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Eurocrime: Norman Price's Favourite Discovery of 2013

Date: Dec 31 2013

My discovery of the year was Summertime, All The Cats Are Bored by Philippe Georget translated by Steve Rendall. This was a excellent debut novel with an intriguing title - a direct translation of the original French. One of the reasons I enjoyed it was that most French crime novels feature Parisian cops who may occasionally venture out into the provinces, while Summertime is located in Perpignan, a city situated on the Mediterranean coast with a cosmopolitan dual Catalan/French culture.

The intuitive detective Gilles Sebag, the main protagonist, is married to the beautiful Claire and they have two teenage children, Severine and Leo. It is all very French with Gilles unsure of Claire, and their relationship almost as important to the plot as the hunt for the perpetrator of crimes against young Dutch women.

I can't imagine Madame Maigret swimming naked with Jules, like Claire and Gilles in Summertime, but this is Perpignan not Paris and that was another simpler time.

I am looking forward to more novels about Gilles, his lovely wife Claire, his boss Castello and his colleague Jacques Molina.

Full Review (from Crime Scraps):

At one of the panels I attended during Crime Fest 2012 it was suggested by a panellist that when the Scandinavian crime fever had blown over French detective fiction would be the next trend. Perhaps the trend is already here as Fred Vargas, Dominique Manotti and now Pierre LeMaitre have been getting the attention of CWA judges for several years, and I remember the wonderful green Penguin compilations of Georges Simenon’s Maigret stories.

Is it really 50 years since Rupert Davies smoked his pipe in the old black and white Maigret television series?

After reading Philippe Georget’s debut novel Summertime, All The Cats Are Bored I can predict a promising future for detective Gilles Sebag and I can even see BBC executives re-adjusting their expense accounts as they tour locations near Perpignan for a series. Perpignan is in a part of Mediterranean France that enjoys a dual Catalan/French cosmopolitan culture. When Perpignan’s Top 14 rugby team play big games they frequently take them across the “border” into what Georget refers to in Summertime as South Catalonia to play in Barcelona.

Avenue Poincare crosses a residential quarter snuggled up to the foot of the palace of the Kings of Majorca. Built in the thirteenth century at the time when Perpignan was the capital of a kingdom stretching from Montpelier to Valencia and including the Balearic Islands.

Josetta Braun, a young Dutch woman, is found murdered on the beach at Argeles. Ingrid Raven, another Dutch girl, is kidnapped, and Sylvie Lopez reports that her husband, taxi driver Jose, has gone missing. As Perpignan’s team of detectives look into the shady world of Jose Lopez and his connection with Ingrid, there is a failed attempt to kidnap Anneke Verbrucke, yet another young Dutch citizen. Detective Gilles Sebag realises they are dealing with a complex case and a deranged perpetrator, one who likes to play games.

Summertime is a very fine debut novel with a good mystery, great location, good food and an interesting team of detectives. In this debut we are really only given a clear picture of Gilles, but if there are further books perhaps we will hopefully learn more about his boss Castello, and his sidekick Jacques Molina.

“Take my advice, old pal, and don’t miss the opportunity. You and Claire are alone together like lovers. It’s a precious moment. A new honeymoon.”

Sebag did not reply. He wasn’t Castello’s “old pal”, and he didn’t want his advice. There was nothing worse than a boss who tried to play marriage counsellor. Especially when he’d screwed up his own marriage.

Gilles Sebag is a good detective teasing out details others have missed but sometimes relying just on intuition. His clashes with Lefevre, a young smartly dressed Parisian cop, produce some insecurity in his professional life, and worries about his status among his colleagues. Incidentally I am not a fan of those books which give the reader sections with the insane perpetrators thoughts, but in this novel they are not too lengthy or intrusive.

Summertime is raised above the normal crime fiction novel by the descriptions and accounts of Sebag’s home life, his relationship with his teenage children, and his intense romance with his beautiful wife, Claire. Gilles professional insecurity is exacerbated by his suspicions that Claire despite her loving attitude and their active sex life may be having an affair.

A clever book, in places quirkily French, and certainly, in my opinion, a contender for the CWA 2014 International Dagger.

Abandoned by his family and friends, and with a cat that ran away as his only companion?

No.

“Definitely not.”

The words had slipped out of him. He’d shouted. He finished his glass in a single swig. Inside, he was full of new energy. He was going to resist; he was going to fight. And if he lost anyway, he’d get a goldfish instead.

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