By Pierre Magnan
Murder mystery. Fiction. Very French.
I finally managed to force myself to finish this one, even during quarantine where I have nothing better to do. I feel like it wasn’t really worth my time, but maybe I’m just not at the intellectual level to truly appreciate it. There was a lot of obscure references to French history and literature that had to be described with footnotes that still didn’t make sense to me. Magnan also uses a higher vocabulary than the average author, or at least authors that want to be understood.
The story line is regularly interrupted by detailed descriptions of a multitude of weird characters. He even takes it as far as delving into their sexual practices, in great detail. There’s a graphic description of Emile’s wife, Prudence, with her lady lover, right after we meet him in the first few pages. It goes a little like this:
“Prudence’s tongue was so insistent that she nearly asphyxiated Rose, while she gripped her fiercely with thighs like a strong, thin goat”
Like, woaw, wtf?! That escalated quickly. And then the sexy stuff just drops off for the entire book until a bizarre, naked, masked party at the climax of the story.
There’s also a lot of wind and cedar symbolism. Magnan really finds the natural environment vital to move the mood of the story along. But then the descriptions of the environment drone on long enough to interrupt the flow of the story, and I forget what is even happening at times.
The murderer felt compelled by the wind to go about his killings. It’s personified multiple times in one sentence:
“As if the wind had pushed him along…as if it was carrying him…since the wind was with him.”
I did enjoy the sense that the murders were justified to the attacker. He serves his victims with a small passage in a letter before he comes for their lives:
“The measure you give will be the measure you get.”
This is referring to the avarice within the affluent Melliflore family. Somewhere along the genealogy of this family tree, this mystery killer was robbed of his inheritance, and he strives to eliminate all other heirs before him. In this way, their greed is their undoing. This plays out with each of the women he murders, as they each die desperately clinging to their worldly possessions, right up to the end.
He searches multiple mansion attics for some treasure he believes has been overlooked there by past generations. He keeps a detailed log of every place he checks for this inheritance he believes to be buried in one of the family’s houses. He lives alone in a secret place and doesn’t have any acquaintances. But the disappointing part was that this treasure that took and entire boring book to reveal was a rare stamp that was hidden in a drum (sorry to spoil it, but it really builds it up for nothing).
Unfortunately, this sad lonely man who’s just killing for his own inheritance gets randomly struck by lightning before he’s caught for all the murders (even of Pencenat, who had nothing to do with all of this shit and just wanted to dig his own grave because his wife’s lesbian). So in the end, he didn’t even get the satisfaction of finding the prized stamp because the detective who was tracking him down found it after he took the drum from his dead burnt body, after chasing him down after a crazy, naked, masquerade party thrown by a golden-pubed lady who threw the party because knew she was going to be killed…
…yeah, this whole thing was just a jumbled, confusing, anti-climactic mess really.
This whole book was about how messed up families are, and how this rich one got people killed because of greed.
“Family affairs. Is there anything in the world more complicated and less rational than a family affair?”
It’s a timeless theme. Man’s inhumanity to man.
“The world would be such a beautiful place, if not for the people in it.”
I’m really feeling that right now. So I really love that quote.
But thumbs down, on a personal level.
Because I couldn’t understand or relate to it much, although the writing was very good and there was some nice scenery. But the sex party was out of place, and I don’t think I really liked any of the characters much.
Definitely giving this one away, which makes 5 for this year. Only 15 to go, and this quarantine should give me ample time to get some real reading done. So there’s a small piece of positivity in this mess