Officer Anne Capestan and her squad of misfits must turn their attention to a more personal casethe murder of Capestan's ex-husband's father, a lifelong member of the Paris police force who had no shortage of enemies.
After their successful solving of three cold cases and exposing corruption at the very highest levels of the Paris police force, Officer Anne Capestan's team of oddballs and no-hopers should be in a celebratory mood. However, now despised by their colleagues at 36, quai des Orfevres and worried for their future, morale has never been lower among the members of the Awkward Squad.
Capestan is doing her best to motivate the team, but even she cannot maintain a cheerful facade when she has been assigned to investigate the murder of Officer Serge Rufus, the father of her ex-husband. Worse, it soon appears that his murder is linked to two other victims, both of whom were warned by the killer before they struck.
Can Capestan marshal the forces to solve another hopeless mystery, or will her team's previous success be proven just a fluke?
About the Author
Sophie Hénaff is a journalist, author, and former Lyonnaise bar owner. She began her journalism career as a critic at Lyon Poche, before moving to Paris to write for Cosmopolitan, where she established her own humor column, "La Cosmolite." Her first novel was The Awkward Squad.
Read an Excerpt
Paris, November 28, 2012
Commissaire Anne Capestan was doing battle with the latest in a long line of shoddy printers allocated to her team by the ever munificent police quartermaster. The machine maintained that it was running low on ink, even though Capestan had only just replaced the cartridge. After pressing every single button twice, the commissaire admitted defeat. She did not have anything particularly important to print. Not least because she did not have anything particularly important to work on. Or any work at all, in fact.
After a glittering start to her career that saw an Olympic medal for shooting and more badges of honour than any young officer before her, Capestan had joined the Brigade des Mineurs, without knowing that the posting would test her emotions to their very limit. During her time there, on a case that was horrific even by the Mineurs' grim standards, she had shot down a suspect. There were no two ways about it. She was the star pupil who had gone off the rails; "a loaded Kalashnikov with an innocent smile," as her colleague Eva Rosière had delicately put it. After narrowly escaping the sack, Capestan now found herself at the head of a team of down-and-out officers, an idea dreamed up by Buron, the big boss of 36, quai des Orfèvres, to clean up the Police Judiciaire by chucking all the undesirables onto the same scrapheap.
A month ago they had successfully solved their first case, something that – far from earning her awkward squad the respect of their peers – had only served to intensify their disdain. Grasses. Traitors. That was their reputation after hanging a fellow officer out to dry. Not an easy label to remove, and it weighed heavily on Capestan's mind. On her pride, too.
As for Commandant Lebreton, he had adjusted to the situation with his customary calm. He was no stranger to the scorn of his colleagues. A glorious spell at R.A.I.D. had been cut short when he came out as gay, and was speedily transferred to working in internal complaints with the I.G.S. – a role where you might as well wear a sign reading "Judas" instead of a uniform. In such a place, crippled with grief following the death of his husband, he had found it harder to stomach the bigotry. One accusation against his superior later and he was fast-tracked to Buron's custom-made dustbin. Right now, he was tipped back in his chair, feet crossed on his desk, leafing through a Sunday supplement from Le Monde, taking a break from the futile task of investigating the boxes of cold cases blocking their corridor. A loud voice from the next-door room made him lower his magazine, listen for a second, raise an eyebrow, and continue with his article.
The commotion involved the umpteenth difference of opinion between the volcanic Eva Rosière and the unsinkable Merlot. They argued constantly, not always about the same thing at the same time, but that never seemed to concern them in the slightest. This time they could be heard having a heated discussion over a game of snooker, the most recent contribution from Capitaine Rosière, the novelist-turned-screenwriter-turned- millionaire. Her spell at number 36 had come to an end when the top brass finally tired of her grindingly unsubtle parodies of them in her television series, "Laura Flames". Ever since tipping up at their makeshift commissariat on rue des Innocents, she had taken charge of the refurbishments, exercising decreasing levels of restraint. The day before, when Rosière had floated the idea of buying a football table to keep Dax and Lewitz amused, Capestan had asked whether she was planning on charging a membership fee for the commissariat or if it would be pay-as-you-play. Merlot, eavesdropping next to them, had appeared to scrutinise the question without grasping the sarcasm. Rosière, a careful strategist despite her boorish air, had backed down. No doubt a temporary retreat, Capestan had thought to herself.
The commissaire moved away from the printer into what had become the billiards room following the arrival of a full-sized table a few weeks ago, complete with fringed rectangular lampshade, four leather armchairs, a cue rack and a magnificent oak-topped bar with a set of matching stools.
"It's official, Anne, no-one else will want to join our squad now," Eva had said with finality. "May as well furnish it properly – makes the space less dreary." Dreariness was now the last thing Capestan associated with the commissariat; space was the second last.
Merlot, measuring in at a full cubic metre, stood rooted to the spot, a look of alpha pride written across his face. The former Brigade Mondaine capitaine, a well- connected but booze-addled freemason, was standing firm during Rosière's thunderous diatribe, snooker cue in one hand, red ball in the other. His jacket was flecked all over with blue chalk marks.
"... it's all the same ... Take rhino horns. One day, some limp-pricked so-and-so runs into a rhino and says, 'Whoa there, I'd like me a horn like that, please. I'll just grind it up, guzzle it down, and away we go!' And, ever since, the not-so-cocksure of the world have been wiping out the entire species just to get a bit of life back in their loins."
At her feet, Pilote, Rosière's dog, listened reverently. He turned to Merlot, awaiting his response.
"Exactly, dear girl. Vitality! I quite agree ... Vitality is the root of such giant scientific strides!" the capitaine said, nodding impressively and almost blinding Lieutenant Évrard with the tip of his cue.
The lieutenant, dismissed from the gambling task force after developing a certain weakness for blackjack, was perched on the side of the table, drumming her fingers on the polished wood as she waited patiently for the conversation to end. She had her back turned, more or less on purpose, to Lieutenant Torrez, who had stowed himself away in an armchair in the corner of the room, his billiard cue leaning against the armrest. Capestan strolled over to him.
"The argument or the snooker?"
"Me, in that case."
"Who are you playing with?"
"Me," Torrez said, frowning.
Yet again, no-one wanted to be on Torrez's team, preferring instead to play three on one. This was an improvement on the month before, when he couldn't enter the room without its occupants running for the hills. His shady reputation as a bringer of very bad luck was definitely subsiding, albeit slowly. Baby steps. Everyone, including Torrez (especially Torrez), was continuing to exercise a healthy degree of caution. Only Capestan went near him in a carefree manner, refusing to be affected by this superstitious nonsense.
The buzz of a sunbathing cicada rang out of the commissaire's pocket. Her mobile. Buron's name flashed on the screen. A whole month had passed since the directeur of the Police Judiciaire last called, and that was only to notify her that his promise of a brand-new, fully functioning car had been honoured. Brigadier Lewitz, a lunatic behind the wheel, had needed just one day to write it off. After that, Buron had advised the squad to keep a low profile while their colleagues and the media cooled down, despite the commissaire's protests that their profile had never been high in the first place. But even she had to admit that the team could do with a cooling-off period.
If Buron was getting in touch today, perhaps that meant good news.
Capestan picked up.
"Good morning, Monsieur le Directeur. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
The sound of a Schubert sonata drifted from Orsini's stereo, tuned as ever to Radio Classique. For once, the capitaine was not listening. He was busy flattening a page of the newspaper La Provence, engrossed by the headline: "L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue resident Jacques Maire murdered in middle of street."
Orsini pulled a pair of scissors from his pencil-holder and carefully cut out the article. Then he opened a drawer and picked out a red cardboard sleeve, sliding the document inside. He flicked over the elastic ties, took the lid off his black marker pen and let it hover above the card for several seconds. He did not know what to write.
Eventually, he laid down the pen and returned the sleeve to the drawer, blank.CHAPTER 2
Swathed in the gloomy trappings of winter, the capital felt murkier than ever. A thin film of greasy drizzle forced the Parisians to walk with their heads lowered, eyes darting across the pavement, defeated by the day before it had even begun. With her chin tucked into a big flecked scarf and a thick black poncho draped around her, Capestan picked her way through a forest of pedestrians' umbrellas on rue de Daguerre. She strode towards rue Gassendi, which, because of the crime scene, was at a standstill where it joined rue Froidevaux.
The body had been found two hours earlier. Capestan, whose desk was piled high with lapsed files, wondered what she had done to deserve such a fresh case. This certainly marked a return to the fray.
As always, the rubberneckers were craning to catch a glimpse of the action from behind the security cordon, doing their best to jostle past the obstinate police officers. The commissaire slipped past these nosy onlookers, presented her badge with a smile, and crossed the barrier, trying to make out the tall figure of the number 36 boss. In addition to the local police force and the forensics teams, she spotted a couple of lieutenants from the Brigade Criminelle, who were no doubt itching to take on this case, as well as a B.R.I. van that for some odd reason was parked at the top of the street. Throw in her own attendance and it was clear from all the heat in tow that this was no ordinary murder. The directeur's summons were suddenly all the more intriguing.
Buron, hands deep in the pockets of his khaki duffel coat, looked less than impressed as he contemplated the hustle and bustle. As Capestan approached, a smile vanished as quickly as it appeared.
"Good morning, commissaire."
She pulled back her hood to widen her field of vision before answering.
"Good morning, Monsieur le Directeur. What have we got here? Plenty of personnel, at least."
"Yes, plenty. Too many," Buron said, turning to survey the hive of activity.
Capestan thrust her chin back into her scarf.
"Why did you invite us to the party?"
"The victim is a big gun from the B.R.I., so I already know full well how they are going to play this. Same with Crim. They'll dredge up a lot of old bad blood, root around every gangland police file since Mesrine's glory days, and refuse to follow up any lead that doesn't fit the B.R.I. bill."
The murder of a top-flight officer ... Leads that didn't fit the bill ... Capestan was not sure she liked the sound of this.
"Monsieur le Directeur, please tell me you're not asking us to investigate another inside job. Other officers have got their knives out for us as it is."
Capestan had never been too bothered about her reputation, which was just as well, all things considered, but in the long run, being the object of so much bile was hard, even for someone with her thick skin. It required a lot of courage, or a lot of blithe indifference, to keep a clear head in the face of such disdain.
"No, I'm definitely not suggesting that this is an 'inside job'; I'm simply asking you to explore all possible eventualities, just as you would for any investigation. Having said that, yes, you do risk encountering a certain amount of ... intransigence."
Buron let out a small sigh and rubbed his gloved hands together. He seemed determined to speak frankly: "If I'm honest, my decision to assign you to this case has not been wildly popular. Crim. are saying they don't need any support in their investigations, and are already pretty upset to have the B.R.I. on board, let alone you and your other black sheep."
Capestan flicked a sodden curl off her forehead.
"I can well imagine," she said. "But I don't get it – did the public prosecutor's office request us?"
Buron shook his head and frowned, flexing his fingers in the morning air. In the directeur's language, this meant: "No, not exactly, there are still a few tiresome administrative hoops to jump through." Capestan translated this into the only term that was fit for purpose: "No." The public prosecutor's office barely knew her squad existed, and Buron, the Directeur of the Police Judiciaire, was enlisting their services on the sly. The commissaire kept coming back to the question of why she was there. Without wanting to be overly humble about it, she knew they had nothing to bring to the table on a case like this. Something about Buron's decision did not make sense.
"I'm sorry to keep asking, but why us, Monsieur le Directeur –?"
Buron cut her short as a huge mountain of a man walked past, his muscular torso wedged into a black leather jacket. His dark features were handsome, but he wore a closed expression. Buron touched the man's elbow and drew him to one side. His hulking frame cast a shadow the size of a skyscraper. Recognising the directeur, he stopped abruptly and stood to attention. The directeur nodded his approval before addressing Capestan:
"Commissaire, allow me to introduce you to Lieutenant Diament from the B.R.I. Varappe Division, isn't it?"
The officer straightened even more, clearly proud to belong to this legendary elite squad, whose officers abseiled down the sides of buildings, dangling from their ropes as they sprayed bullets into the hideouts of hardened gangsters. Given the size of this officer, Capestan had some sympathy for both the ropes and the gangsters.
"Yes, Monsieur le Directeur."
"I gather that you, lieutenant, are tasked with ensuring clear communications between the B.R.I., Crim. and Capestan's squad, correct?"
"Yes, sir," he replied, his voice quieter this time.
"Pleased to meet you, lieutenant," Capestan said, giving him a friendly smile and holding out her hand.
The man shook it and nodded, studiously avoiding eye contact with the commissaire. Aside from the irritation at being subjected to these tedious pleasantries, Capestan also detected a hint of sadness in the lieutenant's eyes. Probably something unrelated to the job in hand, she guessed.
"As soon as the crime scene investigator has finalised his report, the lieutenant will forward you a copy. He will keep you up to speed as the various enquiries develop, and you will share any findings with him too, commissaire. For this case, I want the head honchos at number 36 to cooperate with complete transparency. Can I count on you? Lieutenant? Commissaire?"
Diament consented with a martial nod of the head. As for Capestan, she shrugged cheerily to show her agreement.
After the lieutenant had taken his leave, Capestan, who was rarely one to let things drop, returned to the question of why she was there.
"So," she said, turning to Buron. "Why us?"
The directeur motioned to her to follow him. They headed towards the body, which was now covered with a canvas sheet, and tugged on some paper overshoes. Perched on a ladder, a forensics officer was lifting fingerprints from a street sign. His colleague waited at the bottom, screwdriver in hand. The sign no longer read "rue Gassendi", but "rue Serge Rufus, 1949–2012, Bastard Commissaire".
Suddenly it was clear why Buron had called her.CHAPTER 3
Paul's turn in the limelight had not lasted. It had hardly been a long time ago, but he was still starting to get the impression that his star was fizzling out. Maybe it had already well and truly faded and no-one had bothered to tell him, leaving him like the spouse who is the last to find out when their partner cheats on them. At least that was how the unexpected call from a production company had left him feeling. A reality T.V. show was on the cards. Reality T.V. Next stop: oblivion.
Of course he had wavered, if only for a second. A long, humiliating second. Any prospect of a return to the big time held a powerful, Kaa-like allure. But Paul had quit the profession, that side of it anyway. True, the idea of a comeback appealed from time to time – if a real opportunity presented itself, no doubt he would handle things differently. But for now, he had a theatre to run and an army of stand-up comedians to keep in line.
Rolling up the sleeves of his beige shirt, he sat down at his desk to check his emails. There was a deluge from Hugo, one of his new recruits, whose desperation for praise could only be construed as part of a broader existential crisis. He bombarded him with messages. Paul sat deep in his chair, savouring a moment's peace before picking up the telephone. He rubbed his cheek and jaw with a mechanical motion to see whether his morning shave had been up to scratch.
As it so often did, his focus turned to the framed poster on the wall in front of him. He was twenty years younger. At his side were his two childhood friends and fellow members of The Donkeys, one of the most popular comedy trios of the 1990s.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Stick Together"
Copyright © 2017 Editions Albin Michel.
Excerpted by permission of Quercus.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Anne Capestan’s team did an amazing job solving three cold cases and showing the level of corruption in the police department. But that has had the opposite effect with them being even more hated. Things are not going to get better when Anne is asked to look into the murder of her ex-father in law. It seems his case is similar to two others where the victims were warned by the killer before they became the next victim. This is a great sequel to The Awkward Squad. The team is down and depressed even after their big win. They are not hated more so for their exposure of the corruption. Anne doesn’t know if she can rally her team to look into her ex-father in laws death. But the group comes together with snark and humor to help find the killer. I really liked the first book and enjoyed Stick Together. It is full of humor and I just love how the rejects are the ones solving the cases. This is a wonderful series and I can’t wait to see what the Awkward Squad gets into next. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
I gave up.
France, Paris, law enforcement, murder investigation, Situational humor, I love this bunch of misfits! Excellent law enforcement officers who simply don't fit into standard roles yet work together very well even when they don't even believe in themselves. They are actually given an assignment, but are only given minimal information from the actual murder squad, and the kind of non support they are forced to work around are basics, like not being allowed to purchase Identikit software (they make do with World of Warcraft avatar program) or authorization to check phone records or credit records. But their very nature of rule breaking is an advantage as they become more than a few steps ahead of the pack. There are certain memorable aspects that I just have to share! One member has a pet he carries around and is training for police work---a rat! Another member is a family man whose wife also works and he is extremely proud of his ability to iron the family's clothing! Now I have to figure out how to get more books by this author and translator Sam Gordon! I requested and received a free ebook copy from Maclehose Press via NetGalley. Thank you!