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The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier – a review

As I mentioned previously in a review, I am not usually a big fan of translated novels, and probably wouldn’t normally pick them out of choice. However the recent books I’ve read haven’t really blown me away, the last really good book I read was by Pierre Lemaitre and translated from French. Therefore when picking a book off of my rather large ‘to be read’ pile for a trip to Liverpool, I decided to go with another translated novel, this time Bernard Minier. There is a session entitled France Noir – Le Roman Policier at the festival and both these authors are speaking in that.

The story starts with the discovery of a horse that has been killed and hung off a cliff alongside a cable car track that leads up to a remote power plant. When policeman Servaz is asked to investigate he is understandably rather annoyed that he has been asked to look into the murder of an animal. However, then a body turns up and with it the DNA of a notorious serial killer who is an inmate at a nearby asylum. The asylum has a new member of staff, psychologist Diane who is sent up to study the inmates. However she soon succumbs to the cold and isolation of being up the frozen Pyrenees and finds the job is more difficult than she imagined.

The Frozen Dead was Bernard Minier’s first crime novel, and was superb. The story is set in the Pyrenees, and the novel is a great one to read on a hot day as the descriptions of the mountains, the snow and the avalanches really do make the chills come alive. The characters themselves were quite interesting, if perhaps a little clichéd with the divorced detective, the wayward daughter, the lesbian sidekick and the happy family man whose good with computers. However none of this detracts from the story and things throughout the book are never quite what they seem.

The story itself is very intriguing and the way that the strands all fit together towards the end was very clever. I really liked the style of writing, despite a couple of bits where the translation was a bit confusing. The descriptions were pleasingly graphic, and although it wasn’t a huge stretch to guess some of the outcomes there were still enough red-herrings to make it interesting. Although it is a bit of a long book, it seemed to me to be very fast paced and kept my attention right to the end. There were a few loose ends so it was clearly setting up the start of a next novel but I for one for will definitely be looking out for that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I can honestly say that I will no longer shy away from translated novels in the future.

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Blood Wedding by Pierre Lemaitre – a review.

Pierre Lemaitre is talking at the festival in the session entitled France Noir – Le Roman Policier. He was not an author that I had read before as I must confess to not normally reading many translated books. However I was lucky enough to get a copy of this from netgalley so I had to give it a go. Well I have definitely been missing out.

Main character Sophie is working as a nanny to Leo. She finds Leo murdered but with no recollection of where she was at the time. She has already lost her husband and her mother in law and is struggling with grief.  Worried that she has killed Leo during one of her frequent blackouts she goes on the run, and despite her failing memory she manages to outrun the police whenever they get close.  The other main character who we meet through his diary is Frantz, and we soon realise that both their lives are entwined with terrible consequences.

This was a really good story. The character of Sophie was very intriguing, she was likeable but in the back of your mind was always the death of the little boy. It was one of those stories where at times you wanted to shout at her to stop running and just talk to someone. However whilst there were certain bits that seemed a little far fetched this didn’t detract from the story at all.

The two different viewpoints give the story an interesting dimension that I really enjoyed. When the characters begin to cross paths you know that things are not going to be what they seem but it was still a book that kept you guessing right through to the end. The novel was described in the introduction as the new noir, and this novel was definitely along those lines.

This book is a great example of why I love the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The festival encourages you to read books that ordinarily you wouldn’t necessarily pick up, yet often are fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Wedding and will definitely be looking out for his other work.

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