Book Review: The Front Seat Passenger, by Pascal Garnier

Publisher:  Gallic Books   |   Publication date: 10th March 2014

Front Seat Passenger Author Profile

Front Seat Passenger - 10.03.14After 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.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for allowing me to download this title from NetGalley for review.)

Front Seat Passenger Book Summary

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…

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Front Seat Passenger My Review

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

AMAZON UK AUTHOR LINK

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Book Review: The Missing, by C.L. Taylor #TheMissing

Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins)   |   Publication date: 7th April 2016

My Review - The Missing

The Missing - Kindle CoverAfter reading The Lie I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Cally Taylor’s new book – and what an outstanding performance by the cast in The Missing, from each and every one of them!

These perfectly ordinary folk are going about their perfectly ordinary lives until one day the extraordinary occurs – fifteen year old Billy Wilkinson goes AWOL. Okay, so he’s developed an attitude lately and seems hell-bent on looking for trouble, but the remaining members of his household never expected to be left wondering if he is alive or dead.

After an unsuccessful TV appeal and an ongoing online campaign, the thoughts of those close to Billy are starting to veer toward their worst fears. As the narration continues, you feel the haunting effect his disappearance has on the immediate family – their desperate situation unfolds before your eyes and sees them beginning to fray around the edges.

His mum, Claire, begins to suffer from random blackouts where she finds herself in different parts of town, questioning how she arrived there, scarily without any memory of the event. His father, Mark, projects an almost cold and unfeeling persona, but it’s his method of dealing with varying situations in his life, by ‘compartmentalising’ them in his mind and not really considering the effect of his behaviour on those around him. Billy’s older brother, Jake, is seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle, while Jake’s girlfriend has also been living with the Wilkinsons as she is experiencing difficulties with her own ‘devoid of all emotion’ mother. The only thing they have in common anymore is the fact Billy is missing.

The anguish of waiting for further developments strikes cruel blows throughout as they consider the painful fact: could they have done something differently that day? Well, little things occur to make them realise their life wasn’t as settled as they thought, but how did they miss the signs? Each of them were probably too busy keeping their own secrets safe.

The Wilkinson’s story is hit with the occasional burst of an online chat, which preceded the family’s current torment. The sneak previews of these two-sided and anonymous snippets of conversations are quite revealing, yet still conceal both senders’ identities. They are often graphic, sometimes explicit, but that’s before they morph into something else entirely as time ticks on. My perceptions of the characters changed dramatically, so my suspicions were aimed at just about everyone – and I was way off the mark!

Without a doubt the subject of The Missing is a waking nightmare. Those waiting for news don’t know how long the flickering glimmer of hope will stay alight for, nor can they grieve as the ordeal never ends. The author successfully captures the very essence of this perpetual state of limbo by lacing her words with an unsettling energy that simmers throughout, until they brew to a gobsmacking conclusion.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this title via NetGalley – and also the surprise paperback copy! – in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Summary - The Missing

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘The Missing has a delicious sense of foreboding from the first page, luring us into the heart of a family with terrible secrets and making us wait, with pounding hearts for the final, agonizing twist. Loved it’
Fiona Barton, Author of THE WIDOW

You love your family. They make you feel safe. You trust them. But should you…?

When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty. But the Wilkinson’s are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.

Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.

A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it?  Sometimes those closest to us are the ones with the most to hide…

“I was grabbed by this book from the first page and read the ending with an open mouth. I wish I could unread it so that I could go back and discover it again. Brilliant!”
Angela Marsons, Author of SILENT SCREAM

Author Profile - The Missing

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

CL Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. Born in Worcester, she studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle then moved to London to work in medical publishing as a sales administrator. After two years she moved to Brighton where she worked as a graphic designer, web developer and instructional designer over the course of 13 years. She now writes full time.

CL Taylor’s first psychological thriller THE ACCIDENT was one of the top ten bestselling debut novels of 2014 according to The Bookseller. Her second novel, THE LIE, charted at number 5 in the Sunday Times Bestsellers list. Combined sales of both novels have now exceeded half a million copies in the UK alone.

Cally’s third psychological thriller THE MISSING will be published by Avon HarperCollins in April 2016.

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Book Review: Too Close to the Edge, by Pascal Garnier

Publisher: Gallic Books   |   Publication date: 1st April 2016

TOO CLOSE TO THE EDGE - MY REVIEW

Too Close To The Edge b Pascal GarnierToo Close to the Edge was my first Pascal Garnier experience. Despite a stunted start, I soon settled into the clipped pace and style of writing. In fact, I can’t recall the last time I ever read a book so quickly!

Eliette has lost her beloved husband to cancer and she is at loss as to what to do with herself. Her grown up children have lives of their own and despite their casual nurturing and occasional watchful glances she has a light-bulb moment of how she wants her life to continue without their father.

Before his death, they had their sights set on a quiet little farmstead. So why not continue the dream? Despite the sadness, she realises she’s not the one who passed away. So, off she goes and along the way she’s developing new skills like driving, claiming a new image by wearing jeans, and she’s even encouraged to invite a helpful stranger into her home, after he kindly changed her tyre in the pouring rain.

Such an event would be unthinkable to her family. But she doesn’t let that hold her back, especially as life is proved to be undoubtedly fragile when another tragedy strikes, as she learns her neighbours’ son has been killed in a car accident. Eliette sees her friends trudging through the fallout from the psychological damage caused by an unexpected incident and this gives her a quiet determination and room to grow.

After a series of horrendous events that conspire against this little group of people and their very personal reactions to the grief process in a quite extreme manner, Eliette finds she is more encouraged by her new found confidence. The enigmatic stranger has an alluring pull and she just can’t help herself, nor does she want to, as she wants to discover more about him and his life before he arrived on the scene. She might be sixty-four, but, after all, she is alive and her desire to step outside her usual ‘motherly box’ finds her dismissing her usual sensibilities.

It’s a diverse tale drawing from a variety of darker ‘domestic’ themes: incest, murder, suicide, discrimination, alcoholism, and drugs. There’s a lot crammed into the pages, yet somehow it’s not oppressive, or disturbingly illicit.

It comes to the boil quickly and bubbles continually to keep the story moving forward. Like I say, it’s one of the quickest reads I’ve ever encountered. If you’re interested in the study of people and their unpredictable reactions to monumental upheavals in their lives, then this is an especially fine example.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publishers for allowing a digital download of this title via NetGalley for review.)

TOO CLOSE TO THE EDGE - BOOK SUMMARY

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Recently widowed grandmother Éliette is returning to her home in the mountains when her micro-car breaks down. A stranger comes to her aid on foot. Éliette offers him a lift, glad of the interruption to her humdrum routine. That night, her neighbours’ son is killed in a road accident. Could the tragedy be linked to the arrival of her good Samaritan?

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TOO CLOSE TO THE EDGE - AUTHOR PROFILE

(Courtesy of Goodreads)

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, 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. Gallic has published The Panda Theory, How’s the Pain?, The A26 and Moon in a Dead Eye, with more to come in 2014.

AMAZON UK AUTHOR LINK