Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
This is Antonin Varenne’s second novel to be translated into English. The first was Bed of Nails which was awarded prizes in France and received good reviews in the UK. Loser’s Corner is a special novel for its author. Its setting is part contemporary France and part the Algerian War of the 1950s and for the latter he has drawn on his father’s experiences.
The novel opens however in the present day with Georges ‘the Wall’ Crozat engaged in one last boxing match in his long and successful career before he gives it up to concentrate on his other career as a policeman. It isn’t his last, however, because he succumbs to the lure of easy money to pay for his sex life. It takes him into dark and dangerous waters. Side by side with Georges’ story, a young conscript Pascal Verini is setting off to join the French forces in Algeria over fifty years earlier, not knowing what he will have to face. Both their stories take them into a world of violence, atrocities and corruption.
The author brings the Algerian war to life well, although it tends to predominate over the characterisation and the plot becomes loose as a result. It is a bleak story with bleak characters, and at times a slow read. Nevertheless the novel is written with an energy and passion that made me wish the author had set the whole story in the Algerian War.
Translated and with notes by Frank Wynne