Publisher: Gallic Books | Publication date: 10th March 2014
After reading my first Pascal Garnier book last month, this book called to me from NetGalley to download it whilst I was supposed to be uploading a review for another book entirely!
I’m so glad I did, as The Front Seat Passenger is another winning combination of the wry observations of impossibly surreal grim situations and the absence of domestic harmony.
Monsieur Fabien Delorme has a caring, yet distant relationship with his father. Their emotions are fairly constipated, until alcohol is introduced to the conversation encouraging Fabien to spill his guts while his father maintains a bland composure. Bizarrely his deceased mother is referred to by her Christian name, and his father’s display of affection is sparse at best. It’s interesting being a fly on the wall watching them interact from their respective corners.
Following a visit to his father’s house to help him clear out his mother’s things, Fabien returns to an empty home. In the absence of his wife being there to greet him there are three answer phone messages. The first two are innocent enough. But the third is unsettling, as he hears a stranger’s voice telling him there has been an accident and urges him to contact the hospital.
It turns out that even though his beloved Sylvie has been killed in a car crash it’s his world that’s been turned upside down. They didn’t have children. They kept themselves to themselves. So now it was just him and the knowledge that his wife was not alone when she died. He should be able to take comfort in that, but it was such a cruel way to discover that she was having an affair.
To Fabien children were just receptacles that you constantly had to empty and fill. They clung to you for years, and as soon as they took themselves adults, they reproduced and ruined your holidays with their offspring.
Being left without a way to confront her, Fabien makes the unusual decision to focus on stalking the widow of his wife’s lover. He embarks on clandestine methods to get closer to Martine Arnoult, but first he has to get passed her battle-axe friend, Madeleine – a.k.a. the human shield.
Needless to say there’s some top class satirical moments and the spontaneous method of dispatching ‘problems’ as they occur, verging on the unhinged. Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ came to mind at one point, but not everything is as it appears! If one thing is clear it’s that Fabien ought to leave dangerous games to the more experienced players.
I’m wowed by the author’s skill of cramming such a vibrant, brilliantly layered world into such a short page span. The terrific one-liners bring clarity to life, death, and the assorted bits in-between. And I’ll hold my hand up. I wasn’t expecting any twist in the tale until one was delivered with precision timing. It’s sharp, and very, very clever.
(My thanks to the publisher for allowing me to download this title from NetGalley for review.)
Fabien and Sylvie both knew their marriage wasn’t working. But when Sylvie is involved in a fatal car accident, Fabien is stunned to discover she had a lover who died with her. Harbouring thoughts of revenge, he tracks down the lover’s widow, Martine, and begins stalking her. Fabien is desperate to get Martine on her own. And that won’t happen until he deals with her protective best friend, Madeleine…
Pascal Garnier was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. His noirs are published in English by Gallic Books.
Praise for Pascal Garnier:
‘A brilliant exercise in grim and gripping irony, it makes you grin as well as wince.’ The Sunday Telegraph ‘Often bleak, often funny and never predictable.’ The Observer
‘Garnier’s take on the frailty of life has a bracing originality.’ The Sunday Times
‘For those with a taste for Georges Simenon or Patricia Highsmith, Garnier’s recently translated oeuvre will strike a chord.’ The Independent
‘This is tough, bloody stuff, but put together with a cunning intelligence.’ The Sunday Times