cover image People Like Them

People Like Them

Samira Sedira, trans. from the French by Lara Vergnaud. Penguin, $15 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-14-313627-9

Inspired by a 2003 mass homicide in Haute-Savoie, French author Sedira’s too-slight English-language debut opens with the trial of Constant Guillot, a white working-class man from Carmac. Constant is charged with murdering his wealthy, sophisticated new neighbors—Bakary Langlois, a Gabon-born Black man raised in Paris; Bakary’s white wife, Sylvia; and the couple’s three mixed-race children, all between the ages of seven and 12. There’s no doubt of Constant’s guilt, as he confessed in gory detail. The only open question is what incited the atrocity—a mystery that narrator Anna, Constant’s partner and the mother of his three- and six-year-old daughters, reflects upon while the court case progresses. Though Sedira paints a colorful portrait of life in a provincial French village, she offers only a cursory examination of Constant’s possible motives, rendering the tale more character sketch than fully fledged novel. Key events unfold either via flashback or prosecutorial monologue, sapping them of immediacy and impact. Crime fiction fans will be left wanting. Agent: Marleen Seegers, 2 Seas Literary. (July)