First published in France in 2002, Laurrent’s novel is the misshapen tale of a lecherous white-collar criminal who finds himself on a honeymoon with the boss’s sexy wife.
We first see Clovis Baccara leaving a Paris loft, telling his latest conquest emphatically that she was only a one-night stand. The 40-year-old Clovis, a sexual athlete who sometimes uses whores, has never married; the tenderness in marriage that grows as passion ebbs would disgust him. There was a time, 20 years before when he was a heavy drug user, that life itself disgusted him; he was saved from suicide by an ex-con, Oscar Lux, his neighbor in a fleabag hotel. Groomed by Oscar, Clovis has become his right-hand man, expertly laundering money for his crime empire. Now, attending Oscar’s wedding as his best man, he is undone by the beauty of the bride, Veronica, becoming as awkward as a teenager. One dance with her seals his infatuation, and his own “tragic outcome.” When Oscar is arrested the next day, he instructs Clovis to escort Veronica to their honeymoon hotel in Los Angeles; Oscar will join them later. Clovis, caught between the strength of his desire and his unwillingness to cuckold Oscar, tries to keep his distance from Veronica, an outrageous flirt; but this is not easily done, since he’s sleeping on a daybed outside her bedroom in the honeymoon suite. The author might have intended a sexual comedy or, more pretentiously, a fable about hubris and nemesis (it’s tricked out with classical references). Either way, it fails. Laurrent has no gift for narrative, pacing or characterization. Instead of character development, he gives us inventories: of rooms, hotel guests, boardwalk attractions. Too often he writes like someone who’s just swallowed a dictionary (“Woeful is the anaphora that all is but a hapax”). The stalemate between Clovis and Veronica ends abruptly, and Clovis fulfills his so-called tragic destiny soon after.
A decent premise, but the story goes nowhere.