978-1-86046-659-5 / 9781860466595

Blood Red Rivers


Publisher:The Harvill Press



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About the book:

The roman policier, or detective novel, has long been popular in France, but few works by French authors have received much attention in other countries. Jean-Christophe Grange's Blood-Red Rivers enjoyed considerable success in France (film rights have already been sold), and has arrived to test American waters.

When a mutilated corpse is discovered wedged in an isolated crevice on a rock face outside Guernon, a university town in the French Alps, Pierre Niémans--a brilliant Parisian detective given to uncontrollable fits of violence--arrives to investigate. Eager to escape the cloud of an official inquiry into his behavior (beating a hooligan so violently that the man is in a coma), Niémans swaggers into the tiny town, torn between outrage at being exiled and determination to prove himself to the superiors he detests. The body hints at a long history of animosity between the university and the townspeople; when another body is found frozen in a glacier, Niémans' investigation becomes linked to that of another maverick policeman, Karim Abdouf, who has a chip on his shoulder even bigger than Niémans's. Abdouf is attempting to discover why a child's tomb has been desecrated, and why all official traces of that child's existence have disappeared. When he discovers that the child's mysterious, beautiful mother comes from Guernon, Abdouf realizes that the antagonism between town and gown is not a matter of philosophy, but of life and death.

Blood-Red Rivers possesses the seeds of an interesting concept, but its promise is overwhelmed by a plot that lurches from one absurdity to another, clumsy characterization, a tedious reliance on clichéd dialogue, and a too-literal translation. It was touted by a review in Le Figaro as "the best thriller since Silence of the Lambs," but there's no comparison between Grange's novel and Thomas Harris's skilled plotting, concise language, and disturbingly sympathetic portrait of a madman. Given the number of truly talented French mystery and thriller authors, one hopes that more promising works will soon be sent across the Atlantic. --Kelly Flynn

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