Robert Goddard is a thriller writer with a particular skill at writing mysteries where the past remains entangled with today. This is the Night They Come for You features Algerian police Superintendent Mouloud Taleb; believable, likeable, he’s the type of character you instantly root for. The story starts today in Algiers as Taleb, sweating in his dingy un-air-conditioned office, considers approaching retirement. But when Wassim Zarbi, a former agent convicted of corruption, is released from prison and then disappears, it is feared he is reuniting with old colleague Nadir Laloul. Events in Paris in 1961 come alive again and Taleb is pulled into the dangerous search for Laloul, Zarbi and the truth of a cold case murder. The history and peoples of Algeria and France are entwined and Goddard puts at the heart of his story a shadowy organisation in Algeria named ‘hizb franca’, the ‘party of France’, dedicated to undermining the success of the fledgling Algerian republic. A small practical note, it would have been helpful to have the Glossary at the front of the Kindle edition rather than at the back. And, for a novice at Algerian politics as I am, a short historical context would also be useful. As a character in the book says, ‘No one learns anything from history in Algeria. They just keep repeating it in ever more exaggerated forms.’
There are two strands to the story and I admit to temporary confusion about who is who, on which side, in the first half of the book. But Goddard portrays a situation and politics disrupted, with truths sewn together by deception. I trusted Goddard to make it all clear, and he does. The various allegiances become aligned as the story progresses, until the twists occur.
Taleb finds himself assigned to work with Souad Hidouchi, an agent from the Algerian secret service. Neither trusts the other, unsure of their unstated objectives. It is a delight to watch the development of their relationship, their suspicions, the small details of friendship, the willingness to take a risk on placing trust. In comparison, the second strand featuring Stephen Gray and Suzette Fontaine, is less dynamic. Stephen has dedicated his life to uncovering the truth about his sister Harriet who disappeared in Paris in 1961. Suzette meanwhile has received a strange call from a Swiss solicitor. A document, claimed to be a memoir written in Algeria by her bookseller father, Nigel Dalby, tells the truth of what happened in Paris in 1961.
As Goddard alternates the viewpoints with excerpts from Dalby’s typewritten manuscript, at times the reader knows more than the characters. But the characters are not all telling the truth, motivations and secrets are hidden, and Goddard juggles the tensions and unveilings like a master.
A thoroughly enjoyable historical thriller. Knowing little of Algerian politics, it’s so good to read fiction that makes me turn the pages while teaching me something new. A small design note, I hated the cover which trivialises the subject matter of the novel and is befitting a young adult title.
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Read my reviews of Goddard’s other books:-
The Fine Art of Invisible Detection
The Ways of the World #1 The Wide World Trilogy
The Corners of the Globe #2 The Wide World Trilogy
The Ends of the Earth #3 The Wide World Trilogy
If you like this, try:-
‘Waiting for Sunrise’ by William Boyd
‘The Museum of Broken Promises’ by Elizabeth Buchan
‘Exposure’ by Helen Dunmore
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:-
THIS IS THE NIGHT THEY COME FOR YOU by Robert Goddard #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Pq via @SandraDanby