QDP Day #3 : The Unfaithful by Dominique Sylvain

The Unfaithful by Dominique Sylvain. (2018) Original French title: Les Infidèles

This is Day 3 of Marina’s and my Quais du Polar and I’m a little late with my billet. Isolation or not, I’m still quite busy. Before diving into The Unfaithful by Dominique Sylvain, let me share Guy’s review of The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre and Andrew’s review of In the Name of Truth by Viveca Sten. Manue thanks Guy and Andrew for your participation to our virtual Quais du Polar. It was great to have you on board.

Now let’s go back to Dominique Sylvain and her great novel.

Alice Kléber runs the website lovalibi.com: she sells stories and alibis to people who cheat on their spouse. She fabricates fictitious seminars, night work sessions and other professional emergencies for people who need an excuse not to go home. She makes up excuses and provides her client with material evidences of the thing they were supposed to be at.

Alice lives in an isolated home in Burgundy and suffers from the aftershock of an aggression. She doesn’t feel safe and uses a lot of coping mechanisms. She’s also convinced she’ll die young and soon and it impact her way-of-life and her decision making process. Alice is single and very fond of her niece Salomé, a young journalist who works for TV24. She sees her as her heir and she feels close to her.

Problem: Salomé is found dead in a trash can near the hotel La Licorne, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. Salomé had decided to do a reportage on these unfaithful people, to understand why they do it and buy services to her aunt. Did that lead to her death? Does her boss at TV24 know something? Or is it someone from her personal life?

Commandant Barnier and his partner lieutenant Maze are in charge of the case. All the people around Salomé are under investigation. Is the murderer lurking in the shadows, ready to strike again?

Said in a few words, the plot is quite simple but the book stands out. Its flavor comes from Sylvain’s brand of writing and her knack for characters. She imagines unique characters. They have their quirks but are not caricatures. They sound real and interesting with their unusual profession or their singular personal lives.

Alice is special, with her questionable business. She seems tough but she’s not that much and howls for love. Her niece is very important to her and she longs to have someone who loves her and has her back. But Salomé isn’t the innocent and punchy young woman that her aunt wants her to be.

Salomé’s boss, Alexandre Le Goff has an unusual family, with his wife Dorine and her slightly handicapped brother Valentin living with them. They draw a lot of attention. Valentin works as a janitor at TV24 and has a crush on Salomé.

Even the cops are special. Instead of two cops with clashing personalities who need to work together anyway, Dominique Sylvain imagined a partnership between two men who are attracted to each other. Maze is stunning and openly gay. Barnier is married with a son, his marriage is in a bad shape and he doesn’t understand his sudden fascination for his colleague.

Dominique Sylvain has a wonderful writing voice. I enjoyed her descriptions of Burgundy, the dialogues between the characters and her original images in her prose. I wanted to know who had killed Salomé and I enjoyed the ride, like a gourmet in a good restaurant.

Unfortunately, Les Infidèles is not available in English but another of her books, Passage du désir has been translated as The Dark Angel. I recommend it warmly and my billet is here.

PS: Dominique Sylvain is from Lorraine and it slips into her writing when she says :

“Elle agrippe Alexandre aux épaules et le secoue comme s’il était un mirabellier plein de mirabelles bonnes à manger”.

She takes Alexandre by the shoulders and shakes him up as if he were a mirabellier tree full of mirabelles ready to be eaten.

The mirabellier tree is typical from Lorraine and produces mirabelles, small yellow plums that are very sweet and juicy.

  1. April 5, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    I think I would like this one. I might write a late post for the festival. I have yet to reread the book though


    • April 5, 2020 at 10:19 pm

      I like her because she’s not embarrassed with PC and she truly has original ideas for her characters.
      Looking forward to your next post!


    • April 5, 2020 at 10:25 pm

      This one is not available in English but try The Dark Angel.
      And get The Wrong Case from the shelf, this is right up your alley.


  2. April 5, 2020 at 10:26 pm

    yeah I saw that. I think I’d like this one more and not the other (the one that happens to be in English)


  3. April 6, 2020 at 1:29 am

    QDP seems to be leaning towards crime. The best crime has become very literary don’t you think. Maybe some writers enjoy the challenge of setting up a puzzle to solve as well as the usual character development of literary fiction. In any case we’re a long way from Agatha Christie.


    • April 6, 2020 at 6:41 am

      Quais du Polar is a crime fiction festival.
      I agree with you the best crime is literary and explores the dark corners of our societies.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. April 6, 2020 at 10:22 am

    My local lending libraries have some of her books, including “Passage du désir”, so I’ll borrow one when I can. Too bad they don’t have “Les infidèles” though, as I like the premise of the book and what you say about the characters. I wouldn’t mind some mirabelles, too.


    • April 6, 2020 at 8:47 pm

      I’m always impressed by the number of French books you can find at your library.
      Passage du désir was great too but I did like the two cops and their story.

      We’ll have to wait until August for the mirabelles, unfortunately.


  5. April 6, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    I love the sound of the relationship between the two cops in this one. That’s a fascinating setup. Thanks for organising the festival, Emma! It’s good to do something positive at a time like this and to socialise without breaking quarantine.

    By the way, I just noticed something weird in your sidebar—under “The Wrong Case by James Crumley”, there’s a bunch of code and links to gullyclock.com and other places. Then everything else from “My little boxes” down looks normal. So I think something went wrong there, at least from my machine (I use Firefox on Mac).


    • April 6, 2020 at 8:50 pm

      I don’t think I’ve ever read a polar where two male cops are into each other.

      I’m glad I did something for the festival, and I enjoyed the exchanges. It’s nice to see that the book community is still there and happy to socialise.

      I don’t know what these weird things are. I thought I had gotten read of them but obviously I haven’t. I’m going to try again, it looks like a new form of spam. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

      • April 7, 2020 at 5:53 pm

        Looks as if you got rid of them now (the weird sidebar things, not the book community!).

        Liked by 1 person

        • April 9, 2020 at 8:34 pm

          That’s one virus I conquered! 🙂 Take care!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. April 7, 2020 at 9:36 am

    I really like the sound of this. It’s a shame its not been translated but I’ll look out for The Dark Angel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 9, 2020 at 8:35 pm

      She had unusual characters in this one too. I hope you’ll like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. May 25, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Shame it’s not been translated into English. It does sound a great premise. About to leave a comment on The Dark Angel also (not that I like the title, but you comment on that in your piece).


    • May 25, 2020 at 8:37 pm

      It would suit Gallic Book but so far, no English publisher has bought the rights.


  1. December 21, 2022 at 9:31 am
  2. April 30, 2023 at 8:59 am

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