Thursday, December 17, 2009

DEAD MAN'S SHARE - Yasmina Khadra

FIRST LINE: "You'd think the world had stopped turning."

Brahim Llob is a police superintendent in Algiers where there seems to be a shortage on crime. In a crime fiction novel, you know that can't last long. So when the action happens in DEAD MAN'S SHARE, it's explosive.

Llob's lieutenant, partner and friend Lino is dating the wrong woman, the ex-girlfriend of the wealthy and powerful Haj Thobane. And not only is Lino dating her, he's flaunting the fact that he's dating her, and he's digging himself into a financial debt trying to impress her.

When an attempt is made on Haj Thobane's life with Lino's gun, Lino is arrested and left in deteriorating condition in jail. It's up to Llob to uncover the truth and free his friend before there is nothing left. But in the process of uncovering the truth, Llob finds far more than he ever planned about his country and its past.

In DEAD MAN'S SHARE Khadra paints a stunning picture of Algiers and the conflicts that face its people. Sacrifices are made, evils are sactioned and disparity rages:
"Abuse isn't an aberration for us, it's a culture, a vocation, an ambition."
Khadra's stunning use of language, translated by Aubrey Botsford, is the right balance to set the tone:
"A light rain weeps onto the city, and a limping wind batters its face against the wailing walls that our ramparts have become. A thin mist hangs its dirty laundry out at the corner of the street. It's as if all the world's depression has arranged to gather in our country to drain our morale."
create the atmosphere:
"On both sides, low cells, plunged in darkness. No tenants, just barred ratholes that send a chill down the spine. Further on, a soiled staircase plunges down to a horrifying lower level where further cells molder beneath thick layers of saltpeter. A penetrating stench irritates my eyes and throat. There are no skylights and no air vents, just stone walls sweating fetid secretions, with the feeling that one is wandering somewhere among the insalubrious mists of purgatory without the slightest chance of escaping unharmed."
and develop the characters without being ostentatious. Every word functions to heighten the reader's experience and propel the plot forward. Meanwhile, the events of the plot keep the reader on his/her toes as one twist follows the next at dizzying speeds.

DEAD MAN'S SHARE is at turns heartbreaking and uplifting. Llob believes so passionately in the justice he pursues, while others mock him and instruct him to leave well enough alone. But in the end, he simply embodies his own definition of sacrifice:
"Sacrifice isn't about dying for someone or for a cause; I'd even say that that is the least reasonable act of all, without a doubt. Sacrifice, true sacrifice is about continuing to love life despite everything."
I highly recommend DEAD MAN'S SHARE by Yasmina Khadra. Available from The Toby Press in trade paper (ISBN: 978-1-59264-269-4).


Anonymous December 17, 2009 at 10:22 AM  

Sounds interesting and different. I know very little about Algeria. I will try to get my hands on a copy.

le0pard13 December 17, 2009 at 10:58 PM  

Great review, Jen. And that cover artwork is stunning. Thanks for this.

S. Krishna December 22, 2009 at 11:45 AM  

I've been wanting to read some Yasmina Khadra, and this seems to be a great place to start. Thanks for the review!

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