I've been putting off reading this for a while now, mostly because I loved Bird in a Cage so much, and was half afraid that nothing else would measure up to it (it's that nerve racking moment when you have to find out if you love the writer or the book). Also because the plot; " At one of France's toughest prisons, an undercover cop is attempting to trap an enemy spy by posing as a fellow inmate. So Frank and Hal find themselves holed up together in a grimy, rat infested cell, each warily eyeing the other. As they plan a daring escape, an unexpected friendship ensues - but which is the cop and which is the spy?" isn't the sort of thing that normally appeals to me.
I didn't like this as much as 'Bird in a Cage', it's much more violent and because it's dealing almost exclusively with a relationship between two men bought together by violence I found it hard to relate to. The way Dard leaves us guessing about which man is the criminal, which the policeman, until the end is clever and effective, it did make me think about the nature of duty, loyalty, conscience, and deception. He doesn't get bogged down in morals, and the exact nature of the relationship between the two men is fascinating.
It's not friendship, but something more binding born out of shared experience, hatred, and distrust, which strips everything else away. In the end there are no good or bad men, just men. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say there are no good men, just men doing what they do.
I don't mind the moral ambiguity of it all, could accept the fairly extreme violence, but wasn't particularly moved by the bond that grows between Frank and Hal (because it really was all to macho for me) though I can see that another reader would be. That said, I was interested enough to not only finish this book, but to read it in a day (instead of picking it up and putting it down over a week), had I really disliked it, or even just found it dull I would quite happily have stuck it straight on the charity shop pile.
It's also confirmed my opinion of Dard as a really interesting writer, and this time it won't take me 9 months to get to the next one I have ('Crush'). It's good to be taken out of my comfort zone, and given my love of the feminine middlebrow, particularly good to read something so at odds with that.