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by Chantal Pelletier
Bitter Lemon Press, July 2004
210 pages
ISBN: 1904738036

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Morose Parisian detective Maurice Laice is not a happy man. He's got two murder cases on his Montmartre patch, his father has recently died, and his lesbian boss takes great delight in regaling him with tales of her very active lovelife.

The naked bodies of a male dancer and a beautiful young girl are found entwined in a dressing room at the famous Moulin Rouge. Not long after, a junkie is killed in a nearby flat -- and the teethmarks in his throat are decidedly human.

The search for the killers takes Maurice -- known as More is Less by his boss -- to Corsica and back to the heart of Paris where drugs, sex and dodgy property deals all inter-mingle.

GOAT SONG is bleak, dark and funny. It's one of those books where the translator deserves a more than honourable mention -- my suspicion is that Ian Monk has done a truly outstanding job in capturing Chantal Pelletier's idiosyncratic prose. This is a writer who can move from humour to horror in several crisp sentences. The translation 'feels' right -- the slang is there without feeling artificial or forced.

In many ways the plot of GOAT SONG is almost secondary to what's going on with the characters. Maurice is an absolutely fascinating creation. He's living in a damp and dingy flat, is starting to feel his 40ish age, and has an unfulfilled private life -- particularly when compared to his boss Aline Lefevre's acrobatic escapades with her civil servant lover. And he worries about his recently widowed mother, and his schoolfriend Remy whose bookshop is struggling.

One of the most positive developments in crime fiction of late is the number of European writers being translated into English -- and kudos to publishers such as Bitter Lemon Press for producing some elegant, affordable paperbacks. The Scandinavians may have had a head start here, but the likes of Pelletier and Tonino Benacquista suggest that the French may be hard on their heels. Pelletier, an actor, director and writer, is a very unusual, original and exciting talent

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, April 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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