Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

Arab Jazz

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

French fiction

Original Title – Arab jazz

Translator – Sam Gordon

Source – Review copy


it was back in ’32 when times were hard
He had a Colt .45 and a deck of cards
Stagger Lee

He wore rat-drawn shoes and an old stetson hat
Had a ’28 Ford, had payments on that
Stagger Lee

His woman threw him out in the ice and snow
And told him, “Never ever come back no more”
Stagger Lee

So he walked through the rain and he walked through the mud
Till he came to a place called The Bucket Of Blood
Stagger Lee

I choose Stagger lee a traditional Lyric based on an actual murder by Lee Shelton in 1895 .

Well I’m a bit late in reviewing this as I finished it earlier in the year but I need to clear my backlog of books I’ve read and this one is a book that is so timely .karim Miske is not just a writer but he also makes Documentaries in France .On subjects such as Deafness and one about the common root of Jewish and Islamic religion which given the setting and subject of this book shows he has interest in the interaction between people and religions .This is his first book to be translated into English .

She is upright , tied fast to the other side of the railing  with white electrical cable . He moves towards her big blue eyes staring into the abyss . It is though he is seeing her for the very first time , as if death alone could show him her face in all its soft benevolent beauty .

The body is found , I found this so well written and translated by Sam Gordon .

Now I ask you to take a close look at the cover of this book it wasn’t till I read the first few pages of this book I went back and had a look at the cover again and saw a number of parts I had missed . well the story starts when aa young woman is found dead .But not just that she is tied to a railing when , she is found dead in and also heavily mutilated . Now this body happens to be above a pork joint in the middle of the 19th arrondissement which is a mix pot of Modern Paris with a cosmopolitan mix of people living there . We get two detectives that have to throw aside the views when they initially are assigned the case and delve into this powder keg that wouldn’t take a lot to explode to find the killer .But not just that find the killer and hope it doesn’t set of a chain reaction because of who they find .The case takes them to the two sides of modern life The ultra modern hip hop a band that was once made up of various people from the are and then the darker side of Islamic extremism .

A local rap group . If I remember rightly , the four members were Moktar and Reuben – the guys the girl mentioned – as well as Alpha and Mourad .. I’d put good money on them being Bintou and Aicha elder brothers . Nowadays they’re fully paid up regulars at the Salafist prayer room along with Moktar .

The lives of this group went various ways in the modern Paris where Rappers and extremist maybe grew up in the same room .

Now given the events of earlier this year .Is it this book maybe not the Houellebecq we should all be reading ( I know if you don’t read french like myself we are having to wait for the Houllebecq )  .I have said before I am not the biggest crime fan but when crime novels are well written and use the world around them . They can be wonderful bits of social commentary from Steig Larsson with the abuse of woman .The modern crime novel can tell us a lot more about the world around the crime and this is the case in this book which in a way captures the world in Paris just before the Charlie Hebdo , as the two brothers who commit the attack had lived in the 19th arrondissement  and had been radicalized by a preacher in that district . So the world that the Detectives  Rachel and Jean are investigating isn’t so far torn from the real world .

Can you think of any Crime novels that capture a place and social situation well ?


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 10:08:45

    I do think this is a better description of multicultural France – and its tensions – than Houllebecq. I liked the social commentary aspects of it more than the crime elements, but he is spot on with his dissection of all religions in their extreme forms.


  2. hastanton
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 10:19:21

    I have this to read too ( although in French ) have heard good reports. I really liked the Houllebecq tho …..


    • winstonsdad
      Apr 11, 2015 @ 10:21:10

      Can’t wait to try Houellebecq to see what it is like like this it does what crime can do well get to the heart of a social circle


      • hastanton
        Apr 11, 2015 @ 10:35:32

        Don’t believe some of the rather reductive reviews that have appeared . He’s playing with ideas and deliberately asking some provocative questions . The voice of the ( unreliable) narrator is great …..I hope they get that right in the translation .

      • winstonsdad
        Apr 11, 2015 @ 10:38:01

        Me too I prefer frank translation of his work myself

  3. Jonathan
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 12:44:21

    That’s a great cover.


  4. Messy_Tony
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 23:03:25

    You know Stu that I’ll have to read this now, given I’m looking forward to the Houellebecq (“Submission”). Great cover too, oh now I’m stressed…I need a year off to catch up on my reading.


  5. Max Cairnduff
    Apr 13, 2015 @ 15:46:17

    It sounds excellent Stu. For me capturing place and social situation is a classic concern of the crime genre, in part I think of crime fiction as a moral investigation of society. It sounds like this does that rather well. I’ll check it out.

    Nice to have a non-generic cover too…


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April 2015


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