7 thrillers to devour to start the year off right

Posted Jan 17, 2023, 11:10 AM

Whether they are resolutely anchored in today’s post-covid world, with their share of masked protagonists, or voluntarily shifted in space (distant Quebec) and time (the inspiring 1990s), here are seven polars read and approved by us!

“Retiaire(s)” of DOA: in the Narcotics net

Distant descendants of the retiariuses, the fierce Roman gladiators who tried to catch their enemies in their nets, Théo, group leader in the Narcotics Brigade, and Amélie, gendarmerie officer at the OFAST (Anti-Narcotics Office) valiantly hunt down drug traffickers with their respective and more or less legal methods. Complicated by the ge-wars between services, their fight against the gypsy caïds is bitter and their nights are very short. Because business abounds.

Since the death of the patriarch Rico, the members of the Cerda family, extended to Momo, Manu, Lola and other Sirine, hunt, plot, combine and betray each other shamelessly from Malaga to Romainville. With his usual efficiency, DOA tells yet another story of narcotics in his unique and raw style. Nervous, violent, hyper-documented, abundant, this thriller – which was originally to be the scenario of a series for France 3 vaguely inspired by “The Wire” – is devoured with relish, the eye riveted on the glossary and the list characters that close the book.

Don’t be discouraged by the esoteric acronyms and sometimes difficult to understand slang that complicate the reading. Despite its opacity, the new DOA is a real adrenaline rush and an exciting dive into the daily life of those who track down crime.

Gallimard black series, 430 pages, 19 euros.


“A Simple Investigator” by Dror Mishani: a cop who doubts

No offense to his many fans, commissioner Avraham Avraham has had enough of domestic dramas that he considers to be of relative interest. At nearly 44 years old, married to a Slovenian private detective and promoted to commissioner in Halon, he dreams of major missions. Why not in an internationally oriented department such as the fight against organized crime or in a prestigious intelligence agency?

His favorite character, Henning Mankell’s Wallander, finds himself embroiled in cases involving the Swedish secret services and nuclear submarines… Suffice to say that the discovery of a newborn baby abandoned in a plastic bag near a hospital is not likely to motivate him. He prefers to concentrate on the disappearance of a strange Swiss tourist in a hotel on the seafront. Avi has a fine nose.

When the body of the drowned traveler is found on the beach, the case takes a more interesting turn with a possible involvement of the Mossad. Does our cop finally hold the case that will make him vibrate? More than the resolution of the plot, it is the sensitive portrait of a cop steeped in doubts that hooks the reader in the latest opus of the Israeli academic and writer. A deliberately modest chronicle of an (almost) ordinary font.

Translated from Hebrew by Laurence Sendrowicz, Gallimard Black Series, 339 pages, 21 euros.

“The bird that drank milk” by Jaroslav Melnik: the psychopath from Vilnius

Did you know that Hannibal Lecter, the terrifying hero of “Silence of the Lambs”, had Lithuanian origins? In terms of dark and savage psychopaths, the Baltic country therefore has some sacred references to assert. New proof of this is made with this murderer who exclusively attacks pregnant women or women who have just given birth by mutilating their breasts after having suckled their left breast.

A strange affair that Algimantas Butkus, fifty-year-old commissioner of the Vilnius criminal police, must unravel rather than treating his tuberculosis or worrying about his daughter who is going to have an abortion after being raped in Saudi Arabia. The case is all the stranger as esoteric symbols relating to birds are found at crime scenes. Would the culprit follow religious rituals? Tradition and modernity, mysticism and realism mingle harmoniously in Jaroslav Melnik’s formidable page turner.

Exiled for a long time in Vilnius, the writer and philosopher born in Ukraine in 1959 accurately describes the situation of the small Baltic state which, since independence, has been torn between its relations with the threatening Russian neighbour, its Polish roots, the temptation of emigration and the possibilities offered by the development of the country. The trips to London and Stockholm by Butkus, an old-fashioned cop deeply attached to his homeland, are opportunities to confront him with the reality of these lands fantasized by many young Baltic people.

Translated from Russian (Lithuania) by Michèle Kahn, Actes noirs, Actes Sud, 492 pages, 24.50 euros.


Ian Rankin’s ‘A Graveyard in the Heart’: Edinburgh’s splendor and decadence

Ex-cop now retired, John Rebus is a regular in the courts. But his place is now in the dock: the septuagenarian with lungs ruined by excessive consumption of cigarettes and alcohol is tried for a crime whose content we do not really know. The 24th part of the popular adventures of Rebus – they are translated into 22 languages ​​- will therefore consist in recounting the eight decisive days which preceded this introduction as shocking as it is masterful.

Rebus, ripou cop for whom the end justifies the means, would he have committed the gap too much? This was suggested by Francis Haggard, a policeman from the infamous Tynecastle police station. Accused of domestic violence, he justifies his aggressiveness by the brutality of his profession and declares himself ready to swing with him half of the forces of order in Edinburgh.

To Rebus’ former protege, Siobhan Clarke, to shed light on their deviant practices and influence the fate of her mentor with the perspective that characterizes her. As a female police officer, she is not part of the manly fraternity of brutal and corrupt officers. As an old-timer of the thriller, Ian Rankin intelligently interprets a very dark score in which a tired but resilient Rebus embodies with finesse most of the ills of the Scottish capital.

Translated from English (Scotland) by Fabienne Gondrand, Edition le Masque, 400 pages, 22.50 euros.

“What is buried” by Julien Freu: a Strangers Things atmosphere

Fans of “Stranger Things”, you will love this unclassifiable work which borrows from the thriller, fantasy and learning novel genres. We are in an imaginary town called Estanville in the fall of 1990. This year, the start of the school year takes place in a distressing context after the kidnapping and disappearance of several schoolchildren. A mysterious bogeyman nicknamed “the walking man” roams the woods in a perpetual search for a new Isaac to sacrifice to God. A disturbing laboratory, the Distoria, is carrying out dubious work under close surveillance near the village, in a location that was probably not chosen at random. The township harbors an evil force that alters behavior and distorts time and space.

Enough to arouse the curiosity of the local band of pre-adolescents who, despite the recommendations of adults, get on their bicycles to go deep into the forest and observe more closely the paranormal phenomena that set the sky and the spirits ablaze. As in a good Netflix series, we are caught up in the strange atmosphere and the supernatural puffs that punctuate this gripping story of the passage to adulthood. Barely thirteen years old, Jérémie, Aurore and their friends will have to face their fears and their desires at the same time as the monsters to overcome the trials of life and grow. The fight against ghosts will mark the end of their innocence…

Black Acts, Southern Acts, 368 pages, 22.80 euros.

“A Season for the Shadows” by RJ Ellory: The Devil’s Part

Fifteen novels published in France by Sonatine and almost as many changes of register. The British RJ Ellory, born in 1965 in Birmingham, chooses a completely new setting by situating his last plot in North-East Canada. In Jasperville, a small industrial town founded in 1954 to exploit iron ore, the cold is freezing, the nature hostile and the isolation total. The sinister setting of “Despairville” is conducive to depression, suicide and rumors. When young girls are discovered murdered, disemboweled by inexplicable forces, doubt is no longer allowed.

It is not wolves or bears who are the authors of Evil, but men, perhaps under the influence of wendigos, supernatural cannibalistic creatures which, according to the Algonquin Native Americans, prowl the region. Jack Devereaux fled this atmosphere 26 years ago to try to make a living in Montreal far from his crazy family and the girl he loved. When he returns to the places of his childhood, he must face his guilt and try to redeem himself by investigating the dramas of the past. In line with “Seul le Silence”, a very dark thriller where horrific legends and very human baseness mingle to create an atmosphere of waking nightmare.

Translated from English by Etienne Gomez, Sonatine, 396 pages, 25 euros.


“Yule Island” by Johana Gustawsson: Viking Terror

A fifth novel in 8 years! The Frenchwoman Johana Guwtawsson, born in Aubagne in a family of Catalan origin, digs her furrow as a queen of crime… Scandinavian. Now settled with husband and children on the island of Lindingo, east of Stockholm, she has never been better placed to concoct chilling thrillers by taking up certain codes of the “famous Nordic noir”: darkness of the general subject, chapters short stuffed with twists, ice atmosphere conducive to thrill, evocation of myths and rituals inherited from the Vikings.

Abandoning the protagonists Emily Roy and Alexis Castells who made her success, the writer stages a former Christie’s commissioned to appraise the goods stored by the fourth Swedish fortune in a mansion located opposite the capital, on the pedestrian island of Storkholmen.

Emma Lindahl has multiple reasons to be distressed by her task: not only is the wealthy Gussman family not known for their benevolence, but her mission takes place in the sinister setting where her sister was once found hanged. Her moods do not get better when a new young girl is found dead nearby, in the frozen sea. Would the serial killer be back nine years later? Johana Gustawsson has no equal in hooking us with her stunning twists and unexpected time jumps. It’s sometimes far-fetched but extremely effective.

Calmann-Lévy, 306 pages, 19.90 euros.

7 thrillers to devour to start the year off right