The Final Bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi




The Final bet by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Moroccan fiction

Original title – al-Rihan al-akhir

Translator – Jonathan Smolin

Source – review copy

This is the second from The new AUC impress Hoopoe fiction I was sent late last year . Abdelilah Hamdouchi is a Morrocan writer of crime fiction he was one of the first writers of this genre to be translated into English. He has written 8 novels and also written for television and cinema were all his novels have been made into Dramas. He lives in Rabat in  Morocco.

As for Sofia’s body, it was lying on the bed drenched in blood. Her nightgown was open at the waist. Her right arm was extended as if she wanted to grab something. The left hung down to the ground. She was lying on the edge of the bed and looked like she was about to fall off, but death had frozen her in this position. Alwaar stared at her pale face and understood the meaning of the inspector’s ambiguous smile.He looked for Boukrisha among the other cops in thee room.

“The young guy downstairs , that’s her husband ?”

Alwaar sees the dead seventy year old woman and on way to her room meet her thirty year old husband.

Well this book The final bet claims to have been the first Arabic crime novel to be translated to English.I have actually the original edition of this book when it came out a few years ago sat on my shelves , IO see the translation may have been update in this new edition. The book follows a murder the woman whom is murdered is a french woman living in Morocco , she married a few years earlier Othman a Moroccan who was forty years his wife Sofia’s Junior. He own son is even older than her husband and he is also about when the crime is committed . Now Othman has fallen for a woman more his own age since him and Sofia married Nameea , he get very little time to sneak out and meet his mistress. Sophia is ever watching so a walk out with the dog or a trip to the shop are the short snatches of time they capture. It is one of these meetings late one night Othman returns from his meeting to find his wife stabbed in her chest.. This enter the Moroccan Police in the form of a detective Alwaar and the inspector he reports too Boukrisha. They almost from the start put the crime as one cause by the husband , and blame him. Even thou he could give an alibi , he tries to get more help from an old friend who is now an up and coming Lawyer that has been waiting for a chance to show how the police can be wrong sometimes.

For alwaar, this was the most difficult stage of any investigation. He’d look for what the evidence was telling him and read from every angle before moving to the next step. This made Alwaar move slowly, testing the patience of his assistants, who were always standing around, awaiting orders.

he finally got down to buisnees.He walked around the beside table and, with a cloth wrapped around his hand opened the top drawer, taking out a box lined with silk. He opened the lid and found it full of jewelry: Gold earings, a diamond necklace, and a ring with a sparkling jewel.He immediately ruled out theft as a motive for the murder.

The point I felt Alwaar is part Maigret but this also point Othman is the main suspect!

This is a short Book  as i would say one of those evening reads . It is an interesting insight into a new police force . We haven;t had many books looking at law and order in the Arabic world, as this was one of the first crime novels from the arabic world to break out. I wonder how many more in the coming years we will see as we see the Police in this part of the world like it is here in Morocco has changed over time  This may be owes a debt to Simenon in a way the lead detective Alwaar is maybe an homage to the French detective , even down to having a scene at home like we often see in the Maigret novels. What on the surface from the police point of view as we could see the young man killing his rich much older wife is so much more it turns out.I enjoyed this it was an enjoyable crime novel with a new setting and angles in it .




For bread alone by Mohamed Choukri

This is my second read for the arabic summer reading challenge it is Mohamed Choukri’s the first of his trilogy of autobiographical novels ,Chourki lived a lot of what is in for bread alone ,having himself lived on the streets of Tangiers as a child .on its publication in 1966 it was banned in morocco ,til 2005 when it was finally published . so the book starts with Mohamed’s poor family deciding to move to Tangiers in search of a better life ,as their is a terrible drought and starvation where they are .

My mother kept telling me : be quiet .tomorrow we,re leaving for Tangier .there,s all the bread you want there .you won’t be crying for bread any more once we get to Tangier .

so the family set of ,and things don’t go well along the way the young Mohamed loses siblings and has to deal with his tyrannical father and when they reach Tangier he is drawn in to the seedy side of the cosmopolitan city ,end up in a world of petty criminal and lady’s of the night  .this is the start of a downward spiral for the young Mohamed .His brutal father beats on of his siblings to death .Mohamed eventually ends up in the arms of the law and prison ,which turns out to be his redemption as he discovers the written word and that there is more to life than what he has already seen ,

My little brother never had chance to sin .All he did was to live his illness .the old man who had helped to bury him told me : your brother is with the angels .has he become an angel  perhaps ? And I what shall I become ? A devil ,most likely .They say the little ones are angels and the big ones devils ,and it,s too late for me .

The end of the book you sense Mohamed has grown .

This book is simple written as a straight narrative ,in place Mohamed ‘s story remind me of Dickens stories you get the same sense of a large city having a dark underbelly and a dark underclass of people .He also wonderful transports you to the Tangiers of the time ,a real melting pot of a city with ex pat french and spanish arabs ,Berbers and others .In places this book is brutal ,Mohamed had a hard life but in the end you are given hope .Paul Bowles worked alongside Chourki on this translation ,as you’d expect it is fluid Bowles is a great writer himself and did a great job on Mohamed’s book .The book is published by Telegram book .

Winston’s score –


a camel ,there stubborn born survivors ,and a essential in north africa still ,very like this book ! 

this is part of the arabic lit challenge.

January 2018
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