Monday, July 21, 2014

Review of Summertime, All the Cats are Bored by Philippe Georget (Europa Editions, 2013, French 2009)

It’s the height of summer in the French Mediterranean town of Perpignan.  A young Dutch woman is found bludgeoned to death on a beach and shortly afterwards another disappears in the city, along with a local taxi driver.  Inspectors Sebag and Molino are tasked with trying to locate their whereabouts.  Neither cop has much appetite for the case - they are hot, bored, distracted by family matters, and prone to extended breaks.  But Sebag used to be a good detective and he senses that there is more to the case than meets the eye.  When an attempt is made to snatch a third Dutch woman on her way home late at night the investigation shifts up a gear, with a hotshot from Paris seconded to the case.  In response, Sebag regains some of his old sparkle, determined to find the missing Dutch woman, but at the same time he’s worried about the fidelity of his wife and drifting apart from his kids.  He sacrificed his career to spend time with his family and just as he rediscovers his verve for the job they seem to be slipping away.  The life of a young woman though lies in the balance and that has to take precedent.

Summertime, All the Cats are Bored is a police procedural set over a few hot weeks of early summer in Southern France and the local police’s attempts to save a young woman who has been kidnapped and two murders.  The strength of the story is the sense of place and characterisation.  Georget firmly places the reader in the Perpignan region during tourist season and captures the team dynamics and interactions of the investigative team.  The narrative mostly focuses on Inspector Gilles Sebag, a cop who’s slipping into a midlife crisis as the case starts - he’s prioritised his family over his career, but now his teenage kids are making their own way in life and his wife is spending increasingly more time with friends and holidaying on her own and he suspects she’s having an affair, and his boss wants him to apply for promotion.  His basis of his sense of self seems to be on shifting ground and now he’s trying to deal with a case where the life of a young woman is under threat.  The intertwined scenarios of Sebag’s crisis and the perplexing investigation provide a nice hook and plot.  However, the telling unfolds at a too leisurely pace, with a little too much unnecessary explication.  The cats might be bored, but the reader veers towards that state a little too often until the final third of the book.  Overall, an interesting character study and investigative case that too often lacks pace and edge.

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