2 Crime Novels Better Than Any Series on Netflix Right Now

For the longest time, I thought of crime novels as an interesting world into which I would venture once I exhausted all the treasures of literary fiction. Yes, that’s how arrogant and naïve I was until last year, when Dennis Lehane’s Ténèbres, prenez-moi la main (Darkness, Take my Hand) landed on my nightstand.

Now, one year later, I have to remind myself to read some “mainstream/literary” fiction in between the crime novels that I devour with gusto on my couch most weekends. That is why this week, I am writing this note especially for you, readers of so-called “mainstream/literary” fiction, to remind you that the fiction label doesn’t reserve any purpose other than allowing the book industry to organize its production. Nothing more, nothing less.

Crime fiction is a superficial category that includes some of the greatest masterpieces ever written. So if, like me, you enjoy nothing else more than an unputdownable story anchored by memorable characters that speaks to its time with power, emotion, and insight, then these two masterful novels — Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (trans. by Anne Rabinovitch, ed. Liana Levi) and Traverser la nuit by Hervé Le Corre (Rivages) — are for you.

Image credit: Quatre sans quatre

Reading List

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Darren Mathews, a Black Texas Ranger, has known better days. He’s currently suspended from his job because he tried to help an old friend in trouble, and his marriage is, like the whiskey he consumes without moderation, on the rocks.

That’s when a friend from the Feds’ office informs him about a double murder: a black lawyer and a white woman whose bodies were found in the same bayou out in Lark, a small East Texas town resting on Highway 59.

In no time, Mathews is at the wheel of his pickup, with a whiskey bottle in his luggage, determined to find out whether the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas — local white supremacist group — is involved in these assassinations.

Matthews’s investigation in this small town, where everyone knows each other, sheds light on the many historical layers and unexpected human connections that sustained the small town of Lark, a complex network that only reflects the extent of the region’s troubled past over property, race, and love. A wonderful story of love and hate.

Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke, trans. by Anne Rabinovitch (Liana Levi)
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Traverser la nuit by Hervé Le Corre

In Bordeaux, at the early stages of les Gilets Jaunes movement. with the protests in the background, and under a continuous rain, 3 adrift characters will cross paths.

First comes Louise, a house cleaner; she raises her son alone, doing her best to avoid the blows from an ex-lover, and the memories of her parents who died when she was still a child.

Second is the commandant Jourdan, who investigates a series of women’s killings, which he suspects is linked to human trafficking by an Eastern European mafia. Because he can’t face his failing marriage, Jourdan has knocked himself out with work and is flirting dangerously with his breaking point.

Last is Christian, ex-military, fired from the army for reasons unknown to us but that we will come to suspect as we read further. Christian is subject to terrible impulses that he satisfied with the murder of vulnerable women.

Traverser la Nuit is an exploration of territories deserted by hope. A father kills his family, women without ID papers are drugged, abused, forced into prostitution: welcome to Hervé Le Corre’s land! Flamboyant at times, minimalist at others, Hervé Le Corre’s prose is supple and agile. It adapts to each character, expresses their individual complexity, contradiction and suffering in their tiniest detail. A magnificent portrait of the twilight of a city, unless perhaps it is a twilight of our very own society.

Traverser la Nuit, a novel by Hervé Le Corre (Rivages)
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After almost two decades of working in publishing, and a few round trips between Paris and New York, Miriam has decided to settle down at Albertine to do what she enjoys most: recommending books she loves. Somehow this also includes taking bizarre pictures for Albertine's social media outlets.
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