Gallic Books have been translating a series of novels by Pascal Garnier. These are slim books, reminiscent of the writings of Patricia Highsmith, which provide short but thought-provoking slices of French noir. The Front Seat Passenger is the latest in the series and chronicles the reaction of Fabian whose wife, Sylvie, is killed in a car accident with her lover. He attempts to ingratiate himself with the wife of the dead man, Martine, to exact revenge. But Martine has an over protective best friend who first needs to be removed from the scene.
The first part of the book is excellent as we enter the grieving world of Fabian who, although mourning his dead wife, feels curiously removed from his emotions. His dislocation is exacerbated by his discovery of Sylvie’s affair but in the midst of his shock he is composed enough to write down the address of the dead man’s wife. Before long, he is stalking her with the intention of starting a relationship. But Sylvie has a curious friendship with the first wife of her dead husband. And so we enter the claustrophobic world of an off-beat cast of characters that draw you into their small oeuvre.
The book works well when its leaves the reader unsettled as to how the narrative will unfold. When it’s clear that all bets are off and, in fact, anything could happen, then the narrative felt too loose for me. Which isn’t to say it isn’t an enjoyable read. I particularly liked the sparsity of the writing and the matter of fact tone. It was also a short read, only 139 pages. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy these little blasts of noir.
Thanks to Gallic Books for my review copy. The translation is by Jane Aitkin.