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A gloriously comic tale of blunder and disguise, set in the vibrant Parisian quarter of Belleville.
Daniel Pennac was born in Casablanca in 1944, his father being in the army. He travelled widely in his youth, in Europe, Asia and Africa, and has been employed in a number of capacities, including woodcutter, Paris cab driver, illustrator and schoolteacher. His "Belleville Quintet", written round the character of Benjamin Malaussene, has been published in many languages.
French novelist Pennac arrives in America with his stylish second crime novel (published in France as La Fée carabine, in 1987) featuring mild-mannered publishing peon Benjamin Malaussène. In the ethnic Parisian neighborhood of Belleville, a sinister plot emerges to get old people hooked on drugs, steal their apartments and, sometimes, kill them in the process. The case befuddles the Paris police force, especially when the "wrinklies," as they are lovingly called, train themselves to shoot back at their tormentors. The detectives on the case are young, effete Pastor, who wrings confessions by being nice, and half-Vietnamese Van Thian, who operates undercover as the aged Widow Ho Chi Minh. Meanwhile, narrator Malaussène staves off threats of dismissal from his ogre employer and (out of his love for a curvaceous journalist) takes several of the wayward "granddads" into his already overflowing family of dotty siblings and their ever-prolific mother. Pennac's slang-smart police procedural is a terrifically energetic effort, with a memorable roster of distinct characters (especially the granddads). Translator Monk has tackled many of Georges Perec's works. Still, the novel is a bit of a throwback: while Pennac does take pains to be politically correct, his stereotyped women are as out-of-date as their typewriters. (Jan.)
"These are...classic page-turners, in which the loyalty and decency of ordinary (and not so ordinary) people contrive to vanquish villains and tyrants" -- Ruth Morse Times Literary Supplement "Already a bestseller in its native country, it deserves to be one here if there's any justice in the world of crime" -- Maxim Jakubowski Time Out "There is only profit and pleasure to be had in this wise, good-humoured, funny book" -- David Coward Times Literary Supplement "A crime novel in a class of its own, you'll laugh till you cry" -- Bertrand Audusse Le Monde