RARA-AVIS: Grang麠Les Rivi貥s pourpres (1998)

From: Karin Montin ( kmontin@sympatico.ca)
Date: 21 Jun 2006

This book by Jean-Christophe Grang頨as been published in English as Blood-Red Rivers (trans. Ian Monk), The Blood-Red Rivers, and The Crimson Rivers, as far as I can tell. Whether they're all the same translation, I don't know. A movie was made starring Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel and Nadia Fares, directed by Mathieu Kassovitz.

Two unusual police officers are working on separate cases, which of course become one near the end of the book.

Pierre Ni魡ns is a brilliant middle-aged Parisian detective prone to extreme violence. He's physically fit and has a brush cut. After he beats a soccer hooligan, he's sent to a small university town in central France to consult on a murder case and keep him out of the public eye for a while. A dead man is suspended on a cliff above a river. His eyes have been replaced by water. Other murders ensue. Ni魡ns insists that they are not the work of an American-style serial killer; no, they are a series of killings by someone with a specific motive.

Meanwhile Karim Abdouf is investigating the descecration of a grave in a tiny village an hour or so away. He's an orphan, a French-born Arab, who became a police officer after putting himself through law school by stealing cars. He's tall, thin and has dreadlocks. He's somewhat resistant to authority and has been exiled to the countryside, where he has had no opportunity to use his highly developed detective skills--until now.

The motive for the killings (and Abdouf's case) is extremely weird. At times I feared the plot was veering over into science fiction territory. It didn't, really, but it was close. It all has to do with some people who had noticed that the inbreeding among university faculty had resulted in extremely intelligent, yet physically defective offspring over the course of several generations, while the peasant folk nearby were extremely fit, yet not necessarily academically inclined. What if the two groups could be crosspollinated?

I won't tell you any more. The killings and mutilations are gruesome, the "stagings" extremely complicated and farfetched, and the story behind the motive likewise farfetched. In other words, I didn't really like it. Too bad, because I would have liked to see more of Abdouf at work.


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