... a fascinating amalgam of gruesome headlines...and Sedira's personal experience ... The Algerian-born French novelist, playwright and actor Sedira intertwines these disparate events to create a jarring narrative of privilege and power ... Sedira plots a tight, terse novel, made particularly intriguing with Anna as cipher ... her searing fiction further exposes the reality of monstrous inhumanity.
Samira Sedira believes that a writer’s role is not to judge or take sides, but to 'attempt to get closer to the shadows' ... her taut novel, deftly translated by Lara Vergnaud, does precisely that ... Although the Guillots swiftly befriend the Langlois family, it’s a troubled relationship from the outset. When Anna agrees to work as their cleaner, Sedira brilliantly conveys the damage inflicted by her subservient role ... Sedira lays bare the perils of a callous society dominated by money and status, and the insidious racism that drives an ordinary man to murder. There are no monsters, she claims, 'only humans.'
From the very first pages, you feel how dreadful life is in Carmac, a tiny mountain village ... The style has a great flow, very well conveyed in translation, as the narrator addresses her husband while reminiscing ... The author, who focuses on class relations, did a fantastic job at capturing the French social background, and at conveying the local color of life in a small village. The fourth chapter focusing on Abbott and Costello, the two old pillars of the cafe, is a gem, so spot on. It will sound very familiar to anyone living in a tiny place in France ... Ultimately, Sedira is offering a study on human nature.
Sedira packs a powerful punch, exploring the class-race divide through Constant, Anna, and the rest of the town’s residents. The graphic murders stand in stark contrast to Sedira's subtle accounting of Constant’s tortured path. At the center of the tragedy is complicity: Constant is never made to realize that a bad hand might be crippling but not reason enough to take it out on the perceived 'other.' Deeply unsettling yet compulsively readable.
Though Sedira paints a colorful portrait of life in a provincial French village, she offers only a cursory examination of Constant’s possible motives, rendering the tale more character sketch than fully fledged novel. Key events unfold either via flashback or prosecutorial monologue, sapping them of immediacy and impact. Crime fiction fans will be left wanting.