LES FRERES SISTERS de Patrick De WITT (in French)

Titre original : The Brothers Sisters
Traduction de : Emmanuelle Aronson
(Editions Alto)

Charlie et Elie Sisters sont les hommes de main du Commodore, l’homme le plus influent d’Oregon City. Leur plus récente mission consiste à retrouver un dénommé Hermann Kermitt Warm, un inventeur de génie, accusé d’avoir volé leur patron. Aussi bien dire que les jours de M.Warm sont comptés car les frères Sisters ont la réputation de toujours respecter leurs contrats. Partis à sa recherche, ils descendront la côte Ouest jusqu’en Californie où la ruée vers l’or bat son plein. 

Chemin faisant, et au fil de leurs rencontres, Elie remet en question sa «profession» de moins en moins compatible avec son tempérament doux. Mais il hésite à briser le tandem qu’il forme avec son frère qui ne partage pas ses récents états d’âme.

Ils retrouveront bien sûr Warm mais n’honoreront pas le contrat les liant au Commodore, tant la personnalité et la trouvaille du fugitif viennent perturber leur habituelle éthique de travail.

Si vous êtes convaincus que le style western ne peut vous accrocher, laissez-vous tenter par celui-ci car il transcende les conventions du genre. L’auteur place ses protagonistes dans des situations à la limite du loufoque, et les fait s’exprimer dans une langue châtiée qui lui permet de décrire les scènes les plus violentes avec détachement et désinvolture, dans une suite de courts chapitres très rythmés et efficaces à la fois sombres et hilarants. 

Pour les amateurs du type d’humour noir des frères cinéastes Joël et Ethan Coen, ou encore de Quentin Tarantino. Aussi comparé à Cormac McCarthy, l’humour et le côté picaresque en plus.

L’auteur : Patrick de Witt est natif de l’île de Vancouver. Il a travaillé comme ouvrier agricole, plongeur et barman. Les frères Sisters est son deuxième roman, après Ablutions paru chez Actes sud en 2010. En cours de traduction dans 27 pays.

texte de Grenouille Noire

DIE A STRANGER by Steve HAMILTON (Alex McNight #9)

I am a huge fan of Steve Hamilton's books. I got hooked on Cold Day in Paradise (the first Alex McKnight mystery) and Hamilton hasn't released me yet. It is in part because they are quasi Canadian. 
The setting is Michigan's Upper Peninsula, near Sault Ste-Marie, Michigan. Which is, of course, across the border from Sault Ste-Marie, Ontario. And Alex McKnight loves Canadian beer. In fact he loves a cold Molson Canadian, which his friend Jackie brings across the border to serve at the Glasgow Inn, his own bar and restaurant. Now I'm not a fan of Molson Canadian, but I love beer, so the fact that Alex loves the stuff brewed in Canada rather than the alcoholic water he can get in the US makes me like him even more! 

Alex's best friend is an Ojibwa named Vinnie Leblanc. The Objiwa nation doesn't respect our borders; they have their own. And the mysteries often veer across the border into Ontario; so really they are bi-national!

But the real reason I love Hamilton's books is that he writes a great, intricate mystery; where the lives of friends and family are as much a character in the novel as the main characters; where the subordinate cast provides a rich pool for Hamilton to dive in; and where the landscape of the Upper Peninsula and of Lake Superior define much of the novels.

Alex McKnight is a former Detroit detective. He retired from the force after being shot three times, during a shootout that also cost the life of his partner. McKnight still has one bullet in him, lodged next to his heart. So he lives his life in the quiet of Paradise, MI, managing the cabins he and his late father built, living off his pension and the money the cabins bring in. The business is from seasonal-hunters and fishermen in the summer, snowmobilers in the winter. At least McKnight tries to live his life in peace and quiet. But as a former detective he is often called upon to help those who can go nowhere else for assistance.

In Die a Stranger, McKnight's best friend Vinnie ends up needing his help. There is smuggling coming across from Canada; planes are bringing in high-grade Canadian pot. A little like Prohibition era rum running, but this time with planes and marijuana. It's a sweet little operation but it appears a war has broken out over who controls it.

The day after his mother died, Vinnie goes missing. At first, Alex and his friends think he has taken off because of his grief. But then there is a shootout at a local airport. A pot smuggling operation has gone bad. Alex's cop sense begins to twitch. He starts to worry about Vinnie so he goes to the airport to check on the victims. He is relieved to find out that his friend is not one of them. However, Alex hears that a man has left the scene alive and was seen getting into a pickup. The pickup's description matches Vinnie's. Alex starts digging. Something is wrong. Just as he gets started, he runs into an outsider. Someone who is also investigating the events at the airport, the disappearing man and Vinnie.

The action never lets up from then on until the final, shattering conclusion. I was completely taken off-guard by the ending. It made sense but I have to say I didn't see it coming.
If you haven't read the Alex McKnight series, I recommend to read them in order because the stories build on one another. You won't be disappointed. Cold Day in Paradise won a raft of awards, including the Edgar for Best First Novel. The stand-alone mystery The Lock Artist also won the Edgar, this time for Best Novel. This makes Hamilton one of only four writers to win the Edgar Award twice!

Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton 
(Minotaur Books)

Review by L'Etranger
(special guest reviewer)


(This is part of a TLC Book Tour)

John Verdon’s third novel LET THE DEVIL SLEEP is his best one so far, which should be great news for fans of THINK OF A NUMBER and SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT.  But what I prefer about it might not be what most of you would enjoy and look forward to. If what you enjoyed about the first two books were the plot twists and clever intrigues, you won’t be disappointed; maybe just a little bit less challenged by it --especially if you like to guess and solve everything before the last page. Before I explain and let you know what I’ve been enjoying in Verdon’s books –and especially in this one—here’s what the new book is about.

LET THE DEVIL SLEEP starts with former Homicide Detective Dave Gurney recovering, at home, from injuries sustained at the end of SHUT YOUR EYES TIGHT. But as the physical recovery is on the right track, it’s the psychological healing that seems to be slow, dragging Gurney into a maelstrom of conflicting emotions about everything and anything. Because he’s starting to get bored (and one might say depressed), Gurney accepts a seemingly easy ‘assignment’, which is to act as counsel for a TV-documentary about a series of unsolved murders that happened ten years ago, and were known as The Good Shepherd case.

Never fully comfortable in his undefined role during research for the program, Gurney occupies himself by looking into the murder files. His interest is piqued when he realizes that some aspects have been overlooked and that the focus might have been on the wrong details, clues, and motive. As he digs deeper to learn more from the investigation, not everyone is eager to help out; but when minor threats become serious menaces that are followed by life-threatening incidents, Gurney’s mind starts grinding into full gear. He knows now that the Good Shepherd is still around, and probably much closer than everyone else thinks.   

What I’ve been enjoying most in Verdon’s books, so far, is his central character, Dave Gurney. Yes, the plots in the previous books were impressive and challenging and intelligent, but to me, John Verdon’s achievement is in creating an original character for crime/thriller literature. No, he’s not so original that he’s entirely different than other detectives, but Gurney possesses something that every interesting and complex character should possess: intelligence as well as emotions –without the usual clichés. Gurney faces great intellectual challenges, especially in LET THE DEVIL SLEEP, but he also needs to confront his own psychological conflicts. To me, these were almost as interesting as the main plot because I wanted to know how his sometimes uncontrollable emotions and troubled mind would hinder or help him solve the two cases in front of him: the one involving the Good Shepherd, and his own personal recovery. Where Gurney used to be in control of his thought process, and demonstrated a calm demeanor, he now forgets things and sometimes loses control of his emotions. 

At the end of the previous book, Gurney had been shot and seriously injured. Logically, John Verdon now takes Gurney into PTSD territory and he does it convincingly by making the process as much external as internal for Gurney. I was a little surprised that it took a while before anyone mentioned PTSD to Gurney when it was obvious he was acting impulsively, a bit erratically, and sometimes with abruptness. None of these traits would have described him before. His wife, Madeleine, who is Gurney’s soul mate in every aspect, should have been the one to notice it and to tell him, even though she tentatively hints at it once or twice.

Aside from that, I found LET THE DEVIL SLEEP to be a very complete story, combining aspects of a good mystery, with some great suspenseful scenes, excellent timing, and some well-defined characters that bring a certain richness in the dialogues and all through their interactions.

LET THE DEVIL SLEEP is John Verdon's best book so far. Focusing as much on the psychological roller-coaster ride that Gurney goes through while he tries to unmask the Good Shepherd was a brilliant idea. It will be interesting to see in which direction John Verdon will take his characters next, especially Dave Gurney. 

Now, here's a short Q & A with the author.


Interview/discussion by emails with Ken Bruen between 2008 and 2010, except for the last question, which Ken answered on August 5th, 2012. Some of this material has been published/translated in French, but it is here for the first time in its original version.

If some people earn the right to complain about the shitty cards life has dealt them, Ken Bruen is certainly amongst those, and I don't know anyone who wouldn't let him do it. But here's the thing; this gentleman has decided to make the most out of these cards without complaining publicly and without spending the rest of his life pissed off and trying to get some sort of revenge. Ken Bruen can see life as the constant battle between light and dark, or good vs evil, that it is. Life can sometimes get so dark that it becomes blinding; all you face is the emptiness in your days, like an abyss that tempts you to let go and plunge into it. Ken Bruen has faced his own abyss and he has tried to fill it up with boiling rage, with booze, and he even considered it with a bullet. But he has resisted being angry at the world, he has resisted drowning his pains in alcohol, and he has resisted blowing his brains out. He felt the pull of the void and he probably lost a part of him to it, as there is certainly a part of the void left inside him. Ken Bruen decided to fill up the abyss with sharp words, with bleeding pages, and with stories of hurt. Like a wounded knight unexpectedly emerging from a desperate battle, he came out of the dark to show us what true evil can look like, but also how beautiful and worthwhile the alternative can be. That's how he played his cards.

His books have won many awards and piled up raving reviews in many countries. Born on January 3rd, 1951, Ken Bruen possesses the gentleness, the generosity, and the intelligence of a very old soul. Here is my interview and email/talk with him.         

--Let's start with a little politic if you don't mind. Québec has often been compared to Ireland, for different reasons, like wanting to be recognised as a distinct nation and getting out of the British system; population is pretty much the same (we're just over 8 millions in population, I think Ireland is close to 7 millions); we love our beer(s) of course; and Montréal has one of the largest Irish community in North America and the second biggest St. Patrick's Day Parade after the one in Boston. We could probably find other similarities and links. What is the situation in Ireland; from what we hear it seems pretty calm right now. What's your view on life in Ireland?

K.B.--We went from Mass on Sunday to Microsoft with no preparation and like any poor nation, went crazy when we got rich and we got greedy. I'm glad we're not poor any more but we lost a lot too, we've become a mini America, and now we're heading for meltdown, we're really fooked if we have to go back to austerity, and quel dommage, the poor get poorer as the rich get richer.

--Can you share some of your experience of growing up in a violent Ireland. Did you grow up wanting to become a writer or a teacher, or did you have something else in mind?

K.B.--I wanted to be an actor, books were banned in our house and I read under the blankets with a torch, I became a teacher as my Dad said actors were homosexuals!!!!...
I always wrote.
The violence in the North was a constant dark and darker cloud, it becomes part of your spirit, the belief that peace is unattainable.

--As if that wasn't enough, you went through a traumatizing experience (to say the least) in South America while teaching. It's certainly something that will stay with you always, but what was the turning point that 'saved' you and gave you the will to survive without being a lost soul on earth; where did you find the strength to start enjoying life again?

K.B.--I attach a blog I wrote recently that explains fully what saved me.
(you can read it at the end of this interview)

--When you started writing, did you know you would write crime stories or did it come naturally? I read interviews where you mention rage fuelling your writing; one would think you could write pretty scary horror novels also. Did you ever think of writing in a different genre? 

K.B.--I wrote three mainstream novels, re-published in a FIFTH OF BRUEN but I felt something was missing and crime novels fulfilled me in ways I never expected.....I've written a lot of short stories recently dealing with the supernatural, and even one Western......I try to stay open to different genres and am currently writing  a play for the national broadcasting service.

ALLMEN ET LE DIAMANT ROSE de Martin SUTER (Review in French)

La nouvelle contribution de GRENOUILLE NOIRE

Allmen et le diamant rose
Martin SUTER
(Christian Bourgois éditeur)
Titre original: Allmen und der rosa Diamant (Allmen and the Pink Diamond)
Traduit de l’allemand par Olivier Mannoni

Depuis les débuts des chroniques de la Grenouille Noire, je vous ai présenté des auteurs de l‘Afrique du sud, de  l’Espagne, la Nouvelle-Zélande, la France, les Etats-Unis, la Norvège, l’Angleterre et le Québec.  Alors pourquoi pas, un auteur suisse aujourd’hui?
Il y avait une éternité que je n’avais lu un polar à la facture aussi classique.

Johann Friedrich von Allmen est un gentleman cambrioleur appartenant à la haute bourgeoisie de Zurich.  Ayant dilapidé la fortune familiale, il ne s’habitue pas à la précarité de sa nouvelle situation financière et conserve des habitudes de grand seigneur vivant très largement au-dessus de ses moyens.  Ayant fondé avec son majordome Carlos, une agence de détective, il se voit confier la mission de retrouver un bijou de grande valeur ayant disparu lors d’une soirée mondaine.  Choisi sur les résultats concluants de sa première enquête (Allmen et les libellules), Allmen compte bien sur ce contrat pour remettre les finances de l’agence à flot.

Il se rend vite compte qu’ils ne sont pas seuls sur le coup.  Mais ils seront les premiers à dépister le suspect, le russe Sokolov, dans un hôtel luxueux de la Baltique qui convient parfaitement aux goûts du patron.  Et ils ne mettront pas longtemps à comprendre que le diamant rose n’est pas vraiment l’enjeu de la course.

On se demande bien comment ces deux-là en sont venus à monter une agence de détectives tant ils font preuve d’une désinvolture en toute chose frôlant l’inconscience.  Surtout qu’on devine que la partie adverse joue plutôt dans les grandes ligues.

Une bonne première partie quand il s’agit du repérage et de l’approche du suspect.  On perd un peu l’intérêt quand on tombe dans les magouilles de finance internationale qui contribueront toutefois à regarnir le bas de laine d’Allmen.

Une lecture facile d’été au charme suranné, à l’humour très ‘british’ bien que l’auteur soit suisse.

Sur l’auteur: Martin Suter est un écrivain suisse alémanique d'expression allemande.  Il a travaillé dans la publicité et se consacre à l’écriture depuis 1991.  Il a reçu le Prix du premier roman étranger en 1998 pour son roman Small World  (Je n’ai rien oublié chez Points) aussi adapté au cinéma, en 2011.

Autres titres de l’auteur:

La face cachée de la lune / Points
Un ami parfait / Points
Le diable de Milan / Points
Le cuisinier/ Points Seuil (policier)
Allmen et les libellules / Christian Bourgois éditeur (policier)
Lila, Lila / Points