Tuesday, 19th September 2017
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Author Sophie Henaff: Published by Quercus : Price e16.40

In any line of business there are always people who just don't fit in for one reason or another.

When it comes to public services sometimes it is just impossible to get rid of them so the best thing to do is just to pretend that they don't exist. Gamblers, alcoholics, those who have sued the top brass and those who have just used their guns that one time too many are some of the people who have caused more than enough problems for the Paris police and now they are about to do something about them. They are going to set up what they are calling 'the awkward squad', a special division where they can put all the waifs and strays, all the people that cause too many problems for the bureaucracy.

By putting them all together it will mean that it will be easier to deal with them all in the one place rather than have them spread out causing chaos all over the Parisian police force. As it turns out only about 10 out of the 50 assigned to the squad actually turn up to do some work and all that they are given to do are cold cases and out of them only two are any way serious. Two murders that are just about to run out of time for prosecution. The first is the murder of an old sailor and the second is the murder of an old widow woman. At first the squad don't realise it but the two cases are actually connected and it is only by investigating the cases in as serious a manner as they can manage do they find this out.

It all has to do with a shipping accident that happened back in the eighties in the Florida Keys but no one will know the real reason for the connection to the two murders until the murderer confesses right at the end of the novel. Although there is a humourous spin in the set up to the book this isn't a particular funny novel although that isn't a criticism.

There is humour that comes out through the personalities in the novel but this isn't an out right humourous novel.

The investigation that the people in the squad undertake is done in strictly police terms, there are no wacky investigatory initiatives.

What is interesting is to see these flawed, some more than others, human beings trying to negotiate a complex set of cases in the best way that they know how. When a third murder is dumped on their laps and they are cut out of it even though it is quite clear to them that it is connected to their other two cases it is interesting to see how they manage to get the information that they need to work all three of their cases. A skillful blend of humour and police procedural this novel is one of more unusual offerings this year


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