Home > 2010, 21st Century, Aubenque Alexis, Beach and Public Transports Books, Crime Fiction, French Literature, Polar > Quais du polar #1 : Everybody will hate you by Alexis Aubenque

Quais du polar #1 : Everybody will hate you by Alexis Aubenque

Tout le monde te haïra by Alexis Aubenque. (2015) Not available in English. The title means Eveybody Will Hate You.

Quais_polar_logoThis is my first review of a book from my Quais du Polar TBR. Alexis Aubenque is a French crime fiction writer and Tout the monde te haïra (Everybody Will Hate You) is the first instalment of a series featuring the former-cop-now-PI Nimrod Russel and his former-partner-but-still-cop Tracy Bradshaw. Aubenque has already written twelve books and his trilogy River Falls won the Prix du Polar 2009 in Cognac. (Yes, that’s where the cognac is made and they have a crime fiction festival.) None of them are available in English.

AubenqueIn Tout le monde te haïra, we are in the fictional town of White Forest, Alaska. Alice Lewis arrives to the quaint city on a cruise boat. She’s not here on holiday but she’s looking for her stepsister who disappeared on her. Laura Barnes doesn’t respond to Alice’s texts and phone calls and even though they only got to know each other a few months before, Alice thinks something’s wrong. She accidentally bumps into Nimrod Russel who decides to help her. Everybody thinks that Laura left her husband to elope with her lover but Alice isn’t convinced. Laura is a journalist and she was writing articles about a shipwreck that happened in the 1920s. The boat was discovered a few months before, thanks to global warming and thawing ice floe.

Meanwhile, Tracy Bradshaw is sent on a crime scene where Sullivan Kruger was savagely murdered. He was found in a barn, hung and eviscerated with a hakapik, an Inuit weapon used to kill seals. Tracy soon discovers that he had disputable sex habits and wonders if it has anything to do with the murder.

Follows a fast paced story –everything happens within four days—that kept me interested enough to read it until the end. The plot is a bit farfetched at times but the characters held my attention, even if they’re a bit clichéd sometimes.

Nimrod Russel is a lone PI with troubled past who was kicked out of the police force because he did what he thought was right, even if it went against the establishment. He has an unconventional relationship with a bar owner named Holly. Tracy Bradshaw –God, with that name, I kept expecting her to fawn over some Jimmy Choo shoes—is more of the 2.1-kids-and-white-picket-fence type. She has a new partner in the police but is still in contact with Nimrod.

So far, so good.

I was worried about the Alaska setting and I was right to be. Something’s lacking in the Alaskan atmosphere. The climate is not right and the characters don’t behave accordingly. There’s a huge gap between Johnson’s believable rendition of Wyoming winters and Aubenque’s Alaskan December. Johnson lives in Wyoming and speaks from experience while Aubenque lives in France, as far as I know. Where the temperatures under -10°C are a rarity. So, it’s difficult to create characters who actually behave like they’re facing a winter in a polar climate. In other words, the setting which is key to the plot felt off compared to American writers like Jim Harrison. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to ask Alexis Aubenque why he chooses to write novels set in the USA. (The others are in the Rockies and in Seattle)

It also took me a few pages to get accustomed to the style of the book. It can be compared to James Patterson or Dan Brown. It’s not literary enough for me but I’d recommend it to foreigners who are learning French. It’s a page turner, it’s easy to read, grammatically correct, with no slang, short sentences and everyday life vocabulary. Perfect to improve in a language.

PS: This is not a translation tragedy.

  1. March 9, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    From your description, I would have worried about reading a book written by a French author set in Alaska. Same thing happens when I hear about a book written by an American author set in an English country village.

    Of course lots of authors relocate but some don’t and imagine their setting. Imagination can go far but sometimes it fails to hit the note too.

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    • March 10, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      I know. It all depends on whether the author has lived in the country or not. At the conference she gave at Quais du Polar, Elizabeth George, who’s American and whose novels are set in London, explained that before writing a new book, she spends at least 2 months in England. She wants to be there, read the papers, see what’s happening in the country.
      I don’t think you can write about a country you’ve never lived in. You can read all you want, there are things that you can only perceive by being there.

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  2. March 10, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Obviously writers often write books about places and situations that they know. I always wonder about the results when they tackle something that they do not know.

    Though I think that writing about the unfamiliar can work, it sounds like it did not here. It is too bad since Alaska is an interesting place and can be a great setting for fiction.

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    • March 10, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      There’s always the solution to write SF. Then you can do whatever you want and no one can contradict you. 🙂

      It takes a lot to write a place you never lived in and you always betrays your nationality somewhere. Here are two examples:
      The first one was in a fantastic book by Philippe Besson, set in Los Angeles. It worked well but he made a comparison about traffic jam being as bad as on a 15th of August. This is typically French: August is a month with a lot of tourists plus the French going on holiday. (don’t try to get ahold of anyone in a French company in the week of the 15th of August. There’s nobody) So everybody is on the roads, usually going South to reach their holiday location.

      The second one comes from Tout le monde te haïra. At some point, one of the character knocks themselves on something and take arnica medication to help with the bruise. He describes the character taking a little blue tube and three arnica granules. I don’t know how arnica in homeopathic form is sold in the USA, but in France it is sold in blue tubes like this.
      That’s the things you can’t invent when you’ve never lived in the country. The TV shows, the way things are sold, the habits people have.

      I don’t have the best memory of the books I read that were set in Alaska but I’m sure the landscape is breathtaking.

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  3. March 10, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Shame about the lack of sense of place in this one as I agree with Brian – Alaska has the potential to be an excellent setting for dark and disturbing fiction. It sounds like you’re planning to go to Aubenque’s session at the Quais du polar. It’ll be interesting to know why he chose Alaska. I wonder how he approached his research into the setting…

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    • March 10, 2016 at 9:03 pm

      I really hope I get the chance to talk to Alexis Aubenque. For once, I know what I want to ask to a writer. 🙂

      Like

  4. March 10, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    I too am puzzled why so many French writers (and Swiss – remember Joel Dicker) choose to set their books in the US… I know that we’ve all been brought up with lots of American films and books, but it does feel wrong at times, unless they have extensive experience of the region.
    I received a different free book with my pack, for which I am grateful: Ingrid Desjours ‘Les Fauves’, about an NGO fighting against the radicalisation of youngsters by the Islamic State – so very topical. I will post soon about my plans for Quais du Polar – there are too many things happening simultaneously (as usual, sigh!) so I will have to focus my efforts.

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    • March 10, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      I don’t know why they do that either. There are so many possibilities here too.

      You’re lucky you didn’t this one. Did you also get the Horowitz last year? I think their writing is comparable.

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  5. March 10, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    I think there’s so much really great US crime writing that it’s quite hard for a European author (I’ve seen a Brit try this too) to set a book there convincingly and compete with the locals and get those fine details right. Nimrod seems a bit odd as a name too.

    Crime is all about place in a way isn’t it? I mean not all of it, but a great deal. That evocation of the place where the book is set seems to me central to much good crime fiction, and very hard to do of an area the writer doesn’t personally know exceptionally well.

    The characters do seem a bit cliched. That can work because the plot’s the thing, but it can get a bit tiring too to see effectively the same few character types again and again. And why is it so often the guy who’s the maverick and the woman who’s the (less experienced) conformist?

    By the way, I would say questionable habits rather than disputable. I only mention that because you’ve said in the past you find it helpful – as with all your pieces I wouldn’t have guessed this wasn’t written by a native speaker if I didn’t already know that.

    The whole thing sounds like it might be more fun to watch as a tv show than to read.

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    • March 10, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      I don’t know why they don’t write something in the French countryside. There are so many possibilities. If cold is necessary, he should read Consequences by Philippe Djian and see you can perfectly write a good crime novel in France.

      I agree with you, crime is about the place because a lot of it relies on the atmosphere. The characters are a bit clichéed, yes. Nimrod sounded weird to me as well, I don’t know where he took it from.

      I do appreciate the remarks on my English. It’s helpful. Why do you say “questionable” rather than “disputable”? (I checked before using it because it felt a bit off but the dictionary said otherwise. I should trust my ear sometimes)

      It also crossed my mind that it could be a good TV series.

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  6. March 11, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    The first thing I was thinking – will that setting work and you conformed my suspicion.
    Too bad.

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    • March 12, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      It’s a risky bet and it didn’t work this time.

      Like

  1. February 11, 2017 at 5:53 pm

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