Monday, December 23, 2013

Review of The Dark Angel by Dominique Sylvain (2004 French, 2013 Maclehose Press)

After leaving school Khadidja and Chloe work in Maxime Duschamp’s cafe, sharing their Parisian apartment with blond haired Vanessa.  Returning home one afternoon, Khadidja and Chloe discover Vanessa’s body minus her feet and half a million euros in cash.  Commissaire Jean-Pascal Grousset is assigned to the case.  Labelled the ‘garden gnome’ by his colleagues, he is arrogant and useless.  He initially focuses his attention on the two flatmates, convinced they murdered their friend.  Unhappy with his boss’ approach, Lieutenant Jérôme Barthélemy calls on his recently retired commissaire, Lola Jost, who lives nearby for advice.  When the gnome shifts his focus to the womanising Maxime Duschamp, whose wife was murdered twelve years before and whose case was never solved, Lola joins forces with American wanderer and masseur, Ingrid Diesel to try and discover who really killed Vanessa.  

The Dark Angel was originally published in French with the title ‘Passage du Désir’ in 2004.  The story teams up the elderly, overweight, crotchety and brilliant former commissaire Lola Jost, with the tall, athletic, impulsive and forthright American, Ingrid Diesel, who try to solve a local murder given the ineptitude of the assigned commissaire.  Lola and Ingrid make for an interesting double act, but whereas Lola is well developed and engaging, Ingrid is less well flashed out, lacking in personality and depth -- a colourful back story and striking physique is not the same as ‘aliveness’.  The result is a somewhat lopsided relationship.  Similarly, the other characters are a little flat and one-dimensional, especially Maxime, who did not come across as an attractive lothario.  The story itself is enjoyable enough, with a few action sequences and twists and some nicely observed scenes, as long as one is happy to accept that it is simply a vehicle for introducing Lola and Ingrid given the procedural elements are weak, the police are fools, the pair make some silly decisions for dramatic effect, and the resolution is somewhat contrived.  Overall, a mildly amusing and dark tale of love, jealousy and rage.

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