On the evening of October 17, 1961 twenty-thousand Algerians marched in Paris in defiance of and in protest against a curfew imposed by Maurice Papon, chief of the Paris Metropolitan Police. The protesters were met with ferocious and uninhibited violence. Eleven-thousand were arrested; more than one thousand injured; as many as three hundred were killed, many of them thrown into the Seine, from which their bodies were later recovered.In recreating the scene of the atrocities inMurder in Memoriam, his controversial alarum first published in 1984, Didier Daeninckx introduces a fictional observer of the riot, Roger Thiraud, a middle-aged history teacher in a public school, only steps from his home and his waiting, pregnant wife. In the first few minutes of the demonstration, he will be assassinated, in cold blood, by a member of the anti-terrorist secret police.For nearly forty years after October 1961, France would deny the killings. Upon the independence of Algeria in 1962 an amnesty put its perpetrators safely beyond prosecution.
Bernard Thiraud has been murdered in Toulouse, France. Glib Inspector Cadin senses a connection between Bernard's death and that of his father, Roger Thiraud, two decades earlier. Though killed during a police riot, the elder Thiraud, a history teacher, seems to have been murdered to stop his research into a matter regarding Vichy France. Cadin's investigation is hindered by 20 years of history and a French bureaucracy that would rather forget that embarrassing period of collaboration with the Germans. While Daeninckx offers a masterful weave of political history in this debut novel, he is so intent on unfolding this elaborate tapestry that he neglects to develop characters. Dialogue falls flat without tags to identify what characters are doing or thinking as they speak, and the romantic interest appears to be an afterthought: Cadin makes a clumsy, ill-timed move on the victim's girlfriend, and she then drops almost completely out of the picture until she falls for the inspector at the end. Similarly, other peripheral characters appear once and are never heard from again. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Melville International Crime
October 15, 2012
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