A grim recounting—almost a slice of living theater—of a loathsome crime committed in France nearly ten years ago, from French novelist Carrère (Class Trip, 1997, etc.).
The author’s intention here is to get into the head of Jean-Claude Romand: “I would like to try to understand as much as possible of what happened and to make a book out of it,” he wrote in a letter to Romand. What had happened was that Romand had killed his wife and two young children, then drove over to his parents home and killed the two of them, then tried to kill his mistress, then returned to his own home, set it on fire, and swallowed a handful of sleeping pills. Unfortunately, he didn’t die. The subsequent investigation into the murders, which Romand confessed to very quickly, revealed not just that he was a mass murderer, but that his entire life had been a sham. He was not the doctor he claimed to be, and he didn’t have the cancer he claimed to have, or the famous friends, or the contacts in the banking world that made it possible for him to swindle millions of francs to maintain the lifestyle he had chosen but had no income to support. When he was about to be unmasked, he went on his rampage. The author, who had the cooperation of Romand in writing his story, reconstructs this road to ruin. He doesn’t go in for much postulating, so readers are treated essentially to a blow-by-blow reckoning of the crime. As Romand’s motivations remain obscure, no lessons are drawn from this vile act: the crime, for all its heinousness, comes across as parochial, a small load of really dirty laundry, and at times it stinks to the point of repulsion.
True-life crime, bald and sordid, told with the quality of a weightless incantation.