Hannelore Cayre: The Godmother


Was it a drink or a medicine that was said to reach the parts others can’t reach?

You could say just that about Hannelore Cayre’s terrific crime novel The Godmother. Patience Portefeux, a respectable French-Arabic translator specialising in police phone-taps, goes rogue when she gets personally involved with a cannabis-importing family she’s met through her work and taken a liking to:

I liked the Benabdelaziz family. They had plenty of get-up-and-go and a healthy love of life…

When young Afid Benabdelaziz (serious, respectful and conscientious) gets busted, Patience gets her hands on a huge amount of good quality hash – hence her new identity as The Godmother, selling to lowlife dealers to finance her mother’s nursing home care and provide for her own old age. Patience doesn’t have any scruples about it:

Fourteen million cannabis users in France and eight hundred thousand growers living off that crop in Morocco…those kids whose haggling I listened to all day were serving heavy prison sentences for having sold their hash to the kids of the cops who were prosecuting them and of the judges who were sentencing them, not to mention to all the lawyers who were defending them. It didn’t take long for them to become bitter and poisoned with hate…

Zero tolerance, zero thought ….That about sums up the drug policy in this country ….But fortunately, we have our terroir, the sacred wine-producing soil of France. At least we’re allowed to be plastered from morning to night. Too bad for the Muslims…

In her work Patience deals with kids sucked into jihad because of their hatred of a France that has never accepted them. Afid used the motor mechanic qualifications that couldn’t get him a job in France to fit up his uncle’s vans with false bottoms; Patience sees that as far better than the alternative.

Life hasn’t treated Patience well (let’s skip over her criminal father, all the bodies buried in their garden, her husband who dropped dead at 34 and her 90-year-old mother still giving her hell in the nursing home) but she’s brave, uncomplaining and very very entertaining. You’re on her side all the way, and holding your breath that she gets away with it. (An added bonus is her excellent dog DNA).

7 thoughts on “Hannelore Cayre: The Godmother

  1. Kind of sad that the use of cannabis has proliferated to the point it is almost common place. I read a book (many years ago) by Gabriel G. Nahas MD, PhD, D.of Science, written around 1990. Cannabis was used a lot in the middle east by the poor and destitute to numb them from their misery.
    We lived in the Arab quarter when we lived in Paris. I had to walk my younger daughter to school every day because it was unsafe for her to walk down Rue Forge Royal on her own. If you want to integrate you have to make an effort.

  2. Saw the film version last night: Mama Weed. Isabelle Huppert played the lead role. I think the film was better than the book as it by passed all the overheard conversations between the drug dealers.

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