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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Abdelilah Hamdouchi

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To purchase Whitefly

Title: Whitefly
Author: Abdelilah Hamdouchi
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 136 pages
Original in: Arabic
Availability: Whitefly - US
Whitefly - UK
Whitefly - Canada
  • Arabic title: الذبابة البيضاء
  • Translated by Jonathan Smolin

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Our Assessment:

B : decent police procedural; nice local color

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The National . 10/3/2016 M. Lynx Qualey

  From the Reviews:
  • "Whitefly does give us a sense of late-20th century Tangiers. (...) The plotting is tight and watching the storyís resolution unfold is a delight. It doesnít end neatly, like a Hercule Poirot novel might. But thatís all right: we didnít really expect that the Tangiers policing system would be able to wrap up the case. Hamdouchiís book also has missed opportunities (...) But as a guilty-pleasure read, it is a winner." - M.Lynx Qualey, The National

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:

       Whitefly centers on Detective Khalid Ibrahim of the Tangier Criminal Investigation Unit. He's known to all as 'Laafrit' -- "meaning 'crafty,' from his professional and linguistic aptitude: he was the only cop in Tangier who spoke Spanish fluently". Laafrit is literally all on his own when the book opens: the main police station in Tangier is deserted save for him, and the security guard at the door. Every last man has been called to deal with two demonstrations that are unfolding -- and look to merge into one big mess.
       Laafrit gets called in too -- and quickly comes to play a crucial role in defusing the situation. This plays out almost quaintly unrealistically, but then this 2000 (i.e. long pre-'Arab Spring') novel is from a more innocent era; presumably Hamdouchi also offers it to quickly establish Laafrit's bona fides -- a competent, take-action kind of detective, swooping in where needed but then going his own way again.
       Indeed, Laafrit is off again before much has been resolved: "Another body has just washed up" and he sets off to investigate. Three bodies have already been found, and it's presumed that they were: "harraga, the people who try to cross illegally" (into Europe, by boat) and drowned in the process. The latest victim is different, however, from his new clothes ... to the fact that he has four bullet holes in him:

     "It seems he wasn't killed," said Laafrit. "He was executed."
       Strangely, too, there are no bullet holes in the dead man's jacket: whoever killed him shot him first and then put his jacket back on.
       The fourth corpse obviously isn't a drowning victim, and his death can't have been accidental. But does it connect to the three bodies that washed up recently?
       Whitefly is a straightforward police procedural: Laafrit is on the case and chases down the clues. He has to identify the dead body, and he presses the rather lackadaisical coroner to be thorough with the autopsy -- which reveals, for example, the fine last meal the victim had. Laafrit learns the victim's identity, and more about his background -- and his connections to Spain -- but, of course, the information doesn't immediately add up to a simple answer:
     Laafrit shook his head, trying to understand what was going on. He realized that the case, instead of clearing up, was only becoming more confusing.
       His investigation takes him far afield through Morocco. His contacts in Spain also pay off, and eventually the pieces fall into place -- even if Laafrit is perhaps too casual with some of the evidence (chain of custody protocols for evidence are apparently ... lax in Morocco). Still, the explanation behind the deaths is decent (if a bit too heavily and easily relying on some foreign conspiracy), even as the resolution is a bit abrupt and not entirely plausible. (Hamdouchi toys with making Whitefly something bigger than just a local police procedural -- there's quite a bit of an international thriller here -- but backs down from it -- except for the over-the-top (if also more or less off-scene) conclusion, and easily eases Laafrit back into his much smaller, more mundane world (a lengthy walk pretty much enough to have: "cleansed him somewhat of the blame he felt").)
       If the writing in Whitefly is occasionally stilted, the novel nevertheless offers a decent police procedural-story -- and enjoyable insight into a different (policing and other) culture. Personal asides -- old Inspector Allal who turns to religion (a modern kind of Sufism) after undergoing prostate surgery; Laafrit's strained marriage, with how he and his wife came to marry only revealed deep into the novel -- also flesh out the novel nicely, though Hamdouchi leaves little space or time to really dig into these interesting side-stories.
       Whitefly is a bit by-the-numbers, but there's enough to it to make for an enjoyable quick read, a police procedural offering a decent crime-story as well as a nice slice of local color and customs.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 March 2016

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Whitefly: Reviews: Other books by Abdelilah Hamdouchi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Moroccan author Abdelilah Hamdouchi (عبد الإله الحمدوشي) was born in 1958.

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