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Reviewed by Stephanie Dagg for Readers' Favorite
Stanislas Cassel in the French justice department has been persuaded by thugs with German accent to give a certain witness, Louis Boucher, an easy time when he is interviewed about a murder case. That makes him investigate further although it first scares him. So he redoubles his attempts to find out why seemingly harmless pensioner Léon Pincus was murdered. He begins to unearth connections that go back to the occupation. This becomes difficult for Stansislas, himself the grandchild of a collabo, and he realizes he is opening himself to danger and criticism. Up to now he has tried to keep a low profile, and busy himself with dealing with minor crimes. But he has to meet this challenge for the sake of justice and redemption. As a friend quotes, “But if I am for myself only, then what am I?” There is a greater good.
Based on actual events, the action takes place against a contemporary background of violence and riots in Paris due to an Austrian right winger being acquitted by jury. The far right is rising again and causing a lot of unrest. There is tension and a dark, brooding atmosphere throughout the novel. The characters develop as we read. Cassel seems dry and remote to start with, but his personality and moral goodness emerge gradually. Other people are gradually revealed in their true colours, with some surprises for the reader. There is a respectable, almost old fashioned feeling to the writing initially, to match Cassel himself, but like him, its incredible power soon becomes apparent. This is an unusual and gripping novel, superbly written and a thought-provoking pleasure to read.