I love receiving a new book from Robert Goddard. He is a natural storyteller, and This is the Night They Come For You is yet another riveting read. The last book The Fine Art of Invisible Detection was superb (and also reviewed in RdrStr)! This is the Night They Come for You is a completely different, and another classic Goddard novel.
At the heart of this novel is the struggle for an independent Algeria in the 50s and 60s. France cannot be proud of this time in history. Algeria had many activists in France especially in Paris and “terrorist” activities were frequent against de Gaulle and his government. de Gaulle became annoyed and frustrated and secretly activated a “committee” to punish the Algerian protesters. In particular, at one night of demonstrations police and other associates slaughtered hundreds of Algerian protesters – many ending up in the Seine.
The Algerians were extremely angry and wanted revenge. The Algerians (Laloul and Zarbi) targetted one of de Gaulle’s cronies (Guy Tournier) who was instrumental in organising the murders. I think this is where fact meets fiction! Nigel Dalby and girlfriend Harriet Gray move from London to Paris to join a film crew. On the film set, they meet Zarbi and consequently Nigel and Zarbi strike up a relationship. Nigel was a witness to the Algerian massacre in Paris and Zarbi believes he can use Nigel to further his aims. Laloul and Zarbi recruit Nigel Dalby to meet Guy Tournier in a bar, and they return to his flat allowing Laloul and Zarbi entrance to Guy’s flat, and there they assassinate Guy. Nigel is persuaded (!) to live in Algeria and opens a bookshop but Harriet mysteriously disappears – perhaps she knew too much? Nigel dies in Algiers in mysterious circumstances.
Many years later the scene switches to Algiers and Superintendent Taleb is tasked with apprehending Laloul. Zarbi has served 20 years in jail whereas Laloul escaped to Europe. Zarbi is annoyed at his incarceration and Laloul’s freedom. The police believe Zarbi will lead them to Laloul. Reluctantly Taleb has to accept Agent Hidouchi of the DRS (Algeria’s intelligence and security service) as an assistant. Meanwhile in the UK, Stephen Gray (Harriet’s brother) has met Suzette Dalby. They appear to have received a confession written by Nigel admitting his part in the assassination of Guy Tournier. This confession is a valuable document to many parties. Who wants this confession most? Zarbi and Laloul? The French government or even the Algerian government. All parties are interested and some are prepared to go to any length.
The novel is full of intrigue and scandal. The political history between France and Algeria is examined and woven into the story. The story unfolds quickly and other interested parties get involved in trying to gain possession of this dynamite confession. Taleb and Hidouchi appear to have different agendas. Stephen and Suzette have differing opinions on the confession too. The two governments have opposing reasons to bury the confession. So many conflicts of interest drive the yarn to a climax in Paris.
Robert Goddard is a natural storyteller and the tale unfolds easily with the added political and historical intrigue reinforcing the story. His characters are believable and his sense of humour lightens the fiction. The banter between his colleagues and Hidouchi is fun.
Here is Taleb responding to his Director: “‘The avoidance of problems is my guiding purpose in life, Director.’
Later, in another exchange with his director:
“What would you do if you had to chase a criminal on foot, Taleb?’ he asks, still smiling. ‘I wouldn’t back you to beat my mother-in-law over a hundred metres.’