Monday, July 16, 2012
Rough Trade by Dominique Manotti
A friend knew of my penchant for grim Scandinavian mysteries and recommended this book by the French author Manotti. A copy was relatively hard to find: I ended up buying one from a used book dealer online. In this first in a series, a set of Paris detectives search for the source of an international drug ring. The blasé tone may be unique, but in my mind, this is more similar to Steig Larsson, the Swedish journalist-turned-bestselling-author, than any of the other authors so touted. Manotti calmly, quickly, journalistically recites the most appalling crimes in commission.
She has created a completely original set of characters about a police precinct in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. The authentic feel leads one to hope it is not too realistic. The policemen are mostly cads, barely better men than those they police, but I guess that is the point. There are certainly some outliers when it comes to depravation, but the behavior of most of us falls pretty close to a mean…given the right circumstances, who among us wouldn’t try their luck even if it were “the wrong thing to do”?
Manotti has also created the sexiest gay man alive, Daquin, and I don’t think she even told us what he actually looks like. We got a catalog of his clothes, once, but mostly we just hear his thinking (which can be pretty scary sometimes, and raw at others). Daquin is cool, distant, and if not intellectual exactly, he is sharp, like a forge-welded stiletto.
The language is flat, but this is intentional. It is also extremely muscular and hard-hitting. There is so much going on that we don’t need histrionics: international drug rings, child porn, murder, production and sale of high-end knock-offs in the fabric trade, influxes of illegal international labor, snuff films, illegal international sale of arms…and it’s all connected. The shite just keeps gets deeper. Daquin spends long weeks trying to link all the crime but is hampered by the daytime on-street slaying of witnesses and the involvement of government ministers and other policemen.
This is real mean stuff and the feel is totally masculine and tough. It is written with such depth of knowledge it almost seems like it could be written by a policeman. The mix of realism and fatalism (as well as mentions of food and clothes) makes it completely French.
The book was originally published in France in 1995 by Editions de Seuil. It was translated from the French by Margaret Crosland and Elfreda Powell and published in London by Arcadia Books under the imprint EuroCrime series in 2001.
You can buy this book here: Tweet