The initial orientation is difficult here -- like taking your seat at a Pinter play a half hour after the curtain's gone up. It is the second novel (the first to appear here) of a young Frenchman and it takes place after the occupation when Paris is in the hands of ""the rats that take over a city after the plague has wiped out most of the population."" What's left, or so it appears here, is a marginal world of demimondaines, derelicts, shams, and ruthless arrivistes like Khedive (he will become Police Commissioner) or Mr. Philibert who are killing off as many as possible. Working for them is the narrator; he's an informer, a traitor with ""not enough backbone for a hero. Too detached and too easily distracted to be a real villain."" He knows all his frailties, his queasiness, his compliance, and finally his total willlessness when he's recruited by tire other side. To redeem him, there's his protective concern for a sightless old man and a wisp of a waif who appear now and again. And to redeem the book which is altogether special -- particularly in view of some writing you might call rococo pop (""great telluric waves. . . incantatory paneurhythmics"") there's the author's feeling for the city of light in the dark with its ""whiff of rot in the air. Especially at dusk."" One is caught in the haze -- spectral, sad, solitary.