Paris, Friday 14th June 1940.
The day the Nazis march into Paris, making headlines around the globe.
Paris police detective Eddie Giral – a survivor of the last World War – watches helplessly on as his world changes forever.
But there is something he still has control over. Finding whoever is responsible for the murder of four refugees. The unwanted dead, who no one wants to claim.
To do so, he must tread carefully between the Occupation and the Resistance, between truth and lies, between the man he is and the man he was.
All the while becoming whoever he must be to survive in this new and terrible order descending on his home…
I was reluctant to read this book at first, having studied Nazi history, I remember how harrowing the truth was and I wasn’t keen to dip my toes back into that particular pool.
However, The Unwanted Dead, is a very well written mystery worth reading.
Inspector Giral is a man with a troubled and troubling past. He’s set to investigate the murder of four men in a railway truck. But they were just Poles, and why should the remaining French Police or the occupying Germans care? Only Giral does care and he’s not the giving up kind. Not when another Pole commits suicide, taking his young son with him.
The multilayered structure of the Nazi and German military and officialdom are pitted against Giral in this case, and against each other. There are French soldiers fleeing from the occupiers. There are Poles fleeing and fighting for their lives. There’s evidence that can’t be found. Deserters who may have more evidence, and maybe not.
On the way Giral confronts enemies on all sides, not to mention within. The flashbacks to what he’s suffered are revealing as to his nature, and explain his family situation. None of which is a shining example of good and gracious behaviour. The moment he meets Dax is particularly interesting.
Strangely, that character that kept me reading was not Giral, but Major Hochstetter. Some of the best lines in the book are either about him or said by him.
It has to be said too, that Giral really is put through the wringer during the course of his investigation. Pretty much every side beats him up at least once. Maybe that affected his thinking because the thing that actually annoyed me, was that the evidence when found was in the obvious place, and it shouldn’t have taken over 420 pages to have got there.
I can see why it won a HWA award, it’s well worth reading.