Sunday, 31 August 2014

Summertime, All The Cats Are Bored by Philippe Georget

Europa Editions

I wish I could remember on whose recommendation I decided to buy this book, but since it has been sitting on my TBR pile for a year I simply don't remember.  Whoever it was - Thank You. Georget weaves a tale that involves murder and kidnapping in Perpignan, a town on the French Mediterranean near Spain.  Sebag and Molino, two tired cops who are being slowly devoured by dull routine and family worries, deal with the day’s misdemeanors and petty complaints without a trace of enthusiasm (from the book's cover). When the body of a young Dutch woman is found and another young Dutch woman goes missing as does a Spanish taxi driver she knew, the general lethargy that had an iron grip on the police department suddenly vanishes and a game of cat and mouse begins between Inspector Gilles Sebag and the kidnapper/murderer.

One of the amazing things about Georget's writing is his ability to create tone and atmosphere.  Georget is himself a resident of Perpignan and his intimate knowledge of the city permeates his descriptions of the residents and the city and surrounding areas. You feel the lethargy that has set in from the heat and humidity of summer. You sense the impact on the burgeoning small town invaded by summer tourists. You feel the pressure of a small police force under the microscopic eye of the international press. You witness the kidnap victim slowly acquiesce to her situation  - and you understand, completely.  You experience all these things not just through Sebag's eyes and thoughts, but also those of the kidnapped Dutch girl and her kidnapper. 

Sebag is an observer of life  who listens to his instincts about people and events.  He doesn't always immediately realize the significance of his observations and needs to let his thoughts ferment for awhile. He underestimates his own ability as a police inspector, as his wife, his partner and his boss often remind him.  The image of Sebag sitting beside the family pool with a glass of wine while he quietly mulls over the day's developments in his case, is reminiscent of Inspector Morse sitting in a pub with a pint, thinking things through. 

This is a police procedural and a well-written one that kept me reading late into the night.    The laid back atmosphere disguises a deceptively complex narrative.  The investigation is well thought through and develops at a very natural pace, but it is the characterizations that make this such an enjoyable read.  The relationships between Sebag and his colleagues, Sebag and his wife, Sebag and his children, all come together to create a character that you look forward to meeting again.
I am kind of happy I only recently got around to reading this book since the next book in the series, Autumn, All the Cats Return, will be released this October.  With a bit of luck I will read it before next spring.

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