cover image Blood-Red Rivers

Blood-Red Rivers

Jean-Christophe Grange. Harvill Press, $25 (328pp) ISBN 978-1-86046-660-1

A trigger-happy police superintendent from Paris and a dreadlocked maverick Arab policeman from a small French town are unlikely partners in this intricate thriller by French journalist Grang . First separately, then together, Pierre Ni mans and Karim Abdouf investigate a mind-boggling case involving suspected ritual killings, mistaken identities and long-held grudges in the French Alps. After Ni mans nearly kills a machete-wielding rioter during a street mel e, he is sent to the prosperous university town of Guernon to investigate the murder of a 25-year-old university librarian, who has been tortured, strangled and wedged up in the rock face of a towering glacier in the Alps. Interviews with the victim's beautiful bitchy wife and the young rock-climbing ice queen professor who found the body captivate Ni mans, but another young man is discovered killed and tortured before the veteran detective is able to make much progress on the case. Meanwhile, Abdouf is pursuing his own investigation into the desecration of a mysterious child's grave in a nearby depressed small town. Fifteen years after the boy was buried, Abdouf finds himself searching for clues to his true identity and picks up a thread that leads him to Guernon and Ni mans. Dozens of falsified files from the maternity ward at the university hospital, an old story of a woman who believed she and her daughter were being pursued by demons, and the gradually emerging outline of a killer's remorseless drive for revenge finally guide Ni mans and Abdouf to a terrifying, climactic scene at river's edge. This brainteaser will have readers tied up in knots long before Grang 's Gallic version of the Odd Couple join forces in the last quarter of the book. Though the denouement, in which a decades-old megalomaniacal scheme is revealed, strains credibility, Grang 's fully developed characters--particularly second-generation French-Arab Abdouf--keep the tale firmly anchored in reality. (Aug.)