: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Number 5

Patrice Gain: Le sourire du scorpion (MOT ET LE RESTE)


You don’t start your life over, you carry on with it, sometimes with other interests, often with other people, but you can’t delete the past. Life is the sum of many varied experiences, good or bad, delightful or dull, and the last one we add to the pile will bring it all down and life will end there.***


People’s lack of knowledge of what is for me the recent past can still easily surprise me, as here when we discover that one of the main protagonists had belonged to the Scorpions, a paramiltary group in the Bosnian war and the people around him had never heard of the war, or of Radko Mladic and so on. In this story, a family, Tom and his twin sister Luna, their parents and a friend they had met camping, Goran, are out rafting on the Tara in Montenegro. Patrice Gain instills a feeling of anxiety in the story and in one of the dangerous stretches they capsize, the twins and their mother are separated from Goran and their father. Goran makes it back to them but the father is presumed drowned and his body is not found. Goran then helps them, is on hand when they need him, and slowly replaces the father.

The family live all year round in a converted lorry, carrying out seasonal work with the children not really staying in any school for very long. The story is narrated by Tom who then starts an apprenticeship the year after his father’s death, he tells us of Goran entering their lives, of their mother falling under Goran’s influence, of his close sister moving away and avoiding them, and of being alone as his mother and Goran dissapear without warning at first for weeks on end and then longer. Tom is dissorientated living alone in the lorry in the mountains, often cold not understanding the events around him. One weekend, exceptionally, Luna comes back with some of her new friends:

Luna had never seemed so beautiful as at that moment. An outline that matched to perfection the sudden aridness of the area. The lads and girls enjoyed themselves and the evening was so vibrant. It was hot and it went onlate into the night. The farm hadn’t known such fervour in a long time.***

Tom seems surprised when Sule, a Bosniac he works with recognises Goran. One night Sule with a group of Bosniacs are looking for Goran at the lorry, they question Tom roughly, Tom who never knows where Goran and his mother are, and when they say Goran would never leave anything to chance, that he chose them, and that he specifically chose them because they were homeless dropouts, Tom is taken aback for the first time by this vision from outside, by the realisation that this view of the situation, but especially the fact that they live on the margins of society is true.

Of course Goran is much worse than Tom can imagine. This uncomfortable story is based on the true life events of a genocidal criminal arrested in Lyon in 2011.

First Published in French as “Le sourire du scorpion” in 2020 by MOT ET LE RESTE.
*** My translation

The quotes as read in French before translation

On ne refait pas sa vie, on la poursuit, avec d’autres horizons parfois, d’autres personnes souvent, mais on n’efface pas le passé. Une vie n’est que l’empilement de tout un fatras de choses, bonnes ou mauvaises, goûteuses ou fades, et la dernière que l’on pose sur le tas fait s’écrouler l’ensemble et elle s’arrête là.

Luna ne m’est jamais apparue aussi belle qu’à cet instant-là. Une silhouette qui s’appariait merveilleusement avec l’abrupte aridité des lieux. Les gars et les filles ont exulté et la soirée a été très animée. Il faisait chaud et elle s’est étirée tard dans la nuit. La ferme n’avait pas connu pareille ferveur depuis bien longtemps.