Modern crime fiction has taught us that not all detectives speak with an American accent, and not all crime involves clean-cut heroes. The trend is towards troubled characters operating in landscapes their readers recognize, exemplified by that morose pair, Ian Rankin’s John Rebus and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander.
Astute publishers Arcadia have begun a new series under the rubric of ‘Euro Crime’, encompassing writers as diverse as Finland’s Matti Joensuu and Spain’s Eugenio Fuentes.
Breaking out of the pack is Dominique Manotti’s Dead Horsemeat, a heady brew of drug-trafficking, political and business intrigue and horse racing. Taking as her starting points the hostile takeover of an insurance consortium and a series of arson attacks on some of France’s finest breeding stables, Manotti reveals the skulduggery and deadly plots in a new Europe where borders are as notional to the business élites as they are impenetrable to refugees.
Uniting the disparate plot strands are a group of ex-leftists and old school-friends. Veterans of the 1968 protests, they are now pillars of French society: Agathe Renouard and Nicolas Berger are PR executives at a large insurance company, Christian Duluc works in the Elysée Palace and Amélie Gramont breeds high-priced thoroughbreds. When Berger is killed, it falls to refined, fastidious police chief Inspector Daquin to untangle the intersection lines in this in cestuous world of power and riches.
Dead Horsemeat is an atmospheric and astute political thriller that delves beneath the surface of the cartels and conglomerates whose operations are equally indifferent to law and morality. It is a humane and thoughtful novel by a writer gleefully hitting her stride.