Life would be perfect for Benjamin Malaussène (The Scapegoat, 1998)—who, just fired from his job at Vendetta Press, is free to resume his unofficial status as professional scapegoat—if it weren’t for the new man in his fortune-teller sister Thérèse’s life. Aristocratic Marie-Colbert de Roberval, Councillor Grade One in the National Audit Office is only after Thérèse for the contributions her insight into the future can make to his political career, and he doesn’t want any of her relatives at the wedding. Determined to squelch the nuptials, Ben and his co-conspirators—his gay friend Theo, his brothers Jeremy and Half Pint, and Clara and Gervaise, who run Passion Fruit, the play group for prostitutes’ children—rush to dig dirt on the impetuous suitor, but not even the recent suicide of his brother discourages Thérèse. So she goes ahead with the wedding, even though it’ll mean the loss of her clairvoyant powers, and leaves her husband the first night of their honeymoon—only to return to her own near-death in a suspicious fire and a looming charge of murder when someone tosses the bridegroom over the balustrade of his Paris home. The new widow shyly avers that she has an alibi, the lover who got her pregnant the night her husband was killed. So why won’t she produce this crucial witness, and what can Ben to help her in his absence?
Pennac’s gift for charmingly nonstop non sequitur makes this featherlight case less like most English-language crime fiction than like the comic-strip film farces of Pedro Almodóvar.