Under the Channel
A quirky thriller à la française.
Friday night in London. John, 45, is considering spending a week-end in Paris. But he hesitates a lot and drinks as he tries to make up his mind to go or not to go.
Working as an estate agent, John is well-to-do, but the Lehman Brothers scandal is starting a financial crisis. He seems to have other shadows looming other him, with his numerous encounters of male partners. Although he enjoys the freedom of having no permanent attachment, John also feels lonely.
Totally drunk, he finally takes the very last train from London to Paris. Midway Under the Channel, the train suddenly stops and all lights go out.
When the train finally arrives in Paris, a couple discovers someone has been strangled on board: John.
Who did it? Why? The cop Roland, whose couple is in trouble, uses this opportunity to get away from his wife. To investigate better, he decides to take the train in the other way and visit London and the places where the victim used to live. Will he discover the killer? How? To what extent will he need to follow John’s way of life to figure it out?
I enjoyed the mix of noir and quirkiness of this short thriller. In many thrillers, the cop in charge of the investigation is going through difficulties in his personal life. That’s precisely the case for Roland, but the parallels stop here, as Roland’s path gets weirder and weirder. Definitely not your typical cop!
There was a lot of humor in the book, in Roland’s choices of investigation methods for sure, but also in other characters, for instance the Lewis couple who discover John’s body. Margaret’s first idea is to stick around, for the simple purpose of being seen on TV, a great idea for marketing and publicity for her husband’s furniture shop – so she thinks. Yes, there are people out there who get a thrill at being seen on TV!
And some cultural notes comparing the French and the British were totally hilarious.
There were interesting evocations of some areas of London I definitely would not know about, like Pimlico and Soho.
VERDICT: Noir and humor mix in this short and quirky thriller. A great opportunity to experience something different.
Author: Gilles Pétel
Translators: Jane Aitken & Emily Boyce
US publication: 5/12/2014
by Gallic Books
Sous la Manche
was first published in France in 2012
Mystery / Thriller
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