Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Eskimo Solution by Patrick Garnier

The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier

One of my favorite Donald Westlake novels is Jimmy the Kid, in which a motley group of criminals plan a kidnapping of a child based on a book one of them has read in prison, in which the kidnapping of a child is plotted and carried out.  Westlake includes relevant chapters of Child Heist (written by Richard Stark, which happens to be a pen name of Donald Westlake) in Jimmy the Kid.  And this story within a story device works brilliantly and one reads with glee as the kidnapping goes wrong.  

Pascal Garnier flips this formula in The Eskimo Solution. This novel opens with the opening chapter of a novel by a writer named Louis about a man named Louis who is unhappy with his lot in life and concludes that killing his mother would be the solution to his problems.  And when it works, Louis realizes several of his friends could also benefit from such acts and if he did the job himself, his friends would never know and never be caught.  As the real Louis explains to his editor:

“Wait a minute, let me go on. It’s a very modest inheritance - but that’s beside the point.  Since everything goes to plan, no trouble with the law or anything, he starts killing the parents of friends in need.  Of course, he doesn’t tell them what he’s doing - it’s  his little secret, pure charity.  He’s an anonymous benefactor, if you like.”

“He kills people’s parents the way Eskimos leave their elders on a patch of ice because … it’s natural, ecologically sound, a lot more humane and far more economical than endlessly prolonging their suffering in a dismal nursing home.”

As the real Louis writes his novel about the fictitious, murderous Louis, Garnier treats us to installments of the novel in progress as he tells us the real Louis’s story.  The real Louis holes up in a rented house in Normandy to write the novel and to hide from his own troubles and the troubles of his friends, which begin to resemble the troubles of the fictional Louis.  And when the fictional solutions begin to occur in the real world, the fun (or the misery) begins.

Bleak, funny, unpredictable, The Eskimo Solution is tremendously enjoyable.  Pascal Garnier died in 2010 and it is only recently that his novels have begun to be translated into English.  Gallic Books has published nine of his books so far, which is fortunate because as soon as I finished The Eskimo Solution, I wanted more Garnier.  Anyone who appreciates the work of Patricia Highsmith, Donald Westlake, Georges Simenon, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Pierre Lemaitre, or J.G. Ballard should prove to be a natural reader of Pascal Garnier.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Last year I was scrolling through tweets about the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, England when I saw some of the best marketing for a new book that I have ever seen - petit fours with the title of Lisa Gardner's forthcoming (now out) novel, Find Her.  So simple yet so amazing.  I get hungry and think about the book every time I see this photograph.

My wife is a huge Lisa Gardner fan.  (I tried reading one and was horrified to discover it was about a serial killer who uses spiders and I had to stop reading - irrational fear of spiders.)  My wife is also a real-life, big city detective and a big reader (who also reads much faster than I do) and she loves these Lisa Gardner books.  Most police work is dull and frustrating, occasionally heart-breaking.  And most crime and mystery fiction is completely unrealistic and implausible if you know how things really work - much suspension of belief is required.  But somehow these Lisa Gardner books always win rave reviews from her.  Gardner is especially good on evidence, I am told.

In exchange for an advance copy of Find Her, I made Detective Sweetie (her name in phone calls/text messages) give me a brief review:

Lisa Gardner did it again!

I am an avid Lisa Gardner fan. I have read all her books at least twice. With that said, I will admit that when I read the synopsis of "Find Her" I was a bit skeptical. I wasn't sure if I could get behind a victim turned vigilante. Boy, was I wrong. From the very beginning Gardner draws you in with her complex characters and a story that keeps the reader wanting more. Alternating between past and present, Gardner weaves an amazing web that makes "Find Her" impossible to put down. Clear your calendars folks, once you begin "Find Her" you won't want to stop.

I'm tempted to start reading this book next - but first, I have to find a good bakery.