Friday, December 15

Daeninckx: Murder in Memoriam (Meurtre Pour Memoire)

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In October 1961 Roger Thiraud was killed on his way home and never got to see Bernard, the son his wife was about to give birth to. It was widely assumed that Roger, the history teacher in a local school, had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place was Richelieu-Drouot, Paris; the occasion was the night of a peaceful mass demonstration of Algerians expressing their anger at France’s refusal to leave Algeria to its rightful inhabitants, a night of brutal police violence against unarmed civilian protesters, leaving many dead.

Leila Sebbar also writes about this dark episode of recent French history from a victim’s perspective in “La Seine Etait Rouge”, published by Babel.

The official explanation of Roger Thiraud’s death goes unchallenged for 20 years, until the day his son Bernard meets a similar end in the streets of Toulouse where he has gone to follow up on some historical research his father had begun just before his death in 1961.

Bernard’s murder becomes the concern of Inspector Cadin who finds no obvious motive for what appears to him to be not just a criminal murder, but an execution. Cadin’s curiosity and thirst for justice lead him via Paris and Brussels into a world of political intrigue and cover-up at the highest level of the French security establishment.

Is there a link between the executions of father and son? What had Roger Thiraud gotten wind of in his research of official archives in Toulouse that his son Bernard had decided to pursue? It all goes back not just to France’s shame of October 1961, but to the complicity of certain French officials with the Nazi invaders of the 1940s, when orders were signed to deport French Jews to Nazi death camps, a chapter of French history that some would like to sweep under the carpet.

Daeninckx shows himself to be a master of a good dark, political thriller cum detective story, unravelling the cover-up with hard-nosed grit and peeling away layers of official silence and dissuasion. He presses the events and characters mercilessly and with passion, yet with the fairness  and detachment expected of a policeman who should be no respecter of persons, concerned only with truth and justice. He keep the reader’s attention till the last page and doesn’t indulge the character of the detective as so many crime writers tend to, or get distracted by his sex-life or lack thereof.

Published by Folio.

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