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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Murder in Memoriam

Didier Daeninckx

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To purchase Murder in Memoriam

Title: Murder in Memoriam
Author: Didier Daeninckx
Genre: Novel
Written: 1984 (Eng. 1991)
Length: 185 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Murder in Memoriam - US
Murder in Memoriam - UK
Murder in Memoriam - Canada
Meurtres pour mémoire - Canada
Murder in Memoriam - India
Meurtres pour mémoire - France
Bei Erinnerung Mord - Deutschland
Asesinatos archivados - España
  • French title: Meurtres pour mémoire
  • Translated by Liz Heron

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Our Assessment:

B : breezy police procedural; most interesting for insight into uglier aspects of recent French past

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 1/6/1992 .
TLS . 27/12/1991 Savkar Altinel

  From the Reviews:
  • "While Daeninckx offers a masterful weave of political history in this debut novel, he is so intent on unfolding this elaborate tapestry that he neglects to develop characters. Dialogue falls flat without tags to identify what characters are doing or thinking as they speak, and the romantic interest appears to be an afterthought" - Publishers Weekly

  • "The plot is flimsy and the raking up of France's guilty secrets is half-hearted, but Cadin is a likeable figure, and the author's passion for trivia ensures that the reader is supplied with a great deal of engaging information" - Savkar Altinel, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Murder in Memoriam begins with the description of the 17 October 1961 demonstration by thousands of Algerians in Paris that got completely out of hand, thanks to the French authorities. Caught up in the mess is Roger Thiraud, a Latin and history teacher who dawdles getting home to his pregnant wife by catching a horror flick at the local cinema; he never makes it home -- instead, he's one of the three dead officially reported by the Préfecture.
       It wasn't three dead but rather many times that number, and Roger's death, which isn't investigated (there isn't even an autopsy), has little to do with the events of the day. But no one wants anyone to go poking anywhere near here (as in real life: Daeninckx's description of the longtime cover-up of what the authorities did that day is very close to the very unpleasant historic record), or try to figure out what really happened. And no one does -- until, two decades later, when Thiraud's son, Bernard, just passing through Toulouse, is also killed in cold blood. An odd, coincidence, that.
       With Bernard's death the narrative switches from third to first person: Inspector Cadin is on the case, and it's from his perspective that the investigation into the murder(s) then unfolds. The local Commissaire in charge is on vacation, so Cadin is pretty much in charge alone. He has some other cases to deal with, but this one grabs his attention and he pursues it. From the odd pistol used in the shooting, to the semi-professionalism of the hit -- everything about it has the hallmarks of a pro at work, except the actual shooting (Bernard was rather excessively pumped full of lead) -- there's a lot that's unusual about this case.
       Cadin is an extremely restless guy, willing to travel hundreds of miles at the drop of a hat in pursuit of information: Daeninckx sends him back and forth to Paris several times, and even up to Brussels (where at least Cadin dines well). Cadin takes and sends his underlings on a variety of long trips as well, and while some of all this traveling does pay off, Daeninckx clearly relies too much on it (this was only his second book, and he was clearly still getting his mystery-writing feet wet).
       Cadin gets some helpful advice:

     - You have the knack of getting your nose into the thickest shit, Inspector, but you don't get yourself out by stirring it ...
     - How then ?
     - By dropping others in it.
       Nevertheless, Cadin remains a stirrer -- and given some of those involved, he certainly causes considerable danger to himself simply by nosing around, much less dropping them in. It was that that got father and son Thiraud killed, too -- and what Cadin has to figure out is what they -- two harmless guys with an interest in history -- were onto. (It is, of course, yet another ugly bit of French history that has long been covered up.)
       A lot is packed into Murder in Memoriam, and the book zips along -- along with Cadin -- from city to city and era to era. It makes for a case with interesting backgrounds but a bit too rushed a foreground: after a patient beginning Daeninckx doesn't really develop most of the characters (especially the bad guys). There are several confrontations-(or near-confrontations)-with-guns -- including Cadin rushing to the site of a robbery in progress -- which all feel a bit forced (and which all end prematurely: in two cases in death, which allows for nothing more than after-the-fact summary explanation -- not the ideal way to tidy up a mystery-thriller)
       There are some interesting secondary characters here, too, including Bernard's mother and his girlfriend (though her relationship with Cadin is, like so much else, too simply and quickly dealt with), as well as the various police officers. The Commissaire makes for a nice comic touch, returning from his vacation only to decide he'll let Cadin clean things up and take a few more days off, especially after they figure out what went wrong with the not-quite-Situationist situations that has many of the most important local folk all in a huff ..... (It's a nice touch that Daeninckx has Cadin involved in other cases even as he tries to clear the Thiraud-murders, but as with most of the narrative, it all flashes by much too fast.)
       Murder in Memoriam could do with considerably more exposition -- and that's not just a matter of foreign readers likely not being as familiar with the dates and events Daeninckx uses in the novel. In fact, the historical parts are quite well presented. It's really character-development that would have served the book better, beginning with Cadin.
       Too fast-paced and, often, cursory, Murder in Memoriam is still a good and entertaining read -- it just feels a bit thin, especially considering the weighty subjects Daeninckx confronts head-on.

- M.A.Orthofer, 29 September 2012

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Murder in Memoriam: Reviews: Other books by Didier Daeninckx under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Didier Daeninckx was born in 1949.

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© 2012-2014 the complete review

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