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The Awkward Squad by Sophie Hénaff

The Awkward Squad

by Sophie Hénaff

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In this debut novel by Henaff, all the misfits and unwanted police officers are thrown into one squad; The Awkward Squad. And the leader is Anne Capestan who has anger management issues of her own. Their job is to solve all the old Cold Case files. Out of the boxes of robberies, drug dealers, and other unsolved cases, two murder files come to light. After years of being unsolved, how will they find the murderers and give the victims justice?

I haven’t read a crime/thriller for a while, and I’m glad I started with this one. I hate reading crime books where I figure out the killer way before I’m supposed to. Not with this case. Henaff does an excellent job leading the reader through the crimes and the clues. There’s a large cast of characters, but they are introduced slowly throughout the story, so we don’t get confused by who they are. Another pet peeve of mine is an author drowning the reader in a mass of characters within the first few chapters.

Henaff’s characters are well-developed with their own demons to overcome. The story is rich in detail and kept me engaged. My favorite character is Eva Rosiere and her doggy companion. She’s loud, brash, and lonely. She found wealth and fame as a crime writer but also found herself ostracized by her fellow men in blue.

This is the first book in a series, and one I wouldn’t mind following. Especially if each episode is as exciting as this one. I also wonder, how many more of the unwanted officers will show up in the Squad?

Speaking of the Squad, the only part I found unbelievable is the squad itself. In the US, any officers that had committed the crimes these people did would have been fired or retired. They wouldn’t be shuffled around from department to department. Maybe they have a different type of union in France that doesn’t allow that.

I received this ebook as a reviewer for Netgalley, and it does state it is an uncorrected version. I just hope an editor does some work on it as the writing is passive and there are huge blocks of narration that need to be broken down to make the pace and story flow better.

If you’re looking for a new crime writer, I highly recommend this story, and I give it 4 stars. ( )
  saharafoley | Nov 26, 2017 |
A crime writer, a drunk, a gambler, a rat & a s**t magnet….these are just a few of the police officers Commissaire Anne Capestan inherits when she is “promoted” to lead the newly formed cold case unit of the Police Judiciaire of Paris. But then she’s in no position to judge. She got the new assignment due to her tendency to shoot people.

Anne’s boss is cleaning house & that means getting rid of all unsolved cases right along with officers who have been deemed “undesirables”. Their mandate is clear. The unit will set up shop in an old apartment building, furnished with boxes of cold case files. They can work on whichever ones they want. Or not. Show up each day as if they have a real job. Or not. Just stay away from police HQ. Approximately 40 cops of various rank are assigned to the unit. On the first day, 3 report for duty.

Eva Rosière is a flamboyant woman who made a fortune moonlighting as a crime writer. Unfortunately she wrote about what she knew….her colleagues. But she still loves being a cop & will get to work right after she does something about the deplorable lack of decor in their new office.

Lóuis-Baptiste Lebreton already knows Anne. He investigated her in his previous job with Internal Affairs & they didn’t exactly part on the best of terms.

“Malchance” Torrez is like a black cat. After losing a series of partners due to injury or death, no one wants to cross his path & he can clear a room by walking in the door.

Anne decides they have nothing to lose & after digging through all the boxes, 2 cases stand out. Yann Guénan was a sailor who was murdered 20 years ago in a professional style hit. Old age pensioner Marie Sauzelle was killed in her home 8 years ago in what looked like a robbery gone wrong. Anne & her colleagues pair up & begin to dig into the past. Turns out they’re not complete screw-ups after all & before they know it, that digging results in a fresh body.

In alternate chapters we follow 2 additional story lines. One introduces us to Alexandre & his wife Rosa as they await the birth of their first child in Florida. In the other we meet Gabriel & Manon, a young couple in Paris who just got engaged. The two stories play out decades apart, keeping the reader intrigued as we gradually discover how they are related.

This is the first in a popular French series featuring colourful characters who are the dregs of the Paris police force. While the crimes are serious, the story is full of dry offbeat humour. It’s just as much about these fallen heroes as it is about the cases & we gradually get the scoop on how each ended up an outcast.

The author loves her characters & she handles them with care. At first, they have much in common with the derelict apartment they’ve inherited…..abandoned, unwanted & a little worn around the edges. When Eva takes on redecorating the place (with some interesting choices) the others begin to contribute bits & pieces, unaware they’re creating a home that reflects their new “family”. These are people who were singled out in old jobs due to their mistakes. As they make progress on the cases, there’s a genuine esprit de corps that gradually develops as they learn to accept each others’ tics & foibles. As the apartment is transformed, so too are the detectives as they find a place where they no longer stand out for all the wrong reasons.

There are some great twists as the story lines converge. The old murders are just the tip of the iceberg & Anne & her crew are in for a few surprises. There’s a genuine warmth to this story of oddballs & it makes for a nice break from some of the grittier stuff. They’re an engaging bunch & here’s hoping Sam Gordon (who provides an excellent translation) is hard at work on book #2. ( )
  RowingRabbit | Apr 27, 2017 |
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"Suspended from her job for firing 'one Bullet too many', Commissaire Anne Capestan expects the worst when she is summoned to H.Q. Instead, she is surprised to be told that she is to head up a new task force, devoted to reopening cold cases. Relieved as she is to have her career back, Capestan is not overjoyed by the prospect of her new role. She is even less pleased as one by one her team present themselves: a squad of renouned troublemakers, not one of whom can be sacked - only removed indefinitely from active police duties"--Publisher description.… (more)

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