A crime writer, a drunk, a gambler, a rat & a s**t magnet….these are just a few of the police officers Commissaire Anne Capestan inherits when she is “promoted” to lead the newly formed cold case unit of the Police Judiciaire of Paris. But then she’s in no position to judge. She got the new assignment due to her tendency to shoot people.
Anne’s boss is cleaning house & that means getting rid of all unsolved cases right along with officers who have been deemed “undesirables”. Their mandate is clear. The unit will set up shop in an old apartment building, furnished with boxes of cold case files. They can work on whichever ones they want. Or not. Show up each day as if they have a real job. Or not. Just stay away from police HQ. Approximately 40 cops of various rank are assigned to the unit. On the first day, 3 report for duty.
Eva Rosière is a flamboyant woman who made a fortune moonlighting as a crime writer. Unfortunately she wrote about what she knew….her colleagues. But she still loves being a cop & will get to work right after she does something about the deplorable lack of decor in their new office.
Lóuis-Baptiste Lebreton already knows Anne. He investigated her in his previous job with Internal Affairs & they didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.
“Malchance” Torrez is like a black cat. After losing a series of partners due to injury or death, no one wants to cross his path & he can clear a room by walking in the door.
Anne decides they have nothing to lose & after digging through all the boxes, 2 cases stand out. Yann Guénan was a sailor who was murdered 20 years ago in a professional style hit. Old age pensioner Marie Sauzelle was killed in her home 8 years ago in what looked like a robbery gone wrong. Anne & her colleagues pair up & begin to dig into the past. Turns out they’re not complete screw-ups after all & before they know it, that digging results in a fresh body.
In alternate chapters we follow 2 additional story lines. One introduces us to Alexandre & his wife Rosa as they await the birth of their first child in Florida. In the other we meet Gabriel & Manon, a young couple in Paris who just got engaged. The two stories play out decades apart, keeping the reader intrigued as we gradually discover how they are related.
This is the first in a popular French series featuring colourful characters who are the dregs of the Paris police force. While the crimes are serious, the story is full of dry offbeat humour. It’s just as much about these fallen heroes as it is about the cases & we gradually get the scoop on how each ended up an outcast.
The author loves her characters & she handles them with care. At first, they have much in common with the derelict apartment they’ve inherited…..abandoned, unwanted & a little worn around the edges. When Eva takes on redecorating the place (with some interesting choices) the others begin to contribute bits & pieces, unaware they’re creating a home that reflects their new “family”. These are people who were singled out in old jobs due to their mistakes. As they make progress on the cases, there’s a genuine esprit de corps that gradually develops as they learn to accept each others’ tics & foibles. As the apartment is transformed, so too are the detectives as they find a place where they no longer stand out for all the wrong reasons.
There are some great twists as the story lines converge. The old murders are just the tip of the iceberg & Anne & her crew are in for a few surprises. There’s a genuine warmth to this story of oddballs & it makes for a nice break from some of the grittier stuff. They’re an engaging bunch & here’s hoping Sam Gordon (who provides an excellent translation) is hard at work on book #2.