Loser’s Luck

Christophe Guillaumot

(Liana Levi, 360 pages, 2017)


Gaming Enforcement in Toulouse is the backwater of lower-level crime.  Who cares about gambling addiction and fixed betting?  Certainly not two recently demoted police officers assigned to the Division -- at least until they investigate the gruesome death of a gambler.

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Renato Donatelli is called The Kanak after his Melanesian ancestors, the Kanak people of New Caledonia. He was with the fast-paced drug squad until his unrepentant disregard for hierarchy ruffled too many feathers. Yet his unorthodox methods do get results. He knows how to use his impressive physical strength to instill fear and respect but those who think he is all muscle and no brain are in for a surprise. Though more experienced, Donatelli is now under the command of Lieutenant Cussac, a younger officer who has also suffered a dramatic career setback.  Both men put forth their best effort coping with their new and unglamorous job – arresting soccer match-fixers or catching farmers illegally betting at a traditional game called “Loto-Bouse”(Cow Dung Lotto).

One day, mangled body parts are found in a trash compactor. In what remains of the corpse’s jacket there is a single playing card, the queen of spades. The death was ruled a suicide since the victim was a compulsive gambler. The investigation stalls until they discover that other gambling addicts have been suffering a similar fate. Donatelli and Cussac are led into the nether regions of Toulouse’s clandestine poker rings. They are assisted by ingenious ex-cons whose talents are now coopted for a better cause as well as May, a young female street artist who haunts the city by night. But they also cross paths with some of their former colleagues and are dangerously reminded that old resentments do not die as easily as out-of luck gamblers.

As an active police captain himself, the author is privy to an insider’s view of the world he describes. It is an unforgiving world divided by rivalries and personality clashes, a world where long and intimate associations with the criminal element lead some policemen to cross the line. Loser’s Luck is the second book in which the author brings back the arresting and endearing character of The Kanak for our great pleasure.

Christophe Guillaumot is a police captain in the Toulouse regional criminal investigation service. In 2009, he won the Quai des orfèvres Prize for Chasses à l’homme (Fayard). With Abattez les grands arbres (Éditions Cairn, 2015) and La Chance du Perdant (Loser’s Luck), he establishes a series inspired by a former colleague featuring Renato Donatelli, called The Kanak.