The Killing Tide

Written by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Review written by Jon Morgan

Jon Morgan is a retired police Superintendent and francophile who, it is said, has consequently seen almost everything awful that people can do to each other. He relishes quality writing in all genres but advises particularly on police procedure for authors including John Harvey and Jon McGregor. Haunts bookshops both new and secondhand and stands with Erasmus: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I may buy food and clothes.”

The Killing Tide
Minotaur (US)
RRP: £20.69
Released: March 01, 2020

Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, with M. Bannalec, you are in for a whirlwind ride and a great treat.

This is the fifth in the series of ‘Commissaire Dupin’ books set in Brittany where Dupin, a jaded Parisian detective, transfers to Brittany and finds a paradise where myth and legend and the environment mix with history and culture. Dupin finds his coffee addiction well served and each of the books is a rich gastronomic outing into the richness of Breton and wider French cuisine.

The discovery of the body of a female in a fishery auction site, with horrific injuries starts the enquiry which leads to outlying coastal islands and a chain of lighthouses from the Ile de Sein, to the islands of Molene, Ouessant, and the bay of Douarnenez. Intrinsically linked, here, as elsewhere in the series are leitmotifs of environmental mismanagement and the negative effects of human activity on both land and sea.

Quickly revealed, in an investigation which appears without leads, albeit not lacking in suspects, are the body of a female friend, (and dolphin expert) of the initial victim and then that of a seemingly unconnected elderly retired academic, all killed in the same brutal manner.

Dupin’s investigation, fortified by caffeine and locally sourced food serve to combat his exhaustion and the eventual solution, against the backdrop of the ever changing seascape and Breton weather is a surprising as it is swift. With legend and real mystery interlinked, as well as influence and power politics once again coming into play. This is France after all, and political interference is de rigueur in any police investigation given the role of the Prefect in political oversight of the police.

In the latest volume, as in others, the sea features heavily with the team of subordinates clustered around the Commissaire to advise him on the Breton way of things. His two lieutenants are in their element as usual and his almost psychic secretary, Nolwen, is the eminence grise and powerhouse behind much of the investigative process with her wide network of contacts in the region.

These books are a veritable cornucopia of intelligent writing and cultural insight. They are, of course, police procedurals, but much, much more than that. Structure is pleasingly odd, there are no real chapters and the narrative is hardly broken from beginning to end, being much more effectively punctuated by asides into Arthurian legend, cookery, environment and history, above all Breton history, which appears to form a common culture to which even Dupin, himself, is beginning to succumb.

The books are in general well translated and the idiom is well preserved, I can hear the original phrasing coming through. On occasion though, there are phrases which jar and which have just not been translated effectively; ‘participate in an action’ is one such. I can hear the French but would have translated it very differently.

I, for one, cannot wait for the next book!

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