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BEYOND SUSPICION
by Tanguy Viel and Linda Coverdale, trans.
The New Press, November 2008
170 pages
$19.95
ISBN: 1595581561


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There is a French expression faux-frères! (false brothers), that means traitors from within. It describes this novel perfectly, because the cast of characters consists of two pairs of siblings. Or are they really? The story opens at a wedding celebration and rapidly moves from deceit through treason, faked kidnapping, and murder to an intriguing ending. It is a thriller but not the sort that depends on escalating violence. The suspense lies more in the thoughts and intentions of the characters but is nonetheless constantly present and ever changing until the end.

Nominally set in the south of France, the main setting is the sea and the events could easily take place in any seaside location. Lise, earning a living by seducing men without yielding to their desires, manages to entrap Henri, an older widower, into marriage. She already has a lover, Sam, the narrator, whom she introduces as her brother. Henri also has a brother, the enigmatic Edouard. This quartet constitutes the only players in the drama that will unfold with Lise's fake kidnapping. True to form, the plan goes awry for there's always a "doomed inevitability" about noir novels, as Jonathan Lathen observes in his foreword.

Gallic noir is a perfect label for the work of this young French author. His writing, reminiscent of Chandler or Highsmith relies on character study. Dark, filled with lust, despair, the lure of money, death, it is also tinted with beauty and color: the blue sea, the yellow sun, the golfing green. Viel uses a cinematic approach in the images he draws, the rhythm of the story and the editing, so that you see and feel the tale unfold. A novella it may be, but nothing is missing. A mystery, yes, but not a police procedural, for the cops are notably absent and there is no investigation to speak of. The whole story is contained within a limited sector and involves a small group of people. In that way, it is as unrealistic as most cozy mysteries, but if you recognize this element of artificiality and accept it, you're in for a most satisfactory reading experience.

The English translation by Linda Coverdale rises to the demands of Viel's prose and is very readable.

Reviewed by Nicole Leclerc, March 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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