Saturday, October 15, 2011

RWC Semifinal 1: France vs Wales (Manotti vs Bauer)

After four tremendously exciting real-life quarterfinals in the Rugby World Cup 2011 last weeked, we now move on to the final four. While I would have picked McGilloway's BORDERLANDS over Belinda Bauer's BLACKLANDS, in a close call, crime fiction wise, the Welsh overcame the Irish on the field. And likewise French flair overcame English pragmatism, rugby-wise, meaning we've said goodbye to Mark Billingham as well. So this week we find ourselves with an intriguing France vs Wales match-up in the first quarterfinal.

As neither rugby team has made much of a change to their sides, and both will be looking to play a similar game tonight as took them to victory last week, I've decided to keep the crime fiction match-up the same as well (I was almost tempted to substitute in a Fred Vargas book that I purchased this year as France's representative, but decided to stick with Manotti).

So here we go for semifinal numero uno:

Representing France: THE LORRAINE CONNECTION by Dominique Manotti
In all honesty, I haven't yet read any French crime fiction - which is a travesty considering I go out of my way to source, purchase, and read plenty of translated crime fiction, and crime fiction from a variety of countries. I do have some French crime fiction that I have bought, but not yet read, however, including THE LORRAINE CONNECTION by Dominique Manotti, which I purchased earlier this year.

When a cathode ray tube factory in a small French town is hit first by a strike and then by a suspicious fire, the battle for the takeover of the plant’s beleaguered parent company heats up. The Lorraine factory is at the center of a strategic battle being played out in Paris, Brussels, and Asia for the takeover of the ailing state-owned electronics giant Thomson. Accusations of foul play fly, and rival contender Alcatel calls in its intrepid head of security Charles Montoya to investigate. He soon uncovers explosive revelations and a trail of murders, dirty tricks, blackmail, and corporate malfeasance.

Representing Wales: BLACKLANDS by Belinda Bauer
Another debutant on the crime fiction scene, Welsh author Bauer certainly hit the ground running with BLACKLANDS, which won the CWA Gold Dagger last year - a rare feat for a first novel. I read BLACKLANDS late last year, and enjoyed it. The novel centres on 12-year-old Steven Lamb, who spends his free time searching the windswept moors outside his small town, hoping to find trace of his uncle Billy whose disappearance two decades ago fractured the impoverished family in such a way that even though Steven wasn't born when it happened, he experiences the ongoing effects of the tragedy.

Desperate for closure, Steven turns to an imprisoned paedophile, writing him a letter that he hopes might garner some much-needed clues - but instead opening Pandora's Box to an even worse nightmare. I liked the way that even though Bauer's debut was seemingly simple in storyline terms and the way she writes, there was plenty going on underneath. BLACKLANDS delves deeply into character and human frailties, gives convincing “voice” to both child and child killer, and ably depicts the dark underbelly of English village life.

Result: Well, since I haven't read the Manotti book yet, it's probably a little tough to judge (although that does fit with not really knowing what France is going to offer tonight on the rugby field, to be fair - which France will indeed turn up). All in all, I'm probably in a similar place as rugby fans - I'm impressed by Bauer (and the Welsh team), and they're operating at a high level, but the French (Manotti) are an unknown quanitity that could swoop in, be brilliant (to read, or on the field), or fall far short. Coin toss territory.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post. I'm looking forward to reading the Belinda Bauer book, almost as much as watching the game. Come on Wales!