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The Final Bet

The Final Bet

Abdelilah Hamdouchi
Translated by Jonathan Smolin
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 156
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  • Book Info
    The Final Bet
    Book Description:

    Casablanca. Othman, a handsome young Moroccan man, returns home to discover his elderly French wife, Sofia, brutally murdered in their bedroom. Highly educated but chronically unemployed, Othman had been in desperate straits before meeting Sofia, who pampered him with fancy cars, expensive clothes, and access to her mansion in the most exclusive neighborhood in Casablanca. But living with a woman more than forty years his senior was too much for Othman—before his wife’s murder he sought relief in a steamy affair with an attractive young aerobics instructor, Naeema. The Moroccan police quickly zero in on Othman as the prime suspect in his wife’s murder. But is he guilty? Did he kill his wife for the money and his lover? Or is he an innocent man, framed by circumstance—and an overzealous and brutal police force? Abdelilah Hamdouchi’s The Final Bet is the first Arabic detective novel to be translated into English. With it, Hamdouchi joins the ranks of Yasmina Khadra and Henning Mankell, finally bringing the modern Arabic novel to the global stage of detective fiction.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-164-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. 1
    (pp. 1-14)

    Among the dozens of restaurants spread out on the Ain Diab coast, Sofia’s was the only one with an air of simple elegance, as if it reflected the personality of its namesake. Most of the restaurant’s customers were summer tourists or French people who lived in Morocco year-round. It was rare for locals to come and enjoy its coq au vin, soufflés, and escargots.

    The last customers of the night left the restaurant around ten o’clock. Business was slow in the fall, except on weekends. Sofia switched off the neon sign outside and locked the door early so she could...

  3. 2
    (pp. 15-32)

    When the phone rang, Detective Alwaar was on the verge of nodding off. He stayed in the other room studying horse betting numbers and chain-smoking until he slipped into bed next to his wife after midnight. He hadn’t yet picked the numbers he’d bet on. He happened to be dreaming of his favorite horse losing the race when the phone rang.

    Who’s Alwaar? If he got the chance to introduce himself, he’d probably just say he’s been a criminal detective for thirty years, but was never lucky enough to get promoted to commissioner. His real name was Allal ben Alawaam....

  4. 3
    (pp. 33-40)

    The morning sun hadn’t yet come up on the rooftops when Othman left the villa. He happened to look over at an old Renault 4 parked nearby and, through the predawn light, could make out someone sleeping inside. It didn’t occur to him this person was supposed to be keeping him under surveillance.

    He walked slowly under the palm trees in the middle of the road breathing in the sweet air. He hadn’t slept much and hadn’t even bothered to change his clothes. He spent the rest of the night on the couch, going through different ideas in his head,...

  5. 4
    (pp. 41-48)

    Othman wandered the streets for about half an hour, feeling resentful about all the help he’d given his parents over the past five years. He thought about the gifts he’d bought them and the cash he gave them every month. He remembered how he’d held his father’s hand as they went to a travel agency, surprising him with two tickets for the hajj, one for him and the other for his mother. That was followed by a ridiculous controversy that raged in their family for days about whether his parents’ hajj was legitimate since the money came from a Muslim...

  6. 5
    (pp. 49-55)

    Alwaar got to the station about eight thirty in the morning and was told the commissioner was waiting for him. The detective found the office door ajar and the commissioner talking on the phone. Without stopping his conversation, he motioned to Alwaar to sit down. The commissioner was a huge man with a piercing stare. He didn’t make any decision before pondering it over and over again. He always doubted people and trusted only a few of his assistants. At the top of them, however, was Alwaar.

    The commissioner put the phone down and leaned back in his big leather...

  7. 6
    (pp. 56-67)

    Boukrisha didn’t have any trouble finding the address. Because of all the time he’d had to spend in the poor neighborhoods of Casablanca, Derb al-Fouqaraa was like an open book between his hands. He’d been there more than a few times to deal with one problem or another.

    Boukrisha had four men with him. They left the police car far from the area, just to make sure no one saw them coming. One inspector took his position at the entrance of the neighborhood and another was pinned next to the main electricity posts. As for Boukrisha, he went straight for...

  8. 7
    (pp. 68-79)

    Detective Alwaar reached the door of the building where Yasmina Club was located. He waited a few minutes until he heard the sound of people coming down the stairs. He then saw a group of women wearing jackets on top of their workout clothes. They had just taken a shower.

    He looked at his watch and saw it was seven in the evening. He began pacing in front of the building door with his hands in his pockets. He didn’t have any idea what time Naeema got off work. When he saw some other women go in the building with...

  9. 8
    (pp. 80-91)

    The next morning around nine o’clock, the commissioner’s office was full of people. Besides the commissioner and Alwaar, Michel Bernard—an advisor at the French Cultural Center—was there, together with Jacques.

    “Let me introduce you to Sofia’s son, Monsieur Beaumarché,” Bernard said in a tone full of grief. “He just got in from Paris.”

    The commissioner shook his hand warmly and then extended his condolences with all the feeling he could muster. Alwaar and Boukrisha did the same thing. The commissioner asked them all to sit down and mumbled again some expressions of consolation. Looking back and forth between...

  10. 9
    (pp. 92-106)

    Othman ran through alleyways for a long time, terrified he’d wind up back at Naeema’s building. He was feeling like he wasn’t heading anywhere in particular, but that he kept going round in circles. He only stopped after he found himself on Ibrahim al-Roudani Street, which was packed with people and cars. Cafés, businesses, and small stores lined both sides of the street. He slowed down and began collecting his thoughts, repeatedly turning around to see who was behind him. He kept hoping he was in another place, far from the eyes that were no doubt watching him. At every...

  11. 10
    (pp. 107-111)

    It was quarter past two when Othman got to the police station, which was almost empty since people don’t get back from lunch until two thirty. Nonetheless, a uniformed policeman quickly called out to Othman, led him down the hallway, and told him to sit on a chair next to Alwaar’s office. The cop went away for a moment and then came back, standing there as if pinned to the ground at the end of the hallway. It seemed he suspected Othman might change his mind and take off. Less than ten minutes had passed when Othman heard some noise...

  12. 11
    (pp. 112-125)

    The lawyer wolfed down a sandwich in his office and thought about the case for half an hour. He wasn’t a hundred percent convinced of Othman’s innocence but he wanted to proceed like any lawyer whose only job is to defend their client, regardless of whether they’re guilty or not. He thought he had to do everything he could to help Othman, because even if he was guilty and confessed to the police, he might be able to get a conviction of murder without intent or premeditation.

    The lawyer found himself wondering about the same questions Othman had asked Alwaar....

  13. 12
    (pp. 126-141)

    Hulumi went into the court building, presented himself to the public prosecutor’s office as Othman’s lawyer, took the police report to the photocopier, and then sat down in a corner to read it. He only lifted his eyes off the report twice. The first time was when he saw the statements of the cook Abdelkader, who accused Othman of sneaking into the kitchen and taking the knife the victim was killed with. The second time, he looked up as all the muscles of his face twitched. The police report stated the fingerprints of the accused were the same as those...

  14. 13
    (pp. 142-144)

    In order to celebrate with his guests, Othman took the unusual step of turning off the outside neon sign that read “Sofia’s Restaurant.”

    At the dinner table there was Detective Alwaar, Inspector Boukrisha, the lawyer Ahmed Hulumi, and his colleague Tharya Bouchama. Othman refused to join them until he finished counting up the receipts. He was sitting relaxed on his stiff chair behind the glass counter. All of a sudden he felt a light touch on the nape of his neck. For a second, he thought it was Sofia. He turned around impatiently and saw a magnificently beautiful woman whose...

  15. Translator’s Afterword
    (pp. 145-148)

    The prehistory of the Moroccan Arabic police novel lies in the 1970s and 1980s, a period of grave human rights violations known as the Years of Lead. During this time, the Moroccan police and security forces arrested and tortured thousands of dissidents, many of whom are still missing and presumed dead. Synonymous with cruelty, capriciousness, and corruption, the police of 1970s and 1980s Morocco were widely feared and hated. Even uttering the word ‘police’ in public during the Years of Lead was considered taboo. It should therefore come as no surprise that the police almost never appeared in Moroccan works...