Bar Balto is a whodunit set in a dead end town near Paris. Joël, AKA 'The Rink' because of his bald pate, the very unpopular owner of the only bar in town, has been murdered.When he is found dead in his flat, naked, covered with multiple stab wounds and surrounded by rivers of blood, it's not so much a question of who killed him but who didn't kill him, and it seems that most of his customers have strong motives. In a series of talking heads, they tell us their stories in their own, very different voices (from Magalie, the teenaged girl obsessed with Paris Hilton who talks in mobile phone speak, to a local mother whose only escape in life is her regular visits to the bar where she has to endure Joel's lecherous gaze).As the tension mounts and we're still none the wiser, the ending - in the form of Joël's final confession - is as shocking and tragic as it is unexpected.
This novel is many things: a gripping whodunit, a shaggy dog story, a series of hilarious monologues and an insight into the human stories that lie behind banal, blind, unthinking, everyday racism. Handled with her hallmark provocative wit and delightful levity, this is a departure from Faïza's first two hugely successful novels which shows her flexing her literary muscles and extending her range as a writer of supreme talent. But, in her own words, this novel is a continuation of her ongoing theme of 'the invisible people in society'. Darkly disturbing, staggeringly impressive, Bar Balto is also a blast - showing off Guène's brilliance as a ventriloquist and her growing skill as a storyteller and social observer who can not be ignored.