Murder Without Pity by Steve Haberman takes us to the Paris of today, a city struggling to come to terms, like many European Cities, with its multi-ethnic and multi-cultural melting pot. There is a strong populist movement of the Far Right gaining notoriety and ascendancy in Paris. State criminal investigator Stanislas Cassel is well noted around the Palaces of Justice for his dogged determination and inability to be swayed by rhetoric. Facts and evidence are the grist of his life. Haunted by the stain of his grandfather’s propaganda on behalf of the Nazi’s during World War II, Cassel knows well that memories in France are long and bitter, especially when collaborators with the Nazi’s are concerned. Little does he realise when he begins his latest “little misery” investigating the strange death of a nondescript pensioner, what doors and problems will be opened along the way.
I found the setting of Haberman’s Murder Without Pity to be dark and gritty, perhaps reflecting the same feelings of the people of France as they came to terms with the rise of political violence and the emergence of a powerful Far Right movement. Paris, it seemed, was eternally shrouded in a damp, clinging and chilling fog and this fit in perfectly with the tone of the story. This book was almost totally about the main character, Stanislas Cassel and I found the author did an excellent job of painting this character, with his limp and his permanent tiredness, but also his determination to seek the truth in this particular case. I was surprised that the anti—collaborator sentiment was still so strong amongst the people, despite the war being so many years ago, but not being French, I guess that could well be the case. Murder Without Pity was a good, solid, mystery, well worth solving.