“American Requiem” by Jacques Côté: implacable war, thrilling investigation


The Biker War of the 1990s was itself a noir novel. Jacques Côté adds just enough elements to make it a thrilling story!

The warning at the beginning of the book is clear: American Requiem don't is not an exact juxtaposition of the war that raged between the Hells Angels and the Rock Machines thirty years ago. Rather, it is a “very free interpretation” of events.

The fact remains that there is a charismatic biker leader who, as soon as he is released, goes to a boxing gala where he is applauded; a combative Crown prosecutor; a rogue who delivers crucial information to criminals; a journalist seriously injured by bullets; politicians associated with the mafia…

All the news of those years therefore immediately comes to mind!

But Jacques Côté, whose talents as an author of detective novels have been rewarded many times, knows how to pull other strings to attach us to his story. First, Owen Hayden, his lieutenant in charge of the anti-gang squad, is Tom's brother, the right-hand man of the leader of the Hells.

The break between the two brothers brings out the two sides of the field that keep the police and bandits occupied, as well as the weight of family influences… and the worries that result from them! The scene of Father Hayden's funeral, which obliges the two sons to be present at the scene by pretending that the other was not there, is in this respect rich in emotional charge.

Many highlights

Côté concocts many other highlights: interrogations, attacks, confrontations in the restaurant and spectacular kidnapping keep us in suspense. But he adds the daily life of the investigators: their meticulous work to counter the developing war; their fears also of having a mole in their ranks – even sinking the collective agreements of the police can be useful to the criminals. We share their stress.

Given the large number of characters staged, it takes a bit of time to navigate the pages of American Requiem. But the novel is over 300 pages long, so you end up familiarizing yourself with the game of criminal alliances that come and go.

Following the story is also made easier by the fact that it unfolds in chronological order. The story is detailed day by day over just over a month, from October 18 to November 25, 1996. References to the events of the time – including the holding of the referendum on Quebec sovereignty a year earlier – are taken into account.

Adding the liveliness of the dialogues, all this reinforces the impression of realism of American Requiem. Certainly, it is not a documentary or an essay as the author has already signed – notably Wilfrid Derome, expert in homicides on the beginnings of forensic medicine in America. We nevertheless have the impression of being alongside Owen Hayden.

And like this one, we are frightened of the conclusion of the story! But there will be a sequel, which we will definitely read.