Review of The Butcher of Casablanca by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Set in Morocco…

I’m always interested in mysteries set in unusual (to me, at least) locations, and Morocco certainly is that.  So I was excited to receive a review copy of The Butcher of Casablanca, and I enjoyed it, although it had some issues. 

To start with the good, author Abdelilah Hamdouchi does a very nice job of conveying a feeling for Casablanca and its inhabitants.  From his descriptions, I was able to imagine everything from the grungy port area full of old shipping containers to the upscale area of Ain Diab, with its elegant eateries and shopping centers.  And even though I may disagree with some of the cultural norms (e.g. Inspector Hanash’s joy at finally having a son, after two daughters), it’s not my place to judge, and the overall, the background felt realistic.   I was especially impressed by the discussion early on of the changes that resulted from the Arab Spring:  moving on from the old “Years of Lead”, during which the police force relied on forced confessions and torture, and political detainees were common, to an institution that may be becoming more modern, but still has cynicism running deep.      

The plot, however, felt kind of disjointed and I had trouble making myself care much about the actual cases, horrific though they were.    At the end, Hanash sums up the case with a Moroccan expression, “A grand funeral procession for a dead rat”, and that’s kind of how I felt about it too.   As a result, I struggled with whether to give The Butcher of Casablanca three stars or four, but eventually decided that here on my own blog, where I can give half-stars, I would give it three-and-a-half…

Oh, and I love the cover!

And finally, my thanks to the publishers, Hoopoe, and to Edelweiss, for the review copy!  

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