Book of the Day



By Sofie Hēnaff

ISBN 978-0857055767
Publication Date:  April 3, 2018


Review by Grace Miller

The perfect beach read for any Francophile has arrived! Sophie Hénaff’s The Awkward Squad (MacLehose Press) is the story of Anne Capestan whose once shining star in the Paris police force has dimmed after she fires one too many questionable shots. Instead of getting booted from the force, however, Capestan finds herself in charge of a new department: composed entirely of castoffs and rejects—including the detective who investigated her after her most recent incident—who are expected to babysit the city’s unsolvable cold cases. Capestan’s former mentor doesn’t even pretend the new division has any hope of solving a case; the detectives are expected to twiddle their thumbs, collect a paycheck, and, most importantly, stay out of trouble.

The Awkward Squad is a lighthearted police procedural that’s easy and fun to read. The clever banter and the story’s humor keep this novel upbeat, a nice alternative to gritty crime novels that focus and highlight the heinous details of a crime. Though there are a lot of French names to keep up with, the ensemble of characters is well drawn, each person (and one pampered pup) interesting and quirky in their own ways, making it easy for readers to remember who is who. In fact, the characters are my favorite part of the story. Hénaff has a grand ability to draw unique characters with humorous flaws that stop just short of being too hyperbolic. If you’re looking for something fun to read on the beach, this is it! Plus, the fact that the novel is originally French provides a nice change of pace from American police procedurals.

The Awkward Squad is the shelf—or, more specifically, the drafty apartment—where careers go to die, but underneath Capestan’s tarnished reputation, she’s still the hard-working bulldog who refuses to let a criminal go free and, soon, she and the few of her detectives who actually show up are investigating cases and transforming from misfits that don’t belong into a unified team, albeit a strange one.

But when the squad arrests the son of an important politician for dealing drugs, Capestan begins to suspect why the squad was created at all.  The first arrest suggests that not all of the cases they’ve been given are as hopeless as they’ve been led to believe. Then, when the team discovers connections between two murders separated by almost a decade, Capestan and her team of misfits have to wonder if they’re being manipulated by the powers that be. Whatever the reason behind their banishment, the detectives in the new division won’t go quietly into obscurity after all.