Christophe Lecoules, Une Nuit de Carnaval / A Night at Carnival (French, 2007)

A new form on this blog: the 5-sentences review, just to give a quick chance to and leave a token about every book (this sentence doesn’t count, and yes, I’m allowed long sentences à la Proust).

1-The latest fad in crime novels seems to be regional mysteries (Islandic thrill anyone?), and this one is a pleasant enough addition to the rapidly growing genre, with a detailed description of the local festival at Dunkirk (at France northern end).

2-You feel that the author has a deep knowledge of Dunkirk Carnival (I’ve taken part several times myself) and the picture is true to this bawdy, crazy, uninhibited winter days where half of the town people cross-dresses in outrageous costumes and marches in groups led by a masked fife player or drummer, until they all throng around the city hall in a boisterous (but highly-alcoholised and sometimes uncontrolled) frenzy – but the good point is that Lecoules doesn’t force his knowledge of local traditions on you.

3-Yet on the mystery side, I didn’t really get enthusiastic about the dreamy Commissaire Jugurtha, who is too close to Fred Vargas’ Adamsberg character to my taste, and the plot lacked energy.

4-Drawing this comparison even further, I think that Fred Vargas’ world view basically is optimistic and so she creates lovable, if quirky or dangerous, characters, while Lecoules’ picture of Dunkirk and its people is greyer, more disillusioned (but it may also have to do with Dunkirk long history of hardships).

5-So the result is rather mixed feelings, all the more as I do wonder who is really the targeted reader for this book (although some of you may cringe, I’m not systematically against a marketing view of books): not really the passionate crime reader, but rather people from North of France (or elsewhere) who are curious about the Carnival and want to read about it in a fun way.

Here a French review, that basically shares my point of view and makes a deeper (and longer) analysis.


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