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.

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.

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.