A teacher plots to seduce his student. She has other plans.
The publication of another novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, the black French writer who died in 1995, is a cause for celebration. His association with the Surrealists, his biting sense of humor, and his deep familiarity with the masters of the genre – many of which he has translated – have produced masterpieces like “The Prone Gunman”, “Fatale” and “Three. to Kill “. I prefer to read Headline than many contemporary black writers.
Come now THE N’GUSTRO AFFAIR (New York Review Books, 192 pp., Paper, $ 15.95), first published in 1971, here skillfully translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Drawing inspiration from real events, it tells how an aspiring sociopath named Henri Butron, interested only in his own pleasure despite (or because of) the harm he causes to others, finds himself caught up in a growing series of crimes involving a leading African political figure. .
The novel, which sometimes exceeds its structural requirements, does not reach the heights of Manchette’s best work. He’s also a bit too indebted to the Jim Thompson novels that he clearly wants to emulate. But the muscular prose is crisp (“Hate is so boring,” opines one character with devastating effect), and the examination of a rancid ideology is vigorous and powerful.
Audra Colfax, the young artist at the center of Katie Lattari’s heart-breaking thriller DARK THINGS I ADORE (Landmark Sourcebooks, 393 pp., $ 27.99), scampered off to his grandfather’s house in the remote woods of Maine with his teacher, Max Durant, so he could see his doctoral thesis. Durant is certain that the project will be as brilliant and striking as its creator. It is also certain that Audra will fall prey to his charms, like so many students in the past. “His art, his body – they knotted together into one concept in me.”
Durant is about to discover that Audra is very much aware of his calculating behavior, and that she also knows the secrets these woods have kept since 1988, as well as Durant’s connection to a group of young artists who have come together. this summer. “I have so much to show you, Max,” Audra told him softly when they arrived in Maine. “I have such plans for us.”
The spider web of vengeance that Lattari slowly spins threatens to dissolve with every imaginable turn, or to turn into a sinister melodrama. The fact that it didn’t, not once, is testament to his painstaking and nervous plot, which reveals in chilling detail who makes art and who is subsumed in the process.
Sofi Oksanen’s DOG PARK (Knopf, 356 p., $ 28) sets up a remarkably ambitious story from a simple start: a woman named Olenka, battered by life, ruminates on her past (“Mistakes are wounds. Wounds bleed and leave a mark and traces can be traced” ) and spends his off hours at a Helsinki dog park, always watching out for a particular family but never daring to venture further into the connection. Then one morning another woman sits down next to her. At first Olenka doesn’t see who it is, but when she sees him fear runs through her: the woman, Darla, was once her colleague in a shady fertility clinic in Ukraine, where Olenka – not her. real name – was involved in the murder of a client.
Oksanen has a lot to say about the price of parenthood and the cost to young women who, with few other options to escape poverty, become egg donors or surrogates. Owen F. Witesman’s translation expresses the growing tension as layers of Oksanen in dark, layered plots. But history never merges into a cohesive whole. A lack of resolve and a messy ending is good; leaving the reader in a state of confusion as to what just happened, less.
When the Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri died in 2019, he left behind a last novel by Inspector Montalbano. “I completed it five years ago,” he said in 2012. “That is to say, the last novel in the Montalbano series is already written.” Now RICCARDINO (Penguin Books, 272 pp., Paper, $ 17) was finally released, capping Montalbano’s long adventures with delight, poise, and a committed dive into postmodernism.
Montalbano’s latest investigation begins with an early morning call, wrong number from a guy named Riccardino. A second call, from his clumsy police colleague Catarella, announces the shooting death of a nearby man, who turns out to be none other than Riccardino. The Inspector is called upon to find out who killed Riccardino, why the obvious motives of jealousy and torn friendships are red herrings and, most importantly, why he cannot get rid of the phone calls he receives from ” the Author ”, who twisted Montalbano’s life and work in art, not to mention the gross inaccuracies.
Camilleri has a lot of fun with the metafictional aspects of the novel, playing the battle of wills between his avatar and his main character. Montalbano remains as crisp and irascible as ever, leaving one last annoyed message on the answering machine of its creator: “So I’m leaving. Of my spontaneous free will. I won’t give you the satisfaction of getting rid of me somehow. I will disappear on my own. It’s a fitting final turn that ensures Montalbano – and Camilleri – the immortality of detective fiction.