An Île-de-France police squad specifically designed to corral misfits and make the rest of the department look good lands a pair of cold cases that promptly turn red-hot.
Since Commissaire Anne Capestan half expected to be fired after her latest unauthorized shooting, she’s half relieved to be placed instead in charge of a new squad nominally expected to reopen old cases that have slipped between the cracks. In truth, as her mentor, Buron, informs her with a straight face, the squad has been expressly designed as a dumping ground for drunks, insubordinates, and incompetents who can’t be fired but who aren’t expected to do anything else, including showing up in the office. Of the 40 cops assigned to the squad, Capestan expects maybe half of them to report for duty; the actual number turns out to be seven. She asks widowed Commandant Louis-Baptiste Lebreton to team up with celebrity mystery writer Eva Rosière, back on the job after an extended leave to launch her TV series Laura Flames: Detective, to investigate the 1993 shooting of merchant navy quartermaster Yann Guénan while she pairs off with jinxed Lt. José Torrez, whose earlier partners have had a disconcerting habit of getting wounded or killed in the course of doing their jobs, to revisit the 2005 strangling of retired teacher Marie Sauzelle, apparently by an unusually tidy and solicitous burglar. Defying every expectation but that of the genre’s conventions, the two cases turn out to be connected—and lead Capestan’s squad to corruption deep in the ranks of upper-level colleagues who’ve made their disdain for the squad, though not their criminal complicity, clear from the beginning.
Hénaff’s debut, an amusingly literal Parisian version of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s tales about Copenhagen’s equally marginal Department Q, combines conscientious mysterymongering with good, somewhat clean fun.