People Like Them by Samira Sedira – Book Review

This atmospheric, high-impact little read sucked me in and I devoured it in one afternoon. People like Them is a translated fiction read for me (as it was written originally in French) and tells the story of a mass murder in a small French village. That’s a tantalising enough premise – then I discovered that the story is based on a true crime, so it all became even more interesting.

Opening sentence: There’s no cemetery in Carmac.

Based on real life true crime

In 2003, in a small village in the Haute-Savoie region of France, a family of five was murdered, the parents and three children. The family’s neighbour confessed to killing them and a mysterious story emerged from the facts surrounding the case.

The fictional version

People Like Them gives us a fictional account of this horrific event, with Anna Guillot taking centre stage as our narrator. She is the partner of Constant Guillot, the man on trial for killing his neighbours, Bakary, Sylvia and their three young children.

I really enjoyed the themes the author explored within this story. As well as looking into the possible motivation as to why a man would suddenly one day kill the family next door, she looks at events from the POV of a woman who is now blindsided, dealing with the aftermath of discovering the father of her children is capable of such a brutal act:

The woman who one day becomes the murderer’s wife shoulders a responsibility almost more damning than that of the murderer himself, because she wasn’t able to detect in time the vile beast slumbering inside her spouse.

Author Samira Sedira is from Algeria and moved to France as a child with her family. She noted that in the real life murder case, the father of the family who was killed was Black, but racism was not cited as a possible motive in the real trial. Something she found strange and explores as a possible motive for her character. Bakary is far more affluent and successful than Constant, maybe not aligning with Constant’s world view, causing devastating consequences.

The Black man worked for the white man, not the reverse.

A thrumming sense of suspense is woven through the pages and it makes you take a moment to consider just how delicate human nature, especially when it is fuelled by the unconscious insidiousness of small-town mentality. People Like Them is a great read.

  • Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
  • Translated from French by Lara Vergnaud
  • Get your copy of People Like Them here;
  • Published by Raven Books July 2021;
  • 192 pages;
  • My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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