MONSIEUR RENê by Peter Ustinov


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The marvelously multidimensional Sir Peter—actor with two Oscars (Spartacus and Topkapi), director, memoirist, columnist, UNICEF ambassador at large, playwright (Romanoff and Juliet), novelist, and short-story writer (Life Is an Operetta, 1997)—tells of the widower M. RenÇ, Permanent President of the International Brotherhood of Concierges and Hall Porters, who has a splendid if dangerous idea. What a waste it is not to find some use for the confidences his brotherhood’s members receive! Why not use them as, well, an intelligence network? M. RenÇ, a man of minute calculation, lives just outside of Geneva, and it strikes him that the whales and sharks of industry and international intrigue get away with murder, while the law nets only poor fools and minnows. We must dispense, he says, with our obsequiousness and choose power. Information is power, especially information about dirty tricks and deliberate deceptions. And when are statesmen at their most unguarded? At table. We must pool our tips, he explains, and bring forth a revolutionary humanitarianism. This will be a service not for blackmail or money but for mankind. And so various horrible men are murdered, but always in ways that exonerate the brotherhood of any culpability. Chaplin first devised this type of black comedy with Monsieur Verdoux, to which M. RenÇ bears certain likenesses. Deft and steadily amusing.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57392-740-6
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999


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