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The Pretty How Town by Nicolas Freeling

The Pretty How Town (1992)

by Nicolas Freeling

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I can't understand why Freeling isn't more well known. His laconic style might be a handicap to some, but a delight, surely, to others? His Cook Book, and Kitchen Book, too, are fab. ( )
  aesop | Mar 29, 2007 |
In the realistic depiction of crime, Freeling has few peers. He gets all the important things right about the discovery: the shock, and at the same time an extraordinary lack of drama; the pre-eminence of brute fact.

There is a scene in his new novel, The Pretty How Town, when the hero, an off-duty policeman, goes to check out the site of a murder before the real police get there - before, in fact, they even know. It is the sort of thing that private detectives have done a million times. Reading Freeling's version, you can see what all the others have done wrong. This is how it might really happen.

He understands police procedure, too: the irrelevance of 'detection'; the importance of interrogation and coincidence. This is not a kind of trainspotter's understanding, but one rooted in a knowledge of human nature, showing at once the necessity and the limits of police routines, and the transformation of suffering into bureaucratic detail.

So on every external, on all the counts that matter, Freeling is more than very good: he is first-rate.

All his novels are as much about the detective as about the criminal, and his policemen are more closely attached to their professions than their roots. Almost all his characters, indeed, are wandering cosmopolitans, practising trades that will always be needed everywhere, and thus excluded from the lives of monoglot people. They all have interesting relations with bourgeois society, but nationalities exist only to be escaped from.

The Pretty How Town deals with this problem neatly, by examining the lives of the Eurocrats themselves - people with a specific society of their own, and the task of blurring everyone else's. So the Europe that is made from specific and highly differentiated cultures recedes from Freeling's grasp, and instead we get a homogenised smear, like Brussels-approved cheese. His characters even start to talk about Europe. When a Freeling policeman starts talking about Europe, it is enough to make the victim long for a clean bludgeoning with truncheons instead.
added by VivienneR | editThe Independent, Andrew Brown (Jul 27, 1992)
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For all my Europeans , and especially for Geneviève, Ursula, Sylvie
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Before leaving Paris I was sent for.
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aka Flanders Sky
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0892964928, Hardcover)

For Inspector Castang, life in the cosmopolitan setting of Brussels proves more than either he or Vera bargained for. When his boss is arrested for murder and a child abuser becomes a crime statistic, Castang realizes that crime is universal--and his skills as an investigator are as revelevant in the corridors of power as in the back alleys of Paris.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:12 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Henri Castang, French representative in the joint European department of judicial services, finds himself involved in a moral drama after disconcerning the dead body of his supervisor's wife.

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