Love, perversion, and murder among the African-American ex-pats in today’s Paris.
The good if gullible Ricky Jenks is pleased with himself after eight years in the 18th Arrondissement—eight years away from New Jersey and the loser tag hung on him by snide overachievers in his black middle-class family. He likes his job playing jazz piano at Le Bon Montmartrois; loves his mistress, the beautiful if occasionally enigmatic Fatima; and asks nothing more of his life than more of the same. Then his cousin, Dr. Cassius Washington, orthopedic surgeon to the rich and famous, blows into town. Cousin Cash, long Ricky’s least favorite human, has a favor to ask: His wife Serena has dumped him and found herself a hidey-hole somewhere in Ricky’s “beloved eighteenth.” Won’t Ricky please sniff her out? Ricky tries to say no, but willy-nilly, bemused and bewildered, he’s caught up in the untimely demise of a blackmailing transvestite and a close encounter with a suspicious homicide inspector. Cousin Cash, it turns out, has been leading a double life, sniffing coke, masterminding scams, and consorting with shady characters who kill each other in droves. Bullets fly and corpses mount (“quite a rare body count for five days in zis town,” says Inspector Lamouche). When the smoke clears, though, Ricky is still standing, his survival a kind of redemption.
Lamar (If 6 Were 9, 2001, etc.) breathes life into his Paris, but not into his Candide-like protagonist. And his plot’s a muddle.