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:  



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.

Sébastien Rutés ‘Mictlán’

Quai du Polar 2021: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Number 6

Sébastien Rutés: Mictlán (GALLIMARD)

….he quite simply gives him the wheel, they swap places with difficulty because Fats is fat, and Fats begins to piss out of the window at last, wathing out for sign posts, dogs lift their snouts from the carcass of a dead horse to watch him pass, Fats thinks to hi self that they have petrol for another four hours, maybe less now, he’ll have to wake up now at the next service station, he won’t be able to sleep for twelve straight hours like Old-Timer, that’s how it is, sometimes it happens for one of them, sometimes for the other, they’ve agreed to wake each other up, no one stops this fucking truck by themselves, no one gets down alone, one fills the tank whilst the other hurries to buy something to eat and drink, Fats holding the butt of his weapon, so far they’ve been lucky,……..***

Two men driving a truck full of dead bodies, never stopping, for ever? Mictlán, or the Aztec hell is a fair definition of the first chapter, 39 pages, 4 paragraphs, no full stops. I had read a comment of despair about this before hand and can safely now say I share this despair and have no energy or will to go further. In spite of this I read the second chapter before giving up. This is definitely in sixth place!

First Published in French as “Mictlán” in 2020 by GALLIMARD.
*** My translation

….il lui passe tout simplement le volant, ils échangent leur place difficilement parce que Gros est gros, et Gros se met à la fenêtre pour pisser enfin, en faisant bien attention aux panneaux indicateurs, des chiens sortent leur museau noir d’une carcasse de cheval crevé pour le regarder passer, Gros se dit qu’il reste de l’essence pour quatre heures, peut-être moins maintenant, il va devoir se réveiller à la prochaine station-service, il ne pourra pas dormir ses douze heures d’affilée comme Vieux, c’est comme ça, des fois ça tombe sur l’un et des fois sur l’autre, ils se sont mis d’accord pour se réveiller, personne n’arrête ce putain de camion tout seul, personne n’en descend tout seul, il y en a un qui fait le plein pendant que l’autre se dépêche d’acheter à manger et à boire, Gros la main sur la crosse de son arme, jusqu’ici on a eu de la chance,…

Gabrielle Massat ‘The Taste of My Mother’s Lipstick’

Quai du Polar 2021: Books shortlisted for the readers prize, Number 3

Gabrielle Massat: Le goût du rouge à lèvre de ma mère (Éditions DU MASQUE)

Are you sure you want to come in? I asked as my dog barked a second time.
The two cops hesitated. Then the woman decided, sounding as smooth as chilli on your privates:
Either that or we’re taking you in.
You don’t have the right.
With a suspect in a murder case we have all the rights. Let us come in.
I tied Angus to the cupboard door dodging his efforts to lick me. He wined tragically.
Oh, I said, I didn’t kill anyone.
Jones, he’s blind, she sounded put out when she realised.
It can’t be him, how could he have managed a perfect intravenous injection? Hell we’ve just driven 800 kilometres to arrest a suspect and he’s blind!***

In this third book read for the readers’ Gabrielle Massat takes us to San Francisco and to a world she has created around organised prostitution. Cyrus, who has been living from petty crime in San Diego, has his own routines with a private trainer and friends is unexpectedly visited at home by the police of the SFPD at his home as illustrated in the opening paragraph. Yes they quickly learn that their suspect Cyrus Colfer is blind and he learns that the murdered man, Earl Montgomery had been looking for him.

Thus begins the story as Cyrus moves back to San Francisco to try to learn what Montgomery had wanted to tell him about his mother’s death years earlier as he was still a child, that lead to his leaving San Francisco. Cyrus often unerestimated as a blind man, visits old members of the Clan that had employed his mother to try to solve the mystery of her death all those years before. He walks a thin line between working with the police and gaining the partial trust of the prostitution ring.

This was a long book, and pretty improbable, setting it in San Francisco seems to me to be an over complication, not one of my favourites for the prize.

First Published in French as “Le goût du rouge à lèvre de ma mère” in 2020 by Éditions DU MASQUE.
*** My translation

The quote as read in French before translation

Vous êtes vraiment sûrs de vouloir entrer? tentai-je alors que mon chien se fendait d’un second aboiement.
Les deux flics hésitèrent. Puis la femme trancha, d’un ton à peu près aussi agréable que du piment sur des parties génitales……
C’est ça ou on vous embarque.
Vous n’avez pas le droit.
Face à un suspect dans une affaire de meurtre, on a plein de droits. Laissez-nous entrer.
J’attachai Angus à la porte d’un placard en évitant ses coups de langue. Il lâcha un gémissement tragique.
Oh, fis-je, et je n’ai tué personne.
Jones, il est aveugle. La femme paraissait excédée par le constat.
Ça ne peut pas être lui, comment aurait-il pu réaliser une intraveineuse aussi parfaite? Bon sang, on vient de se taper huit cents kilomètres pour appréhender un suspect et il est aveugle!

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?
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?
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:
But it’s not a story about money.
But it’s not a story about criminals.
But it’s not a story about execution.
But it’s not a story about mates.
But it’s not a story about desire.
But it’s not a story about treachery.
But it’s not a story about ambition.
So, what then?
This is a love story.

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.
Mais ce n’est pas une histoire de copains.
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?
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