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The Complete Review: "Arguably expansive, Summertime, All the Cats are Bored is the kind of mystery suitable for lazy summer days on the beach..."

Date: Jun 24 2013

Summertime, all the Cats are Bored is set largely in the French Mediterranean city of Perpignan, an area where Catalan is already widely spoken. The central figure is police inspector Gilles Sebag, a northerner transplanted here who has been here for seven years now. He has an attractive wife and two teenage kids, but the kids are slowly getting ready to leave the nest and even his wife -- who gets two months vacation to his one -- is planning on taking a cruise by herself, leaving him all on his own for a good chunk of the summer. As it turns out, however, he soon has his hands full.
       The novel begins with the discovery of the corpse of a young Dutch woman, and then Sebag and his partner, Jacques Molina, look into the disappearance of a taxi driver -- a case where Sebag senses there's more to it than a not-too-faithful husband out on some adventure. When another Dutch girl is reported missing, and a connection is found to the taxi driver, Sebag's intuition looks pretty good; when he maintains that the kidnapping must be considered separate from the murder -- and then also from what appears to be another attempted kidnapping -- he has a harder time convincing his colleagues (and especially an outsider from Paris, helping (or meddling) with their case).
       Short chapters also present the perspective of the kidnapped girl -- alive, at least -- and also the anonymous kidnapper, whose motives aren't entirely clear but who is eager to play cat and mouse with the police, providing clues that can help the police (if they understand them correctly) or mislead them. So Summertime, all the Cats are Bored is a police procedural full of false trails in which the criminal seems to be toying with the police -- and in particular with Sebag, whom he fixates on in this duel of wits.
       Sebag has his family-life to deal with too -- though for most of the novel that's merely via telephone, as his cruising wife only occasionally can call when in some port, his son keeps in touch via the occasional calls and texts from summer camp, and his daughter similarly only checks in every now and then from her own vacation trip. Sebag has some concerns about his wife's fidelity, and also worries more generally about the family slowly drifting apart as the kids are quickly growing up now. The case takes Sebag's mind off of things, but only so much.
       For the most part, this isn't frantic, high paced (or high tech) police work. Sebag and his colleagues take their time, and take time off, and don't always decline an alcoholic beverage when it's offered when they're interviewing a witness. They are dedicated and serious, but the police work tends to be pretty basic, and it takes a while for the pieces to fall in place. The occasional glimpses of the victim and perpetrator -- who is sure: "They'd never be able to identify him without his help", and proceeds to dole out clues (though never entirely straightforward one) -- help keep the tension up, but even so this qualifies as a fairly easy-going (if not quite pedestrian) thriller.
       Agreeably expansive, Summertime, all the Cats are Bored is the kind of mystery suitable for lazy summer days on the beach, a novel that's in no particular rush and offers a variety of diverting distractions, such as Sebag mulling over his family life. It's solid enough, but hardly remarkable -- but then it doesn't try very hard to be that, Georget clearly quite satisfied with simply offering a fairly well-crafted by-the-book procedural.
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—M.A. Orthofer

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