Wednesday 4 February 2015



It's a few days before Christmas in Versailles. Olivier has come to bury his mother, but the impending holidays and icy conditions have delayed the funeral.

While trapped in limbo at his mother's flat, a chance encounter brings Olivier back in touch with childhood friend Jeanne and her blind brother, Rodolphe.

Rodolphe suggests they have dinner together, along with a homeless man he's taken in. As the wine flows, dark secrets are spilled, and there's more than just hangovers to deal with the next morning...

I read two books by French authors last year; Loser’s Corner by Antonin Varenne and another Pascal Garnier offering from Gallic BooksThe Front Seat Passenger. Both were 5 star reads, so what odds the third book from France blowing me away? IT DID!

The Front Seat Passenger (one of my 2014 picks of the year) review is here.

Short, dark and disturbing …. at times I felt like I was a witness to an impending car crash, but was unable to look away. It’s hard to turn the pages when you’re peering through fingertips that are half-covering your eyes!

We meet Olivier in the aftermath of his mother’s death. Olivier is a recovering alcoholic.  Crossing paths with childhood friend, Jeanne who lives in the same building as his mother, soon sees Olivier with his head back in the bottle.

A 20 year-old secret: a blind, controlling and jealous brother; a nosey, interfering neighbour, a tramp….plenty of alcohol and plenty of time in Jeanne’s company, with the manipulative Rodolphe seething in the background and you sense we may not have a happy ending. Garnier doesn’t disappoint.

I’m loathe to reveal too much of the narrative, I’ll leave well alone – offering a few snippets that caught my eye…….

Olivier on the train journey…..

A girl tottered down the aisle. Nice bum, nice shaved head, as if she knew she was pretty enough to get away with making herself ugly.

Jeanne reflective…..

The first black doll went on sale when she was twelve. She was sorry not to have had one, but it was too late by then. That was the age she became old overnight. One morning she got up and her toys no longer spoke to her. She touched them, turned them over in her hands as if seeing them for the first time, and began to cry. Her childhood had run away during the night.  

Our homeless dude…..

Roland thought the frescos and sculptures representing hell were a hundred times more appealing than the pale, cold depictions of heaven.    
Great story - dark and memorable, populated with troubled, destructive characters, presented at a perfect length with a smooth narrative courtesy of a superb translation from Emily Boyce.

Another compelling 5 star French read!

Pascal Garnier sadly died in 2010. Gallic books are keeping his memory alive with their English translations of his compelling books – 6 so far with another due out this year.

The Panda Theory (2012)
How's the Pain? (2012)
The A26 (2013)
Moon in a Dead Eye (2013)
The Front Seat Passenger (2014)
The Islanders (2014)
Boxes (2015)

Thanks to Gallic books for my copy of The Islanders
Their website is here.


  1. I know I'm going to have to read Pascal Garnier sooner of later - the reviews from the comrades are always so good! Not sure which to start with.

    1. I think they are all individual novels with no common characters - common themes maybe, so anywhere you like Moira!

      Read one of the ones I haven't - it will spur me on to catch-up!

  2. So glad you liked this so well, Col! I think Garnier was really very skilled at creating an excellent noir stories.

    1. Margot, I have to agree - car-crash reading at times, but addictive writing.

  3. Glad to hear this was as good as The Front Seat Passenger. Since my stacks are so huge, I'm going to put off getting any more Garnier for awhile. Maybe I'll find some at the used book sale in September. Looking forward to more of your reviews of this author. I'm betting you'll find them equally excellent.

    1. Cheers Glen, I think we're all suffering with the same issue.

      I found out today that he penned 30 books in total, give or take.....I don't know whether to be happy or downbeat at the prospect of 24 more possible translations to accompany the 2 read and the 4 on the stacks!
      Happy, I think....

  4. Well, as long as they are all short like this one. I hope I like these as well and you and Glen did.

    1. The 6 I have all seem to be of a similar length. Hope you like him!

  5. Interesting, Col. I'd be interested in reading Pascal Garnier novels. They sound pretty gritty.

    1. They are definitely not brimming over with joy and happiness, that's for sure. Give him a go Prashant!

  6. Can't wait to start reading Garnier. I have this one and another one.