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The Awkward Squad - Sophie Hénaff

As with any book that is on the same lines as a TV series, there is a trace of British TV’s New Tricks in this, as brilliant police officer Anne Capestan is parachuted in to lead a team of misfits to look at decades-old cases.

Her husband has walked out on her, she has been suspended from duties for six months and, at 37, Commissaire Capestan has just been told she is taking charge of the lowest of the low of the Police Judiciaire. A squad of 40 and with all the unsolved crimes in the region, no matter how old.

Her police superiors now have a 100% rate of solved crime… she has 0% and a massive stack of crime files in the basement of their new office.

Offbeat and quirky, the translation by Sam Gordon bounces along as the deadbeats look at their first cold cases and find that there is more than meets the eye.

Selecting two to work on first, a murdered sailor and an old woman killed in a burglary gone wrong, they start to find out more as they dig. Unfortunately they dig up a fresh body and it happens to be one of the first witnesses they interviewed.

The plotting is intricate and involving and, despite some initially confusing switches in which plot we are following, it becomes engrossing as well as funny as the idiosyncrasies of the officers push the squad to develop as a team.

Or rather teams, as they are paired off in seemingly strange ways that reveal Hénaff and Gordon’s skill in giving the characters believable quirks that combine to work well together.

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