Pierre Lemaitre ‘Travail Soigné’


The journalists were in a hurry.
He said: Two victims.
Who?
We don’t know yet, young women…
How old
About twenty five. That’s all we can say for now.
When will they bring the bodies out? Asked a photographer
Soon, It’s taking a bit of time. Technical problems……
The journalists, until then not particularly interested were suddenly aroused when the door of the loft, 190600AA-E6F3-4069-84B7-3433F93FD33Fwide open, gave them a clear view of the wall covered by an enormous splash of blood thrown on it as on a painting by Pollock. As if this was not confirmation enough, the two crime scene technicians began conscientiously loading the van with carefully sealed and labelled plastic bags. Journalists, however like undertakers, can estimate at the blink of an eye, the size of a body from the length of the bag. And watching them loading the bags, everyone could guess that the bodies were  all in bits.***


Pierre Lemaitre’s first book in his Verhoeven series, Travil Soigné, Meticulous Work, translated into English as Irene, the name of Verhoeven’s wife, begins by slowly introducing Verhoeven’s team as they come to terms with the horrific murder of two young women as illustrated in the opening quote. We quickly cover Camille Verhoeven, 1m45 tall but an imposing character respected by all, his assistant Louis hailing from a wealthy family:


It was Camille’s opinion that thirty years earlier, Louis would have become a left wing revolutionary. But nowadays this sort of ideology was no longer a serious option. Louis hated religion and hence volunteer work or charity. He thought about what he could do and suddenly all became clear: he’d join the police.***


And Armand, a meticulous policeman but renowned miser. The killer of the two girls intentionally leaves a clear fingerprint in blood on the wall. As the story progresses the team gets dragged emotionally into the mystery and then finally personally. I’ll leave it at that for now.

An efficient murder mystery as ever in this series, the murders and the murder scenes are described in graphic detail as in the other books in the series Alex and then Camille. For more detail and then the risk of spoilers go to Detailed review 

First published in French as ‘Travail Soigné’ by Editions du Masque in 2006
Translated into English by Franck Wynne as “Irene” and published by MacLehose Press in 2014
*** My translation

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Olivier Norek ‘Code 93’

—Four endless grey lanes piercing like a lance through to the heart of the suburb. Gradually the houses becoming flats, the flats becoming tower blocks. Look the other way at the gypsy camps. Caravans as far as the eye can see, one up against another along the RER lines.IMG_1105 Washing left to dry on the railings surrounding this section of the population we can neither like nor hate. Close the window as you pass the waste disposal site and its smells, only a short distance from the housing. This is how the ’93’ and its citizens are treated, going as far as to pile mountains of bins next to their homes. Just an idea, maybe we should propose to do this to the capital city, the other side of the périphérique, just to see how the Parisiens react. Unless of course the poor and the immigrants have a less developed sense of smell.***

Olivier Norek, an ex-police detective takes us here on a trip to surroundings he knows well, the 93 pronounced ‘nine- three’ the poorest of the départements immediately surrounding the city of Paris described with a few strokes of the brush in my opening quote.

The story is an inventive and largely believable story of solidarity in a police team amidst political and police corruption and feelings of entitlement. Crime statistics are being ‘massaged’ by making murder cases of marginal victims disappear. This  practice is forced to the light of day by a sadistic murderer who sets his sights on just such victims but ensures by his staging of the corpses that the cases cannot be hidden.

Why would anyone want to massage the crime figures in a notoriously dangerous département? Who could actually do this and how? What could be the killers motives and how does he choose his victims? Norek provides viable and intriguing answers to all of these questions.

A well written, lively police mystery, the main character, Coste, feels real, well worth a translation and, I believe, a filmed version!

First Published in French as “Code 93” in 2013 by Michel Lafon
*** My translation

Jo Nesbo ‘Police’

This book is the tenth in the Harry Hole series, a well written and cleverly pieced together novel including Police ( a number of police officers sadistically murdered), politicians who in the black world described come out ahead (the ‘they’re all corrupt’ vision). Tell me more