Book Review: Bernard Besson, The Greenland Breach

Posted April 30, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Uncategorized / 2 Comments

Book Review: Bernard Besson, The Greenland BreachThe Greenland Breach by Bernard Besson
Genres: Spy, Suspense, Thriller
Published by Le French Book on October 30, 2013
Pages: 285
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley


The Arctic ice caps are breaking up. Europe and the East Coast of the Unites States brace for a tidal wave. Meanwhile, former French intelligence officer John Spencer Larivière, his karate-trained, steamy Eurasian partner, Victoire, and their bisexual computer-genius sidekick, Luc, pick up an ordinary freelance assignment that quickly leads them into the glacial silence of the great north, where a merciless war is being waged for control of discoveries that will change the future of humanity.

A melodramatic tale of confusion, incompetence, and loose threads revolving around an environmental catastrophe with a wanna-be-James-Bond vibe.

I did receive an advanced reading copy from the publisher. And probably won’t get another…!

My Take
Bloody hell! This story has no focus and so many “primary” subplots going on with the “wrong” one taking precedence. Actually, I suspect this is meant to be the first in a series, so it would have behooved Besson to focus there. To have all the minor plots revolve back to the main one, the main characters whom I believe are John, Victoire, and Luc (JVL). Instead, it’s so all over the place thatJVL are NOT getting their due. Instead, they’re battling for primacy with Loïc and Connie.

It’s also JVL’s new company versus the ice core samples and here is where JVL wins hands down. In spite of the core samples being so incredibly important, Besson ignores them, just as he ignores the plight of the Bouch-Bel-Air.

While an uneven play of drama and tension exists, I spent more time rolling my eyes and noting way too many “oh, please”s to make this a fun read. It’s incredibly confusing, partly because of the lack of focus and too many main players who don’t come across as competent.

I gotta wonder why John or Victoire are even in the business; I’m not impressed with either of them. Sure they’re nice enough people, and Besson has set up an interesting background for them, but John spends way too much time being humiliated while Victoire is such a weasely chicken heart that I want them to find new jobs. As for Luc…yeah, he’s colorful, but more in the sense of a curious child then a competent operative.

Besson does have a way with words—with a nod to Julie Rose’s translation—“…muffle the howling of Greenland as it begins to die”. However, Besson over- or underplays everything. He contradicts his characters, and throws in disconnected sentences that don’t appear to be related to what the character is saying with info dumps galore.

Could someone explain how Luc is flourishing at Fermatown when they’re just doing boring background checks and tedious surveillance?

”Things don’t change. Change your way of seeing them. That is all you need to do.”

Geez, the “evil villain” speech at the end was so lame….and consistent to the end as well as it jumped all over the place.

Loose threads include Navaran, a minor point I grant, but I do worry about her; why is anyone anxious to buy up Greenland if it’s falling apart; who Jensen works for; why the Congress is so nasty; Isabelle’s purpose in this other than for salacious value; the meaning behind “the South is heading north”; why Luc, in his freelance reporter role, wouldn’t find Connie’s name familiar; why Isabelle spills so much to this reporter; the point of preventing the chopper and its cargo from taking off; the point of the sister ship; Terre-Noire’s massive incompetence; why John went up to Josephine when the truth is already known; and, why French interest is a problem; and, the significance of Qaalasoq nodding to Moller.

Then there are the stupid moves which include handing over the ship’s plans to the enemy. In what world is this considered a smart decision? Why does Connie wait so long to kill the jerks? WHAT was the point of allowing things to go so far? The box that would cause the police to sink the ship…and here I’m expecting something earth shattering, something so incredibly horrible…*ow, ow, ow, that eye roll hurt!*… Why would Laura believe a North Land employee would have information about a Terre-Noire ship? What was the point of keeping Mary out of the loop about the hotel? Why is John reeling from the knowledge that Qaalasoq learned French at an art gallery? Actually, why would someone learn French at an art gallery? How is John planning to pilot two Zodiacs all by himself? What was the point of Luc sleeping with these women?

Oh, puh-lease…

“It was now his turn to keep secrets. The two Inuits looked at the Frenchman with respect.”


Intellectually, I get that I’m supposed to be sad, outraged, and tense, but Besson had me so annoyed and confused that I simply couldn’t wait to finish.

It’s incestuous with all the overlap and excess, and if this is how real world intelligence operatives maneuver through the world, I’m not surprised the world is so effed up.

Please, Besson, get a developmental editor!!

The Story
Caught in the tumultuous wave caused by the Lauge Koch Kyst, a part of Greenland, falling into the ocean, the Bouch-Bel-Air faces her fate and prays in the face of a “gigantic whirlpool of icy black mud”.

Her mission? To uncover the secrets of the ages before the earth is destroyed. If she can survive.

The Characters
The former Major John Spencer Larivière and his wife, Victoire Augagneue, have both retired from French Intelligence to form their own strategic-and criminal-analysis firm, Fermatown. And why they did, I’ll never understand as they seem to be clueless in the field. Their former agency, that claims to value them, gives them grunt work and rarely pays them. Each has a horrible past which Besson either over- or underplays. Hey, at least Besson is consistent. Caresse is Victoire’s cat. Luc Masseron is the third partner in Fermantown; he’s bisexual and supposedly a tech geek with unconventional ideas. As part of their intelligence-gathering, they have a left-wing blog, I really liked this idea. Very fresh and original. John is also Florent de la Salle, the editorial director while Luc “Martinent” is a freelance reporter for it. Marc Racine is the fake name Luc uses to impersonate a doctor. Alicia Spenser is the artist aunt who died and left John this amazing house.

French Intelligence
Hubert de Méricourt is the director at Les Invalides. Deputy Director François Guerot is in charge of security clearance investigations as well as John’s handler. Thomas Curvien is the driver who picks up Victoire. Sébastien Le Gall is a former colleague of Victoire’s as well as an experienced analyst and energy expert.

Terre-Noire is a Franco-Danish oil-and-gas company, one of a few of the major companies left. Nicolas Lanier is the executive chairman who is hiding out. Christophe Maunay is the Human Resources manager caught up in scandal; Claudine Després answers the phones. Paul Gessar/Gressin is the scientific director for the Arctic and one of Brissac’s former students.

Gaia is a geological assets software program that knows where all the oil, gas, and minerals are located. How and why would Isabelle know so much about it? What’s the reason for the relationships she has?

The Bouc-Bel-Air, a scientific research vessel
Loïc Le Guévenec is the captain of the ship, a man who lives for the sea and not his over-sexed wife, Isabelle, who seems to be sleeping with everyone but her husband. Rox Oa is the traitorous Spanish boatswain, who comes aboard as a last-minute replacement. Sylvain Velot replaces Hu Yuanyuan. Romain Brissac, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist and renowned climatologist, is Isabelle’s primary lover. A mission biologist doubles as a doctor.

North Land
North Land, a Canadian-American company, is Terre-Noire’s chief competition. Abraham and Geraldine Harper run the company and hire John to bodyguard their daughter, Mary. She’s a right handful, and John doesn’t actually do much to guard her. Harold is their never-seen son. Arvid Moller is their scientific director in Greenland. Qaalasoq is a trusted Inuit of the Wild Dog clan. Sakaeunngueq, aka Saké, is a friend of Qaalasoq’s and has a couple of sled dog teams. Navaran is his wife.

The Northern Peoples Congress

A Valkyrie and lawyer for the Congress, Connie Rasmussen is great friends with Laura and strident in defense of the killer polar bears. Laura Al-lee-Ah is a world renowned artist of bears and president of the Congress.

Thor Johannsen is director of Arctoil, a Norwegian North Sea oil company.

Dr. Patrick has been treating John for his grafts. Aimé Toussaint is a lifeguard at the Club Interrallié where Gabriel is a bartender. Omar Al Selim is the rich Qatar businessman who bailed Maunay out. Per Sorenson is a Danish assassin while Lars Jensen is another assassin-for-hire, willing to perform the most heinous acts. Hanne Jorth is head of Danish Defense Intelligence Security.

The tupliaq is a charm made of dead human and animal parts.

The Cover
The cover is a collage reflecting important concepts in the story: the Eiffel Tower, of course, represents French interests while the iceberg calving off the cliff face represents Greenland, and the lines for longitude and latitude at the top of a flattened global map represents the North Pole, the source of the waters that will flood the world.

The title is much too accurate, for it is The Greenland Breach that starts this disaster.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie, who is fast gaining followers in Goodreads and Amazon for her honest book reviews. Passionate about reading, writing, and editing, she searches the Internet for tips, tricks, and warnings with a keen interest in ideas that will foster reading in children as well as adults while aiding writers in their craft. Kathy blogs daily at KD Did It Takes on Books.

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