The King of Fools by Frederic Dard and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator)
|The King of Fools by Frederic Dard and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator)|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: I guess you could dislike this if the hero's naivety struck you as too OTT, but there's no denying the pacey pleasures and enjoyable craft on offer here.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: May 2017|
|Publisher: Pushkin Press|
Having sort of split up with his partner, Jean-Marie is on holiday alone on the southern French coast, when he chances to meet a married English woman, Marjorie. They meet in the most unusual ways – with two identical cars parked next to each other, she gets in the wrong one by mistake, then leaves her beach bag behind. Lo and behold they find each other at the casino, and the following day, when she arrives at his hotel to reclaim her bag, they meet heart to heart. Jean-Marie sees her to be a very unhappily married woman, and not even the arrival of his partner and make-up sex can convince him he is not in love with Marjorie. But finding her again will take him to Edinburgh – and into no end of trouble…
It was a little disappointing to see this book started with a holiday infatuation, much as the author's own The Executioner Weeps. But the sheer readability of his books soon took over – this is a rollicking piece of melodrama. There's the thriller writer's consummate ease in making things escalate, and the general author's ability with character to make us like Jean-Marie, even considering how silly he becomes and how naively he operates.
It makes one smirk to read a French book where a plot element is a general transport strike in Britain, and not the other way round, but the slightly alienating remove of the 1950s setting is also key to the enjoyment here. I found that time to be well evoked, as you'd expect of what was a contemporary novel in its day, as is Edinburgh – the French title translates literally as The Lawn, and it's the one in Princes Street Gardens.
That said, it's by no means perfect. One extended scene wants to be Rififi in suspense but comes across more as Feydeau farce, and it has to be said that it's just too guessable all told. But these books are small slices from crime history that you don't have to be a specialist to have fun with. They're breezy, and while small they remain perfectly formed as entertainment to while away a couple of hours. This one is a short-haul hop and not the holiday of a lifetime, but it's always nice to leave the country – even if you end up in Edinburgh instead of the south of France…
A slightly similar set-up and feel can be had with She Who Was No More by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, although saying that could count as a spoiler.
You can read more book reviews or buy The King of Fools by Frederic Dard and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The King of Fools by Frederic Dard and Louise Rogers Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon.com.
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