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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.

Preparing for Quais du Polar 2016

February 20, 2016 32 comments

Quais_polar_logoThe festival Quais du polar will be from 1st to 3rd of April in Lyon, France. In French, polar is a generic and affectionate term to call crime fiction. Quais is probably a reference to 36 Quai des Orfèvres where the Parisian police have their headquarters and to Interpol’s headquarters located 200, Quai Charles de Gaulle in Lyon. L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Police is also in Lyon. It’s the school where police officers and commissaires are trained. So the city that hosts Quais du polar is also the headquarters of famous police institutions. But Quais also means river banks and the other reason why Quais is included in the name of the festival comes from the geography of Lyon. Indeed, the river Rhône and the river Saône run through Lyon and the city centre is called the Presqu’île (peninsula) as it is between the two rivers. The city is really shaped by its two rivers. So, Quais du polar is an apt name for a festival that celebrates crime fiction in Lyon.

2016 is the 12th season of the festival and I hope the series Quais du Polar will have many seasons. Last year, it attracted 70 000 visitors and, from what I’ve seen, writers were enchanted. My post about the 2014 and 2015 editions are here and here. Quais du polar is a mixed festival: there’s a huge bookstore in the magnificent building of the Chamber of Commerce, where writers come and sign their books, conferences, a whodunit promenade throughout the city and other activities.This year, the festival will show off Francophone crime fiction with writers from France, Québec, Switzerland, Gabon and Togo.

Quais_polarAs last year, I bought a subscription to the festival. It’s not mandatory but it helps accessing to the conférences; it costs 30€ and comes with a free book. The access to everything is free, the festival relies on volunteers. Paying a subscription is also a way to help them. The free book is Tout le monde te haïra by Alexis Aubenque. To be honest, it’s not a book I would have picked myself as it is a thriller and it is set in Alaska. I’m a bit wary of writers who write crime fiction set in another country as theirs. But I’ll give it a try.

The web site has not been updated yet with the detailed program of the festival but the guest writers are already listed. You can have a look here: Invités Quais du Polar. If you do have a look, please let me know who you’d like to meet if you were attending. It’s always nice to have pointers.

Johnson_camp_mortsPeace_1974Meanwhile, I will be reading some writers who will be participating to Quais du Polar. I’m delighted to see that Craig Johnson will be there. He was already present in 2014 but now I’ve started his Longmire series and I hope I’ll be able to talk to him. My billet about the first volume of the series, Little Bird, is here and I will write soon about the second opus, Death Without Company. I’m happy to report that I found it as good as the first one. I love the atmosphere of Durant, Wyoming and Longmire’s personality, colleagues and friends. I will also read 1974 by David Peace, a book that has been on my shelf for a while. #TBR20 is still on and it will make up for the three books I bought for the occasion.

Ferey_ZuluI decided to read Zulu by Caryl Férey. He’s a French writer and the book is set in Cape Town, South Africa. I know, my buying this not exactly consistent with my previous my comment on Alexis Aubenque. I can’t explain why I have a better feeling about Zulu. Or perhaps I’m not so thrilled to read a book set in Alaska because the place reminds me of Sarah Palin, the dreadful Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, horrifying working conditions on fishing boats described by Iain Levison and oil spills.  Zulu got multiple prizes, so I’m curious. It sounds like a compelling story with incursions into local politics and sociology. Crime fiction is a great medium for that. It is available in English, if anyone’s interested.

Levison_toutI also purchased Ils savent tout de vous by Iain Levison. I’ve already read his Working Stiff’s Manifesto. I’ve heard his interview on France Inter and his last book sounded interesting. Wanna know the funny thing about it? It’s been written in English but you can only find it in French because it’s only been published in France. The guy’s publisher is French and Levison refuses to publish his book in the US. So, here I am, perfectly able to read the original but forced to read it in translation. I wish it were published in parallel texts or one after the other in an omnibus edition.

Niel_hamacsThe last one is Les Hamacs de carton by French author Colin Niel. He’s an engineer specialized in environmental issues and he has lived several years in French Guiana. He created a series set in this overseas department with a main character named Capitaine Anato. Les Hamacs de carton is the first volume of the series. *sheepish* French Guiana only means three things to me: Amazonia, Christiane Taubira and the penal colony where Dreyfus and Henri Charrière (Papillon) were sent. I’m curious to learn more about the place.

I hope I’ll have time to read these books before the festival. If you’re interested in Quais du Polar, you can come to Lyon for the weekend. The city is beautiful and the atmosphere during the festival is special. If you’d like to come but can’t, you can follow Quais du polar on Twitter : @QuaisPolar or on Facebook.

Lyon

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