Death on the Rive Nord
This is the second in Magson’s Lucas Rocco series, set in Picardie in the early 1960s. Rocco, a tough Parisian detective posted to the country as part of a new crime fighting initiative, is now well settled in his rural home, living contentedly enough with fruit rats in his loft and a landlady bent on marrying him off. But his peace is shattered when the body of an Algerian immigrant turns up in the canal on his patch.
In many ways a darker and subtler novel than Death on the Marais, the first in the series, Death on the Rive Nord takes us into the shadowy world of illegal immigration to France from North Africa in the wake of Algerian independence in 1962. The setting is not the picturesque and ghostly marshlands of the first novel, but a seedy, liminal world of industrial suburbs where illegals are mercilessly exploited and powerless to fight back. Parallels with present day Europe are not laboured, even though the reader cannot avoid drawing them.
Magson populates his novel with the requisite cast of tough heroes, feisty women and monstrous villains. The assassin, Bouhassa, in his djellaba and safety glasses (don’t ask), is particularly Bond-esque. The novel is ingeniously plotted and works up to an unexpected climax in which Rocco makes a spectacular escape from drowning and takes an unorthodox approach to the administration of justice for the murderer. His story also sets us up well for the next in the series, with the introduction of a possible love interest for Rocco. A thoroughly enjoyable read from an accomplished crime writer, though do not expect the high-octane shenanigans of the previous novel.