The Unwanted Dead

Written by Chris Lloyd

Review written by Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of 23 spy and crime thrillers. His last book was ‘Smart Moves’ – a standalone – and his next is ‘Rocco and the Price of Lies’ (April 2019), the 6th in the Insp Lucas Rocco series set in rural France of the 1960s. More information: https://www.adrianmagson.com/


The Unwanted Dead
Orion Publishing
RRP: £16.99
Released: September 17 2020
HBK

For Paris police detective Eddie Giral, the arrival in the city in June 1940 of German forces is a vast problem on top of numerous other smaller, but just as worrying ones weighing him down.

The detective’s wife has long left him, along with their son; the distrust of colleagues is rampant and he is being hounded by the burden of his military service in World War 1. It’s no surprise that he has repeated thoughts of ending it all with a bullet.

But Giral is a professional, albeit not always an ethical cop or at times a reliable one. But the discovery of four dead Poles in the rail yard near the Gare D’Austerlitz, poisoned by what seems to be phosgene gas – a nightmare reminder of his years in the trenches – begins to ensnare him beyond what his boss, his colleagues and even a senior German officer, Major Hochstetter, consider worthwhile. It is Hochstetter who serves as a puzzling counterpoint contact for Giral, acting at times deeply threatening and at others almost protective of the Frenchman, as if he looks on him as some kind of amusing plaything while harbouring some kind of agenda of his own.

When another Pole dies by jumping off a balcony clutching his young son and leaving behind some puzzling documents, Giral becomes almost obsessed with the deaths, seeing in them a connection to atrocities committed by the Nazis in Poland. An American journalist is also cruising the area looking for a decent story to send back home, as is a group of Poles seeking to get the Americans to join in the war effort by uncovering what they know as the truth yet cannot prove. As if he doesn’t need any further shocks, he finds his son, now a French soldier on the run in Paris, seeking help but hating his father for deserting him.

The search for answers is conducted among so many lies and distortions, against a vividly sour background of a city trying to adjust to a new normal under German rule, its citizens’ liberty savagely curtailed. And in the centre is Giral, caught between doing his duty and trying to remain true to himself, while around him swirl the mixed forces of colleagues, the resistance, journalists and the German establishment made up of the army, the Gestapo and the SS – even to Giral being paraded by Hochstetter to watch Adolf Hitler doing a conquering whistle-stop tour of the city.

This is a police story with a difference, sepia-painted to match the time and circumstances, with a convincing background an atmosphere, skilfully drawn to encompass the fates of the lead characters as if you were there by their side.

Well-written and carefully researched, it is one to stay with you long after you have finished reading.



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