Monday, June 23, 2014

La Place du mort aka The Front Seat Passenger (Pascal Garnier, 1997)

This one gives the psychological thriller genre a whole new definition. Revenge story with a "hunter becomes hunted" twist where most of the action and mystery takes place in our protagonist's head. We get to know very few facts about Fabien's life but plenty of his mental state. Which is in a fucking state of disarray: he seems to have some complex originating from the childhood when his mother abandoned him and his father, he definitely has issues with sex (mental ones; he can get it up all right), has strange attitude towards children etc

Sociopath, pervert, psychopath? To be honest, I have no idea. I think he's a nice guy but really messed up. Would sane person came up with a plan to seduce his cheating dead wife's (also dead) lover's wife? And I'm not even sure Fabien wanted to do that. He just decided to stalk her and somehow they ended up in bed together.

Intriguing reading, totally unpredictable. Had no idea what our hero's intentions were in the first place and what the hell was he about to do next (that breaking into Martine's house?). Especially the first half is mind blowing with lots of stuff going on. It slows down a bit later and (with a cool twist) becomes almost normal. By normal I mean that Martine's madness is much more straightforward and for some reason easier to understand. If nothing else, her actions leave no doubt about her mental state...

So it's far from being whodunit (unless you are psychology student) but still I liked it a lot. Short and intense, unique, dark but also funny at times (see 'cool lines' below), written with a great style and easy to follow. It reminded me of Manchette's 3 to Kill. Crazy guys, these French and I'm very surprised that they are not more well-known. I couldn't find much information on Garnier online (nothing on Wikipedia about him!?) and would be grateful if anyone would share some interesting articles or interviews.

4.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
Fabien Delorme

Location:
Paris, briefly Costa de Mallorca and finally Planay in Côte-d'Or - "a little dump near Montband"

Body count: 6

Dames
Martine: "The other man's wife looked singularly uninteresting. She was a pale little blonde of about thirty, with staring blue eyes, practically no lips, and dressed in navy and beige. She looked like an over-exposed photo, with so little presence that one wondered if she was capable of casting a shadow."

Madeline: "Madeline appeared to be made of sterner stuff. She was a muscular fifty-year-old with the sharp eye of a bodyguard under a fringe of brown hair sprinkled with grey."

Blackouts
Yes, just like Shaft from my previous post, Fabien also passes out when he gets shot.

Title: 
A bit enigmatic: there's a scene in which two women take Fabien to a trip towards the location where his wife died. One of them insists that he takes a front seat (btw - he doesn't drive and hates cars) so the whole situation is a bit unsettling and menacing. So I thought the title was just another little mind-fuck that I didn't exactly understand. But then I'd realized that book's title literal translation was actually "Place of Death" (I can't speak french but Google translate did confirm that). I hate it when publishers/distributors change titles of books/movies but must admit that in this case translation sounds cooler.

Cover
Photo of a car in the night is pretty cool and noir-ish but it should be larger. I hate it when author's name and title take most of the book's cover.

Cool lines:  
They glanced briefly at Fabien and pulled the handle of a sort of drawer. Sylvie slid out of the wall.
"Is this your wife?"
"Yes and no. It's the first time I've seen her dead. I mean, the first time I've seen a dead body. It's not at all like a living person."
Forlani and the men in white coats exchanged looks of astonishment.
"It's very important, Monsieur Delorme. Do you recognize your wife?"
Of course he recognized Sylvie, but not the smile fixed on her face.
"Yes, yes, it's her."
"Do you know what her final wishes were?"
"Her final wishes?"
"Yes, whether she wanted to be buried or cremated?"
"I've no idea... I imagine like everyone she didn't want to die at all."

1 comment:

  1. Garnier is on my reading list for a long time since i've seen his name on a John Banville interview, in which the author has mentioned his book "How's the Pain?" and underlined Simenon's effect on his works. Simenon is one of my favourite authors, maybe the most, so i have to check it, but i've could not have the chance or simply forgot, so thanks for reminding his name again.

    This is rom one of the blogs i ordinarily follow, and it is quite a good one in my opinion. http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/10/bleak-existentialism-grisly-crime-french-author-pascal-garnier-hall-of-famer-brian-greene

    http://gallicbooks.com/pascal-garnier-in-his-own-words/

    p.s.: if you haven't checked Benjamin Black's Quirke series, i think you should give a chance since you have mentioned that you like Chandler prose.

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