gilles sebag in roussillon

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It sounded like a bubble bursting in Claire’s purse.
A text message.
At 7 A.M. on a school vacation day.
Lying on a sideboard in the dining room, the purse was taunting him. It was a famous Spanish brand, a multicolored and multi-pocketed designer bag that the kids had given their mother for her birthday. Inside was her telephone, with the truth. The whole truth. The truth he’d been refusing to see for more than six months.
The past summer, Gilles Sebag had caught his wife in a flat-out lie. …
Another bubble burst in the purse.
His experience as a cop had taught him that today there is no better confidant than a mobile phone. And no worse traitor. …
He grabbed the phone and used his right thumb to bring up the screen. There were in fact two messages. …
He felt something like a rip in his belly, a fissure in his life. The world had just collapsed.

from: Crime of Winter

Crimes and Lies

Gilles Sebag has just touched the 40s while his wife Claire enjoys the end of her 30s. Since seven years both together with their teenage kids live in Perpignan, in a province formerly known as Roussillon. Gilles is a police officer, a lieutenant, and Claire is a teacher. Their home is a spacious bungalow with its own swimming pool. All seems to be a magnificent great life in Southern France at the Mediterranean Sea … (I only wonder how a policeman and a teacher may afford such a lovely place to live – especially with respect of two children with corresponding needs. Whatever: there is no hint of corruption or any other illegal business concerning Gilles.)

Gilles is an investigator and he is good at his job. So when suddenly out of the blue there seems to be some evidence that Claire has fallen for a lover Gilles cannot ignore it. He is a 24/7 cop even at home. Gilles himself has never been unfaithful during their 20 years of partnership. He is devastated from this very moment on and gets nervous.

When he stumbles over the lie it’s just beginning of the summer holidays now it’s winter just before Christmas when he snatches Claire’s mobile phone on the quiet for the fist time. Now it is a fact and Gilles buries himself in a current investigation to avoid meeting Claire and talking about the affair which is over since weeks according to Claire and possible consequences. Which consequences?

Gilles loves his family – especially his children. When his daughter was born he reduced his workload to care for her and his older son for some years. This had crucial implications on his career at the police in Chartres because the police staff wasn’t amused about a colleague who seemed to care more for his little children than his job. As a consequence he moved from Chartres to Perpignan. In short: He cannot imagine living without his kids.

When reading the novels you at once realize that this love affair, this betrayal, this infidelity is a main subject for the novels. Gilles’ professional activities are sometimes overshadowed by his private misery. We are dealing here with the sneaking suspicion dragging on for months and the final proof amid of a rather strange crime case.

So what about the crimes?

We are in Southern France, however, Roussillon seems far less fashionable than the Côte d’Azur. While quite a lot of extraordinary police inspectors are dealing with extraordinary crimes over there, Roussillon bordering on Spain with a Catalan heritage seems more down to earth.

The cases Gilles works on always start rather slowly. Often there are some incidents which seem to have no relation to each other. It needs Gilles’ intuition to find out the connections. Minor incidents sometimes do not receive adequate attention from the police or the gendarmerie. Of course all policemen are overworked … Too many incidents, too many tourists complaining …

Gilles’ partner Jacques Molina is like a rock regarding co-operation and standing behind him. Often when Gilles extends his morning run – he is an obsessed runner and outdoor fan – he backs up for him. When Gilles seems too seduced by his intuition he gets him back into reality. Together they are a team, although they are no friends.

There are other teams at the Police Nationale in Perpignan. These classic duos work together, however, each duo has got its own rhythm, its own qualities. When the cases suddenly explode and all have to co-operate this won’t go without inharmoniousness.

Gilles is in charge, but he doesn’t like it. His boss would like to promote him, but Gilles hesitates. Since his experience with the timeout when caring for his children he is anxious to secure his private life. Of course he is determined to solve the case, however, without having a career in mind.

Coming back to the cases. During summer there are young women, tourists, disappearing resp. re-appearing dead. Gilles sees the plan behind it and unmasks a psycho. Next autumn a chapter from France’ colonial background is reopened and the body count rises. Then there is the winter when Gilles and Jacques try to establish a crime where at first – and second – glance there seem to be only coincidences.

The winter is heavily shaped by Gilles’ marriage disaster. At least he thinks about it like this. Finally there seems to be a reconciliation.

Time goes by … Spring about two years later. The peace in the family seems restored – as far as possible – and there is a strange and tricky murder during the procession of the penitents at Easter.

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a faint cold fear thrills through my veins ... william shakespeare