Crime detective novel by award-winning Quebec author targets Quebec-India asbestos lobby

Sun, Dec 20, 2015


Kathleen Ruff,

A crime detective novel just published in Quebec by award-winning Quebec author, Maureen Martineau, focuses on the criminal activities of the international asbestos lobby.

The novel, entitled L’Activiste: Le Jour des Morts (The Activist: the Day of the Dead) features Detective Sergeant Judith Allison, who, in November 2013, is assigned to investigate the explosion of a bomb in the small community of Tingwick in central Quebec. The detective discovers that the man who masterminded the explosion is pursuing his final target: the former head of the Quebec asbestos industry. When the ex-manager of a major Quebec asbestos mine disappears, the investigation takes on an international scale, involving both chrysotile asbestos lobbyists and human rights defenders who are fighting them. The investigation takes the detective to Jharkhand in India, to the Roro valley, where thousands of villagers, living alongside a abandoned asbestos mine, live with a bomb in their lungs.

The novel refers to the conference held in New Delhi in December 2013 by the International Chrysotile Association and the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association of India, as well as to the role played by pseudo scientists paid by the asbestos lobby, such as a character named Francis Stein.

I wanted to break the silence which surrounds this scandal, Maureen Martineau

The novel draws its inspiration from economic and political realities. states the author, pointing out that, while the characters in the novel are fictitious, the international asbestos lobby is very real. The Chrysotile Institute wielded power in Quebec until its closure in 2012, says Martineau, but the International Chrysotile Association is still based in Quebec and still continues its work to defeat campaigns by citizens in countries such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia to ban asbestos.

“With this novel,” says the author, “I wanted to break the silencce which surrounds this scandal.”

Martineau, in particular, pays tribute to Rachel Lee “a Korean woman, who died as a result of mesothelioma in 2011, one year after her mission to Canada as part of the Quebec-Asia Solidarity delegation, which came to Quebec to oppose the re-opening of the Jeffrey mine at Asbestos.”

This is the fourth crime novel that Martineau has published. It is being sold in bookstores around Quebec. It is only available in French.




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