Murder in Memoriam
Didier Daeninckx (trans. Liz Heron)
Originally published in France (as Meurtres pour Mémoire) by Editions Gallimard, 1984
This edition Serpent’s Tail, 1991
Source: Ellis Books, Norwich market
Murder in Memoriam opens in October 1961. A peaceful protest by Parisian Algerians against French actions in the Algerian War is brutally put down by riot police. There are some ugly and quite unsettling scenes.
In all the chaos, one of the paramilitary police breaks free from the pack to murder an innocent history teacher, Roger Thiraud, on his way home from the cinema. It’s a cold and seemingly motiveless crime.
Almost exactly twenty years later, and hundred of kilometres away in Toulouse, the same man guns down Roger’s son Bernard in exactly the same fashion.
The case falls to Inspector Cadin, introduced negotiating a gravediggers’ strike in a heatwave, and a practical joker accusing upstanding citizens of terrorism.
Cadin is a wily cop experienced in the absurdities of police work. He’s moved postings a lot, a result of his talent for making enemies.
– You have the knack of getting your nose into the thickest shit, Inspector, but you don’t get yourself out by stirring it…
– How then?
– By dropping others in it.
His bloody-minded devotion to this investigation (in part inspired by his inappropriate attachment to Thiraud’s attractive girlfriend) makes him even more enemies. The roots of the case lie deeply buried in France’s chaotic past, and Cadin manages to let a lot of skeletons out of cupboards.
Despite the unpleasantness that underlies this case, the overall tone is light and reminiscent of Andrea Camilleri. Cadin, like Camilleri’s cop Montalbano, is a slight obsessive, adept at blundering through local politics like a bull in a china shop, and has a history of falling in love with witnesses and victims. His team management, consisting of bullying two slightly hapless sergeants, is also similar.
I didn’t feel I had much to say about this book, except that I really liked it and admired the radical stance, but then I Googled Daeninckx. Here’s what Serpent’s Tail, his English publisher, says about him:
[CONTAINS A SLIGHT SPOILER]
Born in 1949, Didier Daeninckx lives in Paris. Recognised as France’s leading left-wing mystery writer, his work is translated into all European languages. His 1984 novel Murder in Memoriam forced the French government to try Nazi collaborators, led to a life of imprisonment for Paul Touvier and made President Mitterrand declare 16 July a day of national reflection on fascism and racism.
Final destination: A keeper
Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.