Dead Man's Share

Yasmina Khadra

translated from the French by Aubrey Botsford
The Toby Press 2009
A book review by Danny Yee © 2010
Superintendent Brahim Llob's subordinate Lino becomes obsessed with the girlfriend of a mover-and-shaker in the Algerian oligarchy, and is then implicated in an assassination attempt on him. In an attempt to save Lino, Llob teams up with a glamorous historian to uncover horrors from 1962, in the aftermath of the War of Independence, when the victors took revenge on the harkis who had supported the French — and some others. This plunges him into a world of local corruption, drop-outs on the fringes of society, and high level political machinations.

Dead Man's Share is set in 1988, just before the elections. Several of the characters, including Llob himself in the first-person, have a tendency to declaim about the state of Algeria, about corruption and the abuse of power but also about hope and beauty. Here Llob, an incorruptible writer detective who refuses to take nonsense from anyone, surely represents the author. (Yasmina Khadra is the pseudonym of Mohammed Moulessehoul, who was a high-ranking officer in the Algerian army before going into exile in France in 2000.) A brief postscript looks forward to the civil war (Dead Man's Share was published in French in 2004, as La Part du Mort).

This historical and political background, however, and the local details, are integrated into the story and never overwhelm it. The basic plot is well-paced and easy to follow, though there are some dark and unsettling twists right at the end. There's an interesting assortment of minor characters. And the prose carries an easy resonance and power. Dead Man's Share will appeal most obviously to readers with an Algerian involvement or interest, but it's also a perfectly good way to acquire such an interest.

September 2010

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%T Dead Man's Share
%A Khadra, Yasmina
%M French
%F Botsford, Aubrey
%I The Toby Press
%D 2009 [2004]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781592642694
%P 341pp