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by Dominique Manotti
Arcadia Books, May 2006
256 pages
ISBN: 1900850826

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Supt Theo Daquin, the gay Parisian cop with a taste for the good life, is back. And in DEAD HORSEMEAT (OK, the title's lousy, but the book most certainly isn't), he finds himself tangled up with the 1968 generation coming of age and getting involved in dodgy business deals across Europe.

The book features everyone and everything from drug dealers to jockeys to prostitutes to government ministers. And there's certainly an, erm, eclectic cast. You may find yourself flicking backwards and forwards occasionally to refresh your memory as to who all the people are.

Daquin is a little distracted, as his best friend and soul mate Lenglot is dying from an AIDS-related illness. We learn that Daquin, who has an active and varied sex life, took a vow to himself to be careful when the 'gay cancer' struck.

But in this book someone does try to blackmail him about his sexuality -- despite the fact it's clearly no secret. Manotti treats his private life with dry, matter-of-fact humour. I rather liked the moment where Daquin is telling his team, which includes a bashful new boy, that he's been blackmailed, and pins the compromising photos up. He says: "I did chat up this guy in a bar in the Marais a few days ago. These photos aren't rigged. You can look at them, Le Dem."

DEAD HORSEMEAT also fills in more of Daquin's background for us. There was a reference in ROUGH TRADE to his unhappy childhood. In this latest book we find out just what happened to him as a teenager.

The book is set in 1989, nine years after the events in ROUGH TRADE. Daquin is now in his 40s but still playing rugby. The book has a contemporary feel to it, not least because of the idea of Europe having few borders -- there are cataclysmic events about to take place in the divided Germany.

Manotti has a slightly weird style -- disjointed, distracted and throwaway. Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz produce a translation which feels both gritty and natural, although I'm still trying to work out how the French title A NOS CHEVAUX! translates to DEAD HORSEMEAT!

DEAD HORSEMEAT is firmly in the noir camp, accompanied by a dash of dry humour. As in ROUGH TRADE, though, it's not the most flattering portrayal of French police. I couldn't help smiling at the phrasing in the paragraph, so typical of Manotti's writing style, where one of Daquin's colleagues shows what he's learned from his boss: "No time to finish her sentence. Romero, in a gifted imitation of Daquin's style (hours of training), gives her a resounding slap with the full force of his arm, without moving the top half of his body."

But the book is a totally engrossing read and Manotti is on my list of must-read writers. I'm now jumping up and down and desperate to read KOP, the third book in the series. It's not yet available in English, though, and I'm debating whether my rusty French is up to it. What the hell, I've just ordered it. Wish me luck!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, April 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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