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Quais du polar #1 : Everybody will hate you by Alexis Aubenque

March 9, 2016 13 comments

Tout le monde te haïra by Alexis Aubenque. (2015) Not available in English. The title means Eveybody Will Hate You.

Quais_polar_logoThis is my first review of a book from my Quais du Polar TBR. Alexis Aubenque is a French crime fiction writer and Tout the monde te haïra (Everybody Will Hate You) is the first instalment of a series featuring the former-cop-now-PI Nimrod Russel and his former-partner-but-still-cop Tracy Bradshaw. Aubenque has already written twelve books and his trilogy River Falls won the Prix du Polar 2009 in Cognac. (Yes, that’s where the cognac is made and they have a crime fiction festival.) None of them are available in English.

AubenqueIn Tout le monde te haïra, we are in the fictional town of White Forest, Alaska. Alice Lewis arrives to the quaint city on a cruise boat. She’s not here on holiday but she’s looking for her stepsister who disappeared on her. Laura Barnes doesn’t respond to Alice’s texts and phone calls and even though they only got to know each other a few months before, Alice thinks something’s wrong. She accidentally bumps into Nimrod Russel who decides to help her. Everybody thinks that Laura left her husband to elope with her lover but Alice isn’t convinced. Laura is a journalist and she was writing articles about a shipwreck that happened in the 1920s. The boat was discovered a few months before, thanks to global warming and thawing ice floe.

Meanwhile, Tracy Bradshaw is sent on a crime scene where Sullivan Kruger was savagely murdered. He was found in a barn, hung and eviscerated with a hakapik, an Inuit weapon used to kill seals. Tracy soon discovers that he had disputable sex habits and wonders if it has anything to do with the murder.

Follows a fast paced story –everything happens within four days—that kept me interested enough to read it until the end. The plot is a bit farfetched at times but the characters held my attention, even if they’re a bit clichéd sometimes.

Nimrod Russel is a lone PI with troubled past who was kicked out of the police force because he did what he thought was right, even if it went against the establishment. He has an unconventional relationship with a bar owner named Holly. Tracy Bradshaw –God, with that name, I kept expecting her to fawn over some Jimmy Choo shoes—is more of the 2.1-kids-and-white-picket-fence type. She has a new partner in the police but is still in contact with Nimrod.

So far, so good.

I was worried about the Alaska setting and I was right to be. Something’s lacking in the Alaskan atmosphere. The climate is not right and the characters don’t behave accordingly. There’s a huge gap between Johnson’s believable rendition of Wyoming winters and Aubenque’s Alaskan December. Johnson lives in Wyoming and speaks from experience while Aubenque lives in France, as far as I know. Where the temperatures under -10°C are a rarity. So, it’s difficult to create characters who actually behave like they’re facing a winter in a polar climate. In other words, the setting which is key to the plot felt off compared to American writers like Jim Harrison. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to ask Alexis Aubenque why he chooses to write novels set in the USA. (The others are in the Rockies and in Seattle)

It also took me a few pages to get accustomed to the style of the book. It can be compared to James Patterson or Dan Brown. It’s not literary enough for me but I’d recommend it to foreigners who are learning French. It’s a page turner, it’s easy to read, grammatically correct, with no slang, short sentences and everyday life vocabulary. Perfect to improve in a language.

PS: This is not a translation tragedy.

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