Dorsa’s novel of mystery and intrigue in Corsica tells the coming-of-age story of a young Arab immigrant.
After a night of drinking and card playing, wealthy vineyard owner Bernard Franceschini is killed in a mysterious crash on a coastal road. Salim, Bernard's bright young Arab business assistant and surrogate son, presses the local police into action because of his suspicions. Although Salim uncovers a mystery involving drugs, murder and the island’s underground nationalist movement, the novel’s heart seems to be in the less intense story of the challenges Salim faces as an Arab immigrant outsider, including discrimination that runs from subtle to violently blatant. Salim must balance his desire for success and assimilation with his Moroccan father’s pious religious influence. He also must choose between two women: his longtime schoolmate and girlfriend Maria or the older, worldly Sylvie, Bernard’s former lover. The novel’s foray into the wine business is less concerned with the romance of the trade than with the technical realities of making a vineyard work—picking the right spot for growing the grapes, marketing the product to restaurants and dealing with government bureaucrats. Although dialogue is sometimes too heavy on exposition, making some conversations seem stilted and awkward, the prose shines particularly when describing the rugged beauty of a landscape dotted by close-knit towns suspicious of outsiders. “On the right, the village stretched out on the sea like the bejeweled hand of an old lady, delicately leaning on a black velvet drape,” Dorsa writes of a nighttime view of the Corsican coast.
A crime thriller arresting for its sense of place and the people there.