Archive

Archive for the ‘Niel Colin’ Category

What Stays in the Forest by Colin Niel

June 24, 2018 13 comments

What Stays In The Forest by Colin Niel (2013) Original French title: Ce qui reste en forêt. Not available in English.

What Stays In The Forest is the second volume of the crime fiction series written by French author Colin Niel and featuring Capitaine Anato. Here’s my billet about the first book, Les hamacs de carton. This series is set in French Guiana and it’s a great part of its appeal.

When the book opens, the scientist Serge Feuerstein is found drowned near the research station he worked for. It is set in the heart of the Amazonian forest and it’s a very remote location, accessible via helicopters. Scientists have been settled there for a few years and they are now surrounded by illegal gold-washers. Indeed, this part of the Amazonian forest is full of gold and poor people from Brazil come illegally to French Guiana to work in ad-hoc and illegal gold mines. It’s a cat-and-mouse game with the French gendarmerie but they’d rather be caught on the French territory with its milder police methods than in Brazil.

Colin Niel creates an interesting set of characters among the scientists living in close quarters at the station. How was Serge Feuerstein killed? Did he disturb illegal gold-washers who decided to eliminate him? Does his death has anything to do with the strange discovery of a dead albatross in French Guiana, a place not frequented by these birds, and incidentally the ones Feuerstein chose as a topic for his PhD.

The crime investigation is well-crafted and Colin Niel describes life in Cayenne very well. It’s a strange mix of exoticism and familiarity with all the French organization of society (police,…) and the natural setting which is totally foreign for a French from mainland France.

Captain Anato is an interesting character. He’s from the Maroon community in Guiana but was raised in the suburbs of Paris. He has asked to be transferred to French Guiana after his parents die. He’s trying to get his footing at work while getting reacquainted with his family. He needs to understand his personal history. His parents were tight-lipped about their reasons for moving to Paris. He’s slowly meeting with his family and discovering where he comes from. We also learn more about the personal lives of his two colleagues Vacaresse and Girbal.

I enjoyed everything about this book: the setting, the murder investigation, the explanations about illegal gold-miners in Amazonia, the descriptions of Cayenne and Anato’s internal turmoil. What Stays In The Forest was our Book Club choice for April (I know, I’m late again) and we all loved it. We all enjoyed the style, the story, the fascinating discovery of a piece of France we know nothing about. Anato is an enjoyable character, full of nuances and personal hurts.

Call it literary serendipity but the issue of gold mining in the Amazonian forest has recently made the headlines in France. The governement wants to grant authorization to set up a giant gold mine in the heart of the forest, discarding ecological consequences or the ones for the indigenous people living off the forest on the Maroni river. See an article here.

Sorry for foreign readers, this is not available in English. For French readers, it’ll make a wonderful summer read.

Quais du polar #4: Cardboard Hammocks by Colin Niel

March 23, 2016 17 comments

The Cardboard Hammocks by Colin Niel (2012) French title: Les Hamacs de carton.

Quais_polar_logoColin Niel is a French crime fiction writer who works as an environmental engineer and is specialized in the preservation of biodiversity. He worked in French Guiana several years and started a crime fiction series set in this overseas department and whose recurring character is capitaine André Anato.

The novel opens on Barnabé, a six-years old Maroon boy who lives in the remote village of Wetisoula on the river Maroni. The Maroon community in French Guiana represents 70 000 people out of 244 000 inhabitants in the department. They don’t acknowledge the border between Guiana and Suriname, each country being on one bank of the river Maroni. Wetisoula is a fictional village, populated by Maroon people and located nearby Apatou.

guyanne_frLittle Barnabé wakes up early and runs to the river to get cleaned up for the day. He’s surprised that his friend Tobie isn’t awake yet as they usually compete to see who’ll be up first. He decides to go and fetch him and finds him dead in his hammock. Tobie’s mother Thélia and his brother Justin are dead too. In their sleep. Thélia’s husband, Fernand, is a gold panner and he usually doesn’t stay with his family. He visits them as often as possible.

The village is only reachable in dugout canoe and this is how capitaine Anato and lieutenant Vacaresse arrive on the scene. From the outside, nothing obvious shows the cause of  Thélia and her children’s deaths. They seem peaceful. Thélia was a hardworker and a farmer; she grew different vegetables and Vacaresse soon discovers that she also grew cannabis. Does this production have a link with her death? Anato decides to leave Vacaresse in the village to investigate further. He goes back to Cayenne to try to find out where and how Thélia sold her crops, the legal and the illegal one.

Fernand leads Anato and Vacaresse towards Olivier Degricourt, a man who works in a garage in Cayenne and who knew Thélia. Olivier and his partner Monique had befriended Thélia and her children and used visit them in Wetisoula. But Fernand knew that Thélia was afraid of Olivier. When Anato finds him, Olivier flees before Anato has even the chance to talk to him. What does he feel guilty about?

A few days after the Wesitoula murder, Véronique Morhange is found dead in a park in Cayenne. She was a civil servant working for the administration that delivers identity papers. The cardboard hammocks of the title are the suspension folders that Véronique Morhange uses to keep track of the files of people who fill in applications to get French identity papers. The procedure can be complicated, especially for people who were born in remote places where getting documents such has birth certificates is a problem.

Are these crimes related? Anato and his team investigate.

Niel_hamacsI found his book fascinating on every aspect. Colin Niel writes a thick plot around these murders, describes aspects of life in French Guiana and draws attaching characters. The story behind the murders is well drafted and the reader is eager to know what happened. There is a real sense of place in this polar coming from the author’s life in French Guiana. I enjoyed reading about the funeral rites and other customs of the Maroon community. He explains them but not with too many details that you forget about the plot and think he digressed too far. Because let’s face it, you are here to read a good story and unwind, not read an essay about the history of the Maroons in French Guiana. I also found his descriptions of place, of the vegetation and local food interesting. The text is livened up with local words and my edition includes a useful glossary. I don’t know much about this overseas department and I was glad to learn about it. It was a bit strange to feel at the same time in a familiar place (this is France and the local institutions are here to prove it) and in a totally strange country because the geography and the local history is so far away from our life in mainland France.

And last but not least, the characters are likeable and I want to see them again. Anato is an odd character and I’m curious to see how Niel will develop him. He comes from the Maroon community but has never lived in French Guiana. He’s lived all his life near Paris and after his parents’ tragic death in a car accident, he asked to be transferred to Guiana. He’s in a strange place: he looks like a local but doesn’t know anything about local life. He’s estranged from his family and he’s trying to build a relationship with them. He lost his feeling of belonging to a place, to a family, to a community. He’s a bit adrift and has trouble connecting with his team. He’s new and his men don’t know what to make of him. He needs to earn their respect. His lieutenant Vicaresse has also a scar in his personal life and his stay in this Maroon village might have triggered something in him. The third man of this team of gendarmes is Girbal, who helped Anato with his investigation in Cayenne. He’s harder to pin down; it’s difficult to say if his methods of investigation are the mark of an intuitive investigator or of a skiver.

The Anato series has two volumes (so far) and I will read the next one with pleasure. I’m sorry to report that it is only available in French and that it goes in the Translation Tragedy category. Any Publisher interested?

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

Adventures in reading, running and working from home

Liz Dexter muses on freelancing, reading, and running ...

Book Jotter

Reviews, news, features and all things books for passionate readers

Buried In Print

Cover myself with words

Bookish Beck

Read to live and live to read

Grab the Lapels

Widening the Margins Since 2013

Gallimaufry Book Studio

"I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me; they are about questions." ―Lucille Clifton

Aux magiciens ès Lettres

Pour tout savoir des petits et grands secrets de la littérature

BookerTalk

Adventures in reading

The Pine-Scented Chronicles

Learn. Live. Love.

Contains Multitudes

A reading journal

Thoughts on Papyrus

Exploration of Literature, Cultures and Knowledge

His Futile Preoccupations .....

On a Swiftly Tilting Planet

Sylvie's World is a Library

Reading all you can is a way of life

JacquiWine's Journal

Mostly books, with a little wine writing on the side

An IC Engineer

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Pechorin's Journal

A literary blog

Somali Bookaholic

Discovering myself and the world through reading and writing

Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

Supporting and promoting books by Australian women

Lizzy's Literary Life

Celebrating the pleasures of a 21st century bookworm

The Australian Legend

Australian Literature. The Independent Woman. The Lone Hand

Messenger's Booker (and more)

Primarily translated fiction and Australian poetry, with a dash of experimental & challenging writing thrown in

A Bag Full Of Stories

A Blog about Books and All Their Friends

By Hook Or By Book

Book Reviews, News, and Other Stuff

madame bibi lophile recommends

Reading: it's personal

The Untranslated

A blog about literature not yet available in English

Intermittencies of the Mind

An Unreliable Reader

Reading Matters

Book reviews of mainly modern & contemporary fiction

roughghosts

words, images and musings on life, literature and creative self expression

heavenali

Book reviews by someone who loves books ...

Dolce Bellezza

~for literary and translated literature

Cleopatra Loves Books

One reader's view

light up my mind

Diffuser * Partager * Remettre en cause * Progresser * Grandir

South of Paris books

Reviews of books read in French,English or even German

1streading's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Tredynas Days

A Literary Blog by Simon Lavery

Ripple Effects

Serenity is golden... But sometimes a few ripples are needed as proof of life.

Ms. Wordopolis Reads

Eclectic reader fond of crime novels

Time's Flow Stemmed

Wild reading . . .

A Little Blog of Books

Book reviews and other literary-related musings

BookManiac.fr

Lectures épicuriennes

Tony's Reading List

Too lazy to be a writer - Too egotistical to be quiet

Whispering Gums

Books, reading and anything else that comes to mind...with an Australian focus...on Ngunnawal Country

findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing...

%d bloggers like this: