On October 17, 1961, thousands of Algerians took to the streets of Paris in a peaceful demonstration against a curfew that had been imposed only on them. At the time, Algeria was engaged in a struggle for Independence from France which had long held the nation as a colony.
The demonstrators were met with extreme violence from the police who opened fire on them without provocation. Unofficially, the deaths numbered in the hundreds. Officially, they numbered three.
This is the background for Didier Daeninckx’s detective novel Murder in Memoriam. It’s also the occasion for the first murder in the book. While on his way home from an early matinee, Roger Tiraud is shot and killed during the opening moments of the police violence. Officially, his death is the result of his participation in anti-government pro-Algerian movements. Unofficially, his death remains a mystery until two decades later when his son is killed in a nearly identical manner.
What links the murders of father and son? The son was just a baby at the time of his father’s death. His father was a simple history teacher, he was a student working on a degree in history. Why would anyone want to kill them?
Mr. Daeninckx’s detective Inspector Cadin’s investigation will reveal the cover-up that occurred after the violence of October 17, 1961 and implicate high level government officials in crimes dating back to the Nazi deportation of France’s Jewish population. That Mr. Daeninckx’s murderer bore a striking resemblance to a real life high-ranking official in the Paris police department led many people to conclude that Murder in Memoriam played a significant role in bringing that man to justice, several years after the book was first published in France.
And it’s a darn good book, too. If you like your detective stories stripped down to the actual work of the detective, if you don’t care who the various officers are sleeping with or which ones bear psychic scars from a deeply troubled childhood and just want the author to get on with the business of solving the crime which really ought to be interesting enough anyway, then Murder in Memoriam is a book you should check out.
While Mr. Daeninckx’s book is concerned with exposing a particular set of injustices that really occurred, these do not work against the story telling. Instead, actual events become part of the book’s plot which works to entertain the readers as it works to educate them. The author clearly has two goals in Murder in Memoriam, but neither undermines the other. It’s a perfect piece of agitprop in that one can still read it, now almost 30 years after its initial publication, and enjoy it.
And it has a really cool cover, too.
Since first running this review on my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B. back in late 2012, I continue to look for these cool covers, books published by Melville House. They are known for being good books, but also for having very cool cover designs like the one here. They’ve led me to many author’s I would not have read and enjoyed otherwise. So, yes, go out there and judge books by their cover, at least pick up the ones with good covers, certainly the ones published by Melville House