Autumn, All the Cats Return

Autumn, All the Cats Return

by Philippe Georget


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The second Inspector Sebag mystery following Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored: “A man like this—a cop like this—is definitely worth knowing” (Los Angeles Review of Books).

Inspector Sebag is a policeman in southern France with an unparalleled sixth sense, who excels at slipping into the skin of killers and hunting them down. However, when a retired French Algerian cop is discovered in his apartment with the symbol OAS left near his body and few indications as to who killed him or why, Sebag’s skills are put to the test. Days later, when a controversial monument is destroyed and another French Algerian is shot down, Sebag begins to put the pieces together. Bringing to light the horrors, hopes, and treasons committed during the war in Algeria fifteen years ago, in this sequel to Georget’s Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored, Lt. Gilles Sebag discovers more than just a killer, but an entire secret history that not everyone wants revealed.

“French crime writers are on a roll . . . Just savour the Gallic charm of this sizeable case for Inspector Sebag, a tenacious copper in the south of France with a sixth sense for tracking down killers.”—Financial Times

“The subtlety, the imaginative style, the brilliant dialogues, and the extremely strong subject make Autumn, All the Cats Return a crime novel not to miss.”—Black Novel

“Well structured, solidly documented, written with verve, Autumn, All the Cats Return has everything needed to satisfy even the most demanding of readers.”—

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609452261
Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/07/2014
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Philippe Georget was born in Epinay-sur-Seine in 1962. He works as a TV news anchorman for France-3. A passionate traveler, in 2001 he drove the entire length of the Mediterranean shoreline in an RV with his wide and three children. He lives in Perpignan. Summertime All the Cats are Bored, his debut novel, won the SNCF Crime Fiction Prize and the City of Lens First Crime Novel Prize.

Read an Excerpt


His old, knotty thumb, deformed by rheumatism, gave him a violent electric shock when he cocked his gun. With his free hand, he adjusted his glasses on his nose. In front of him, the target was rolling terrified eyes.

His swollen hand closed on the breech.

He'd been right to attack the weak link in the group. Fear made people talk. Now he knew everything. The bastards were going to pay. One after the other.

It hurt when he put his twisted index finger on the trigger.

The target was squirming desperately on his chair, even though his hands were cuffed behind his back. The target would have liked to shout, scream, or weep, but the gag that had been stuffed into his mouth allowed him to emit only rumbling noises.

He didn't understand this pointless agitation. When your time came, you had to be able to resign yourself to it. There were two men in this locked apartment. One of them was tied up, the other was holding a Beretta 34. There would be no escape, no happy ending, no last-minute turnaround. This wasn't the movies, it was life. True, hard, pitiless life.

El-Mektub ... Destiny was going to strike.

He found the old man facing him pathetic and ugly. Fear deformed his features even more than age. He could hardly recognize him.

Memories flooded in like waves. Long ago was yesterday. Years could be bridges, walls, or simply parentheses. He hadn't forgotten anything. Anything at all. The blinding sun burned his skin and dazzled his eyes when he emerged from a shaded alley that was still cool. It was blue everywhere, the sea and the sky. The sound of the waves, the breath of the boats, the aromas mixed of anise, iodine, and spices. Shards of voices, laughter, insouciance, an unparalleled joie de vivre.

He had to avoid nostalgia. He knew that. It was stronger than he was. He'd succeeded in forgetting it for several decades before it came back to take possession of his heart and mind. He tried to think about the last months of his youth, the paradise that changed into hell, the sound of the beaten saucepans, the cries, the tears and the blood. And above all a smell of gunpowder, a heady, intoxicating smell, savage and violent.

He winced. His ailing hand gripping the gun was hurting.

The target facing him showed him what he looked like. He himself was old and ugly. All the better if his Gabriella swore to him that it wasn't true.

He was old and he hurt.

Severe polyarthritic rheumatism had led to painful calcium deposits on his joints. First it had deformed his fingers, forcing the extremities of his digits to assume unexpected angles. Then it had gnarled his hands. Bumps had risen up here and there in the course of sleepless nights. He smiled when he thought about Gabriella, who liked to run her fairy hands over his gibbosities.

Gibbosities ... Where did that obsolete word come from? His French had gotten stuck at the beginning of the 1960s. Since then, he no longer spoke his native tongue.

His prisoner, sitting on the chair, seemed to have calmed down. Was he resigned to his fate? Maybe ... Or else he'd given him a fleeting smile in the hope of being spared. Hope is an invincible phoenix, it can be reborn from a sigh or a breath. It can also die in a look.

Their eyes met and stared at each other for a few seconds before shifting to the three letters painted in black on the door of the living room.

Three accursed letters.

Three magic letters.

There would be no pardon. That was impossible. He hadn't awakened his sorrows for nothing, he hadn't traveled so far, crossed the sea, to draw back now. He'd go all the way to the end of the mission he'd assigned himself.

The last one.

His tongue clicked in his dry mouth. He was thirsty. Slowly, he got up. His bones cracked. He tried not to sigh. The illness had spread from his hands to his whole body. On some days, living — just living — meant suffering. Then he thought about his grandmother: she, too, had suffered the torments of hell. "The day I don't hurt anymore," she said, "will be the day I die."

He took a clean glass off the drain rack by the sink and ran tap water into it. He drank a few sips and then set it down again. Coming back to the old man tied to the chair, he grabbed the pillow he'd put on the table. A little while ago he'd taken it out of his target's bedroom.

Soon his target would be his victim.

He felt strange and forgotten sensations again. The surprising calm in action, the impression that he was outside his body, the curious feeling of being merely a witness to his acts.

The sound of the neighbors' television came through the wall. He could hear the canned laughter of an American sitcom. He'd wanted to turn on the TV in the living room to mask the sound of the gunshot that was coming, but quickly gave up the idea when he saw how complex the remote control was.

The target opened wide his rheumy eyes. His despair and fear could be read in them as in a book. But the old killer no longer saw anything, he no longer heard the groans, he was elsewhere. Fifty years ago.

"It's time," he said.

Then he went around the chair and put the pillow against the nape of his prisoner's neck. He put the Beretta on the worn fabric. His deformed index finger caressed the trigger. He counted to three before firing. The shockwave transmitted by his tormented bones made him cry out in pain.


After several blustery days, the cold, dry wind out of the southwest had just died down. It had swept the sky clean of its last clouds and a still-bright autumn sun was drying the puddles on the asphalt and the tears on people's faces.

It was a fine morning to bury a child.

The crowd in mourning clothes gathered around the little church of Passa. About a hundred people hadn't been able to squeeze inside it, and were following the ceremony as they stood on the village square. Gilles Sebag, one of the first to arrive, had insisted on staying outside. Inside the church the despair was too great, the pain too personal.

Leaning against the wall of a house, he hugged his daughter to him. He felt her young body shaking with sobs. He would have liked to be able to help her more, to assume some of her suffering and thus preserve her innocence. But Sévérine was thirteen years old, and she had just suddenly understood that death was definitive. Life wasn't like a video game. When the game was over, you couldn't play it again: Mathieu could never start his game over.

Claire's hand was softly caressing Sévérine's hair. Gilles turned to his wife and smiled at her. It was good to feel her here at his side, he'd been so afraid of losing her the preceding summer. But he quickly shooed away these bad memories; this was not really the time to think about all that again. Claire responded to his smile. Her shining green eyes were filled with sorrow.

From the densely packed crowd, here and there painful, heartbreaking wails shot up. Tears, cries, and moans fused in a threnody the teenagers sang in canon. Some of these kids had no doubt already encountered death: that of a grandparent, probably. They had suffered, they had sincerely wept, but that death hadn't touched the very depths of their being. On the other hand, the death of their classmate was their own. Their pain was mixed with a mute fear. To avoid being drowned in the children's suffering, Sebag forced himself to examine the buildings around him. Unfortunately, Passa's church had no special charm. Its façade, which was covered with concrete-colored stucco, was decorated only by a marble porch leading to a semicircular flight of stairs. The church was imprisoned in a row of small, unattractive houses. However, on the left his eye was drawn to a post office. Its assemblage of bricks and pebbles was typical of Roussillon but not really interesting. On this Saturday morning, the post office's shutters were closed because of the funeral.

Mathieu had died three days earlier in a scooter accident. On a street in Perpignan, a small van had suddenly swerved toward him and Mathieu, coming in the opposite direction, had not been able to avoid colliding with it. The crash had been violent, but at first the boy got up and seemed unhurt. He'd been able to talk with the driver of the van and together they had decided to call an ambulance anyway. Just in case. However, before the ambulance arrived, Mathieu suddenly collapsed. Internal bleeding. Everything had gone so fast. The doctors couldn't do anything to save him.

Mathieu ... one of Sévérine's friends. A ninth-grade student at the Saint-Estève Secondary School. An athlete, a rugby player. A kid who believed that he had everything going for him.

Goddamn scooter!

The black hearse was slowly making its way, in reverse, through the crowd. The mass was coming to an end. The employees opened the doors of the hearse and began to arrange the funeral sprays in the back. A long line formed on the square to offer condolences to Mathieu's parents in the church. Sévérine left her parents to join a group of her girlfriends. Sebag started to follow her but Claire stopped him. At the same moment, Sévérine turned around and gave him a look that made it clear that she wanted to go alone. That is ... with her friends. Without him, in short.

Sebag felt a twinge in his heart and immediately reproached himself for it. He was suffering at seeing his daughter grow up too fast, but this was neither time nor the place to complain about that. Sévérine was alive. Nothing else mattered. Mathieu's parents would never have the good fortune to see their son become an adult.

A bell started to toll. A sad ring followed by a long, plaintive echo. People looked up. The church in Passa had a square tower with two bells in it. The smaller of the two swung slowly. Its peal floated out over the village and carried its lamentations far out toward the hills covered with vineyards.

The church slowly emptied. A shiver ran through the crowd when the parents came out. The father, ramrod-erect, followed his son's casket, involuntarily nodding his head, as unaware of what was around him as a groggy boxer. The mother stumbled along at his side, supported by a young son. Sebag recognized the boy's big sister. He'd seen her two or three times over the past few years when he'd taken his daughter to Mathieu's birthday parties. Sévérine emerged in turn with a bunch of adolescents, boys and girls holding each other up. Her mascara had run and marked a path for the tears on her chubby cheeks.

The casket was put into the hearse and the cortege moved off toward the cemetery. The chorus of sobbing teenagers was like a dirge. Claire took her husband's hand and they walked three rows behind their daughter. Gilles was biting his lip, struggling to control his feelings. He had to keep a grip on himself and look strong. For Sévérine, for her friends, and for the others as well.

It was true that in his work, he'd seen lots of terrible things. How often had he had to inform someone of the death of a relative, a wife, a husband ... a child? He'd long reproached himself for not knowing what words to use to soften the blow. Until he'd realized that he'd never know. Because there simply were no such words.

The hearse stopped at the gate to the cemetery. The funeral home's employees slid out of the casket and then, followed by the mourners, carried it along a row of family vaults. Gilles leaned against the cemetery wall and lit a cigarette. He smoked only rarely. He'd picked up a pack on the way that same morning. Claire grabbed his cigarette, took a puff, and then gave it back to him.

"You okay?" he asked her.

She shrugged.


"The same."

He passed her the cigarette again. Across from the cemetery, workers on a construction site were smoking, too. They'd stopped working when the cortege passed and were waiting for the ceremony to end before starting up their bulldozers and backhoes again. The streets they'd already marked out indicated that they were getting ready to build a new residential subdivision. Another one. Every year, five thousand more people moved to the department of Pyrénées-Orientales; they had to live somewhere.

Sebag saw Sévérine coming back toward them, accompanied by two of her friends. The girls had their arms around each other's waists and swayed back and forth as they walked. Their black mourning clothes made them look more mature. Real little women, Sebag said to himself. But no! Now that he thought about it, it wasn't the clothes. It was the sorrow itself that had matured them.

When they stood in front of him, his heart ached at the sight of their swollen eyes. They looked as if they had just smoked a whole lid of marijuana. That's a stupid idea, he reflected angrily: you had to be a cop to have such thoughts at a time like this.

"Papa, I have something important to ask you," Sévérine said.

Her whole face seemed to be a plea.

"Mathieu's sister says that there's something wrong about her brother's accident, that the driver of the van is not the only one responsible ... Apparently the police think the case is closed and don't want to investigate it any further."

Sebag waited to see what she would say next, but he'd already guessed it.

"I told her that you could try ... "

His first response was to blink his eyes. It was Saturday, and he was going back to work two days later after a week on vacation. His partner Molina had told him that everything was quiet at police headquarters. He would probably have time to have a look at the case.

"I'll see what I can do," he promised.

Sévérine smiled through her sadness and added in her sweet, fluting voice:

"I told her that if there was anything to find, you'd find it."

Despite his sorrow, Sebag felt a deep happiness. Ultimately, mourning had not completely transformed his daughter: she was still a girl of thirteen, a child who still saw her father as a miracle-worker.

"I also told her that you were the best policeman in Perpignan — that's right, isn't it?"

He nodded, trying to look confident, and then gave his daughter a kiss on her cheek that was still cool and damp.


Hello, Lieutenant! Did you have a good vacation?"

Gilles Sebag turned around before realizing that the question was in fact addressed to him. Lieutenant ... it had already been more than fifteen years since the government had tried to modernize the police just by renaming its ranks in accord with American practice, but he was still having trouble getting used to them. In fact, he was now sure that he'd never get used to them; for him, the terms "lieutenant" and "captain" would always have the moronic, exotic aroma of an American TV series. "Lieutenant Colombo" or "Lieutenant Horatio Caine" might sound good, but "Lieutenant Sebag"? What a joke! He found it as ridiculous as combining an Anglo-Saxon first name with a very French surname. Politicians sometimes proved as stupid as the average man in the street. Some people found that reassuring. He didn't.

He finally realized that Martine, the young female cop on the front desk at the Perpignan police headquarters, was expecting a reply.

"Vacations are always good. It's when they're over that it gets complicated."

Martine was kind enough to smile.

"Have a good day and good luck, then."

"I'll need it ..."

"You sound like you're being led to the slaughterhouse!"

Sebag limited himself to giving her a polite little smile. He passed his badge in front of the electronic reader. The security door opened and he entered the part of the station inaccessible to the public. There he recognized without pleasure a familiar odor, a mixture of disinfectant and sweat, coffee and raucous laughter. He climbed the stairs two at a time, not out of impatience to get to his office, but because as a good marathon runner, he did not overlook any effort that might be made part of his training.

When he got to the third floor, he delayed his arrival by stopping at the water fountain installed in the middle of the corridor. He served himself a cup and drank it slowly. The last few years, he'd found his work disagreeable. The routine, the violence, the lack of internal recognition, the citizens' scorn. You had to put up with all that, and for what? When he'd enlisted in the police force, he'd imagined he'd be a kind of physician for a sick society. It took him a while to understand that he was no more than a minor nurse doomed to dress suppurating wounds with outdated ointments. Criminality would never stop, it couldn't stop, it was part of human nature. The most you could hope to do was bring down the fever a little. But no one had yet invented a reliable thermometer.


Excerpted from "Autumn, All The Cats Return"
by .
Copyright © 2012 Editions Jigal.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored
“Exquisite Gallic ennui wafts through Georget’s first novel…Sebag’s patient unraveling of both this tortuous case and his own malaise produces a crime novel très formidable.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A superior beach read for fans of international crime.”—Booklist
The plot is intricate and tense, but the deepest pleasure of reading this fantastic French ticking-clock thriller lies in the author’s glorious evocation of his native Perpignan.”—The Daily Mail
“Georget is really good stuff.”—Open Letters Monthly
International praise for Autumn, All the Cats Return
“The subtlety, the imaginative style, the brilliant dialogues, and the extremely strong subject make Autumn, All the Cats Return a crime novel not to miss.” –Black Novel
“Well structured, solidly documented, written with verve, Autumn, All the Cats Return has everything needed to satisfy even the most demanding of readers.” –

Customer Reviews