An Algerian police chief grapples with a cloudy crime and a delicate departmental challenge.
The literary melancholy maverick Supt. Brahim Llob’s narration expresses is usually pro forma, but here his ennui has an edge of desperation. With crime down and his department running smoothly, he should be happy. Instead he’s restless and bored until grim, generally reliable detective Lino suddenly starts blowing off work. At length Llob’s superiors take notice and request, then demand, that Llob do something. In the middle of this crisis comes an urgent appeal from Professor Allouche, a brilliant psychoanalyst Llob has always admired now stuck in an asylum after a stint in prison on (probably trumped-up) charges of subversive behavior. Allouche firmly warns of the imminent release from prison of SNP, a prolific serial killer poised to kill again. Allouche’s reputation as a loon undermines Llob’s attempt to get the prison to hold SNP a little longer. Although Llob keeps watch on the building where SNP lives, he can’t prevent a murder there. Meanwhile, Llob learns that Lino’s erratic behavior stems from his romance with a manipulative woman he won’t give up. His rival for the lady’s affection is local power broker Haj Thobane. When the strongman barely escapes a gunman who kills his driver, Lino becomes the prime suspect in the murder.
This prequel to Khadra’s Algerian Trilogy (Autumn of the Phantoms, 2006, etc.) surprisingly caps the series, adding a psychological depth and narrative breadth worthy of the author’s mainstream thrillers.