Here is a thriller that makes you want. Fleshy and evocative with his photo of the Mekong in the light of the setting sun and this “faded away” that tickles the imagination. Except that this is not a tourist trip that you start by attacking the first pages. Admittedly, the fans circulate a hot and humid air, the avenues and alleys of the capital, Ho Chi Minh City – which the author continues to call Saigon – are bathed in the scent of spring onions and the aroma of Pho (soup traditional) and resound with the concert of horns and the cries of the porters, but, in this Vietnam, we do not let our heads be turned by these postcard images. The slightest second of relaxation and you are crushed by a pickup truck or your throat cut.
Vincent Caron realizes it very quickly. This French journalist (whose name evokes the photogreporter Gilles Caron disappeared in Cambodia in 1970 on the road n ° 1 leading to Vietnam, in an area controlled by the Khmer Rouge) does not hesitate to carry out occasional missions for services French secrets. At more than 60 years old, he remains a backpacker at heart and loves nothing so much as flying away for a distant destination especially if it is a war field. So, when the DGSE asked him to go to Vietnam to find the trail of an agent disappeared in the wild, he did not hesitate for a second. Especially when he learns that he was the officer who saved his life some ten years earlier in Kandahar, Afghanistan when a group of jihadists intercepted him. And then Vietnam is for him a scar not completely healed. He was one of those reporters who, forty years earlier, witnessed the fall of Saigon.
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When he arrives in Ho Chi Minh City after a stopover in Bangkok where an honorable canon correspondent has given him some useful information for the future, he quickly realizes that Vietnam has only changed on the surface. Political clans continue to wage war against each other there, and freedom is only reserved for tourists. Above all, he understands that the fate of the missing agent is not only of interest to the DGSE. Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and American services are following him. And he, Caron, will become a target.
It’s a bulky thriller that covers all the classics of the genre (sumptuous creatures and traitresses and / or lovers, betrayals, etc.) but we don’t see the pages go by. The writing is efficient, the chapters short, the world fascinating, the characters wonderful. So you put yourself in your chair, and buckle up. Destination, the Mekong.
The disappeared from the Mekong, Marc Charuel, Le Toucan Noir, 656 pp., 15 euros.