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THE WINNER STANDS ALONE by Paulo Coelho

THE WINNER STANDS ALONE

By Paulo Coelho

Pub Date: April 7th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-168898-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A serial killer arrives at the Cannes Film Festival, in New Age guru Coelho’s listless thriller (Brida, 2008, etc.).

Igor, the protagonist and villain, is a veteran of the Afghan wars, a post-Soviet mobile-phone mogul and a self-confessed workaholic. He has come to Cannes intent on winning back his ex-wife, Ewa, who’s now married to superstar designer Hamid Hussein. Ewa left Igor (he rationalizes) because as a power couple—she’s a successful fashionista—they had no private life. Knowing his ex and Hamid will attend Cannes with the other glitterati, Igor plans to convince Ewa of his ardor by “destroying universes,” aka killing people. The body count begins with Olivia, a beachside jewelry vendor, followed by Javits, a kingpin film distributor, then Maureen, an independent film director hoping to pitch Javits. As Igor dispatches his capriciously chosen targets throughout the day, he texts cryptic notes to Ewa. The de rigueur novelty murder methods are employed: martial arts, curare, an anatomically aimed stiletto, cyanide gas. Potential victims include Jasmine, a young model about to be discovered by Hamid, and Gabriela, an aspiring actress who’s plucked from wannabe ranks to costar in a new film venture bankrolled by Hamid. These vapid young lovelies, awed and humbled by their impending induction into the “Superclass,” never miss a chance to pontificate about the ultimate pointlessness of champagne-soaked soirees. Dead Olivia becomes a benevolent spirit guide for Igor, transforming his zeal to reclaim his ex into sanctimonious recriminations over having killed for Ewa, which then, through a leap of illogic, turn into self-righteous resistance to the “temptation” to stop killing for her. (Confusing? No, Coelho.) A promising antagonist, Morris, a retired Scotland Yard detective consulted by panicky Cannes gendarmes, is close to profiling the killer but then, inexplicably, gives up.

The inconclusive ending validates our worst fears: There could be a sequel.