The Redeemed Detective, by Pirate Irwin

Amie Strachan

Expertly captures the suspenseful atmosphere of a post-war France.
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The Redeemed Detective is the latest instalment of the Inspector Lafarge series, Pirate Irwin’s historical thriller series featuring French policeman, Gaston Lafarge. Beginning with the Nazi occupation of France, The Redeemed Detective sees Lafarge in Paris after being exiled to Francoist Spain. Having voluntarily retired, Lafarge’s return to France is prompted by the opportunity to solve the case of renowned publisher Robert Denoël.

Murdered in December 1945, the circumstances surrounding the death of Denoël were undoubtedly mysterious with the homicide remaining unsolved to this day. Denoël was openly supportive of the Nazi regime in Germany and the publishing company Editions Denoël became infamous for its collaborationism during the German occupation of Paris. It seems that as many have speculated, Denoël was likely assassinated for political reasons; with this being the central theme of Irwin’s new novel. Indeed, tracing the murder of Denoël, Irwin provides a compelling new avenue for the analysis of retribution following the end of the war. While the betrayal and death of Jean Moulin to the Gestapo is presented as a grave injustice, the murder of a collaborator is portrayed as a moral grey area.

It is clear that Irwin has carried out a substantial amount of research to explore questions regarding the nature of collaboration and dealing with the memory of Nazi occupation. Through following a range of characters including; Rene Bousquet, Gaston Gallimard and Jeanne Loviton, the author explores the notion of selective amnesia within post-war European states in the form of a whodunnit. After the liberation, France struggled with the memory of occupation and defeat, leading to what Henry Rousso coined ‘Vichy Syndrome’, describing the denial and collective guilt felt by the French particularly regarding the collaborationist Vichy government. As Irwin mentions, Klaus Barbie, the ‘Butcher of Lyon’ became a scapegoat to facilitate the shedding of collective responsibility. With the blame awarded to Barbie, Irwin shows through Denoël’s murder a reluctance to engage with the torture and death of collaborators as the individuals Lafarge encounters look to deceive and mislead him to protect their own reputations.

The Redeemed Detective is an excellent novel that expertly captures the suspenseful atmosphere of post-war France. Indeed, Irwin has constructed a compelling thriller that successfully keeps readers engaged through Inspector Gaston Lafarge’s complex interactions with a range of suspects. The truth behind Denoël’s demise remains unknown, but this fascinating exploration of retribution, reputation and guilt in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation provides plenty of answers.

The Redeemed Detective by Pirate Irwin is out now. Amie Strachan is an Assistant Editor at Aspects of History.