Friday, 10 June 2011

DIDIER DAENINCKX'S MURDER IN MEMORIAM: A Forgotten Friday Entry

NOTE: While starting to write about Rachid Bouchareb's film Outside The Law, which deals with the Algerian struggle in France for independence, I went back to Didier Daeninckx's novel to see how his approach compared. A slightly shorter version of this review originally appeared in Crime Time 47, in February 2006--I'm assuming I hadn't seen the film Hidden, which approaches the issue in much the same way, at the time, although it came out right around the time the CT review was published.

The best thing about this translation of Murder In Memoriam which, as Meurtes pour memoire, won the French Prix du Roman Policier in 1984, is how fresh it seems. The French conflicts over Algeria in the early 1960s, against which it is set, have a distinct echo in today's so-called Global War on Terror, and the response of the French authorities for abuses committed under the guise of fighting terror have a distinctly sharp reflection in Washington and London today.It created a stir at the time, and is sometimes credited with forcing the French to examine the fact that many of the police responsible for the massacre had been active collaborators with the Nazi occupation twenty years before that.

When Bernard Thiraud, a student, is murdered in Toulouse, Inspector Cadin soon discovers that his father was also killed during the massive pro-Algerian demonstration in October 1961, during which the police murdered scores of marchers, and which has become known as the Paris Massacre. Is there a connection?

Although in mystery terms the availability of news film of the event seems somewhat contrived, a deus ex machina link, and Cadin's relationship with the murdered student's girlfriend doesn't quite ring true, it is all presented with an understated verisimilitude that somehow seems very French; its atmosphere a cross between Chabrol and Costa Gavras or Pontecorvo. The political history is actually far more interesting that the crime itself, which is obviously because it's more interesting to the author as well. But Daeninckx carries off the task of making the political thriller work with success. The translation by Liz Heron also strikes me as being first-rate, with colloquial French being rendered in appropriate English. Kudos to Serpent's Tail for bringing this back into print.

Murder In Memoriam Serpent's Tail £7.99 ISBN 9781852427955


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