What does a police force do with officers that are unwanted, but not incompetent enough, or trouble enough, to be able to fire? Well the police judiciare in Paris figured it out. You create a squad of “misfits” that are expected to just sit around and wait for their pensions to vest. However, if the powers that be actually place in charge a commander that wants to get things done, then you really should expect some interesting results. So begins the new novel, The Awkward Squad, by French journalist Sophie Henaff.
Relegated to overseeing this group of na’er-do-wells, Commissaire Anne Capestan has decided not to let anyone get in the way of solving the cold case files withwhich her squad has been saddled. She is vibrant, brilliant, commanding and greatly damaged herself. But she tries her best to lead this rag-tag bunch of police officers. There is the drunk, the bad-luck charm, the internal investigative officer who was by-the-book with the wrong people, the punched one-to-many-times cyber expert officer, the policewoman-turned-novelist-turned-tv writer who wanted to return to work but didn’t get the reception she quite expected officer, and then there is the gay officer. A decorated police negotiator who, after he filed a complaint because his homophobic boss wouldn’t let him take bereavement leave, found himself among those that the force simply wanted to sit in a corner and go away.
They come together in a dilapidated out-of-the-way apartment, that was for all intense and purposes, to be used for their office. From wangling furniture, wallpaper, and even a coffee maker, to figuring out which cases to investigate, we follow this group of bright, energetic, and caring people as they discover who among the Parisians are murderers. But it is not so easy. The culprit, and the original crime, go back decades on the other side of the Atlantic. But more than the daunting reality of decades old and new murders being connected, there is also someone in the department that is a bent copper impeding their investigation.
The question is who is that copper? How high does any cover up go? How does our squad protect their lives, and prove their worth to their compatriots, as they figure out the answers to all of their questions, and actually arrest the right person?
I found the characters in this book absolutely charming. The writing is fast paced, and on the edge of your seat interesting. Never mind the lovely travelogue of Paris, and the surrounding countryside, this story could be from any city, and about any police force.
I highly recommend it.
Translated from the French by Sam Gordon.
This book is available April 3, 2018.