Yasmina Khadra is an Algerian author, the pseudonym of a relatively senior Algerian army officer named Mohammed Moulessehoul. When he started writing he was still in the army, and so he adopted the pseudonym to avoid trouble in his country. Back then, reviewers and readers were uncertain even of the gender of the author, and certainly no one knew his identity.
He wrote short, serious, sharp books, some of them detective stories, others examining fanaticism and religious intolerance. At some point he went into exile in France, and revealed his name to the world. While he was still incognito, however, he wrote three mystery novels which followed the adventures of Supt. Brahim Llob, a malcontent who works as a senior police officer in Algiers. He's a veteran of Algeria's war for independence, which ended in the early 60's, so he has to be pretty old, but he's stubborn and at times energetic as he pursues justice wherever the case leads him. The books are short, really novellas, but they're very good anyway, even if they're not constructed exactly to Western tastes.
So flash forward a decade. Khadra is now established as an author, and he has more things to say. He ended the Llob series in such a fashion that he can't write a sequel, so he instead writes a prequel, a much longer book. I expect that someone at the publisher told him that a longer, more complex, plot-driven novel would reach a wider audience, and I certainly hope it does. Dead Man's Share is longer and more complex, yes, but it's also a much better novel. The author's disgust with the leadership of his country is palpable here, as it was in his previous books, but the addition of a serious plot that actually works makes the book much more readable and interesting.
So the book starts with Llob worrying about his subordinate, Lieutenant Lino. Lino's a bit of a naif, and he's been seduced by a beautiful woman. He's making a fool of himself, borrowing money he can't repay from everyone in the station house to buy gifts and clothes and meals he can't afford, all to impress this young woman. When her lover shows up unexpectedly and it turns out Lino was just being used by the lady to stir jealousy in her boyfriend's heart, Lino pretty much falls to pieces. The next thing anyone knows, Lino's in jail, accused of trying to kill the boyfriend, and of course the boyfriend is really a very powerful old man with a lot of friends in high places.
Meanwhile, Llob is also approached by a university professor he knows. The man teaches psychology, and he also treats patients. One particular one, a serial killer no one ever properly identified, is about to be freed by Presidential pardon. The professor is worried that if the man is pardoned and he's allowed to wander around free, he'll go back to killing. He's hoping Llob can do something to keep the prisoner in jail, or failing that maybe Llob can watch the man and prevent a repetition of the earlier crimes. Llob duly tries to prevent the release, fails, and then has the man watched, with disastrous results. Eventually the two plots converge, and things get even murkier, as Llob is unsure who he can trust. Eventually the answer turns out to be almost no one.
I really enjoyed this novel, with all of its cynicism and jaded disgust at the political climate of the era. Imagine an Arab Raymond Chandler, with more philosophical overtones than Chandler perhaps but still, a Chandler, and you have an idea of what Khadra's writing is like. Highly recommended.