A sobering tale of crime and the exhausting search for justice in its aftermath.
Following on his none-too-cheerful roman à clef The End of Eddy (2017), Louis again blends fact and fiction to report a crime: On Christmas Eve a few years ago, following a chance encounter, he was raped and nearly murdered in an episode that the police dossier blandly calls an “attempted homicide.” His first impulse after the act is to clean his apartment obsessively, especially anything his attacker might have touched. “I couldn’t stop,” he writes. “I was possessed by an almost manic energy. I thought: Better crazy than dead.” As if rejoining Camus, Louis circles again and again to the scene and facts of the assault, and with all his predecessor’s matter-of-factness. In a particularly telling reverie, Louis imagines approaching a stranger in a supermarket and telling that person the story, which “would be so ugly he’d have no choice but to stand there and listen till the end.” In essence, that is the whole point of this lapel-grabbing narrative; it is slender but altogether powerful, unsparing in detail and not without sympathy for the people who are caught up in it, the reader included. Even the police, who are none too helpful throughout, catch a break; when they snicker at his story, it is mostly out of shock, though after a time, with their endless questioning, the cops all blend together: “I no longer saw the bodies of men and women, only repetitions that had taken on the bodies of women and men.” No such lack of specificity for the attacker, who, Louis is sure, is bound to strike again, all the more reason for Louis to keep a box cutter in his pocket at all times “in case [he] was hiding and waiting.”
An intensely suspenseful psychological portrait—and with many more questions than answers.