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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Double Blank

Yasmina Khadra

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To purchase Double Blank

Title: Double Blank
Author: Yasmina Khadra
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 140 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Double Blank - US
Double Blank - UK
Double Blank - Canada
Double blanc - Canada
Double Blank - India
Double blanc - France
Doppelweiß - Deutschland
  • French title: Double blanc
  • Translated by Aubrey Botsford

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Our Assessment:

B : hasty and brutal, but with some decent noir touches

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Humanité . 9/1/1998 Michel Guilloux
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 3/2/2001 Heinz Hug
The NY Rev. of Books . 3/7/2003 Adam Shatz
Die Welt . 6/7/2002 rem

  From the Reviews:
  • "Après la bataille pour la répartition du gâteau économique évoquée dans Morituri, Double blanc pose cette question: et si tout cela était prémédité ? et y apporte quelques éléments de réponse." - Michel Guilloux, L'Humanité

  • "Wieder ein Yasmina-Khadra-Krimi, der viel über das Leben in Algerien und den täglichen Wahnsinn des Fundamentalismus verrät." - rem, Die Welt

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:

       Double Blank is the second mystery-thriller starring and narrated by Superintendent Llob, an Algerian police officer. Set in contemporary Algiers, Llob describes a corrupt, dangerous, and very bloody world. Even the police fear to tread in many places -- and it seems like every body and clue has to first be examined by the bomb squad to see whether it hasn't been booby-trapped.
       The story begins with Llob being summoned by Ben Ouda, a one-time diplomat and bestselling author of the book Dreams and Utopia, "an astounding indictment of the scientific socialism of the donkey trainers who had become the relics of a decadent nation". Now he appears to have even grander ambitions - which obviously wouldn't please the powers that be -- and "an irrefutable document" in his possession to make his case. Needless to say, Ouda is not long for this world.
       Llob soon knows the names of most of those directly responsible for Ouda's murder, but getting his hands on them isn't that easy. A new sidekick, a hotheaded Tuareg named Ewegh Seddig (who makes jigsaw puzzles out of faces with a single blow), as well as ponytailed Lino are there to help Llob, but he also does a lot on his own.
       With Llob acting like a world-weary, cynical private dick (even though he actually works for the police he tends to go it alone), the mood of the novel is distinctly American noir, the patter like 1940s movie dialogue -- though some of the rejoinders come across as quite forced, the repartee perhaps losing something in translation. Everything flashes by incredibly fast -- especially the brutal deaths, one after another after another, leaving little time for commentary or reflection beyond the philosophical one-liners. Too little is fleshed out enough, which is too bad: when he shows some patience, Khadra can quite impressively evoke a mightily menacing atmosphere, or successfully describe slivers of this unusual culture.
       There are glimpses of corrupt and decadent Algeria, too, rife with crime and prostitution and violence -- along with surprising wealth, comfort, and power. But corruption is the root of all the problems, it seems, and the case behind the murders in this book leads to the grandest of examples. It's a bit disappointing, that the crime turns out to be such a crime, involving the people it does: it's so ambitious that it comes across as less than convincing. A smaller scale would likely have served Khadra better.
       A decent thriller, Double Blank certainly has its moments. More background to go with the relentless action would have been welcome, but the interesting mix of Algerian locale and politics and French and American thriller-traditions makes -- as long as one is not too squeamish -- for an engaging if very quick read.

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Double Blank: Reviews: Yasmina Khadra: Other books by Yasmina Khadra under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       'Yasmina Khadra' is the pseudonym of Mohammed Moulessehoul. He was born in 1956, and fled his native Algeria in 2000.

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