Dec

3

Absolute Perfection of CrimeThe Absolute Perfection of Crime by Tanguy Viel, New Press, 2002

I'll leave the final judgment to Tim Melvin, SpecList crime-novel expert (and my copy is on its way to him), but I had great fun with this Americanesque noir novella from a rising young French author.

Viel sets this story of a small-time crime family in an unnamed coastal city (one might guess Marseilles, though the author is from Nantes). "Uncle," the aging Don, on his last legs, agrees to a plan presented by Marin, the leader of the next generation of the family, to knock off the Casino. It's a "bigger" job than the clan has tried before, but Marin convinces Uncle it's foolproof, the "absolute perfection of crime." The book is narrated by Marin's reluctant sidekick for the heist.

Of course, something is bound to go wrong, and it does. In the ensuing chaos the characters' specific agendas come to the fore, each against all. The final chapters wrap up the loose ends, as events, many of them cleverly foreshadowed earlier, converge.

A snippet –

Soon, Uncle insisted, you'll wake up rich, proud and happy. And the word "casino" was churning through our guts, at Uncle's place, in the car, across the bridge, back at Marin's, that phantom idea behind my narrowed eyes and grimly set lips, because it wasn't for us, the casino, not for the likes of us. People like us, Marin, we operated a notch lower.

Well, maybe we were wiseguys, maybe there was something frightening in our faces, and maybe at one time people in the city were scared of us, of our criminal expertise, our black jackets, maybe we could have kept cruising the shady neighborhoods grabbing any dirty money left lying around, but one thing was certain: the casino — the only way to deal with that was to drive by with our heads down.

As for escaping it, though, we knew we might as well buy a ticket for Argentina, when we'd already said yes through our silence, according to the time-honored rule in the family whereby a shut trap was a signature on the dotted line…


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