3 really is the magic number by the look of things.
This was a very pleasant surprise. Booker nominee – that’s about I knew of the book before opening it (or rather, before clicking on the first page, since I read it on Grace, the borrowed Kindle) so I guess it goes to show that a leap of faith is not the worst thing in the world :). It starts out fairly mundane: two middle class, middle aged couples sharing a villa on a vacation in France let a stranger in their lives and you know this stranger, an odd girl called Kitty, will wreak havoc with their lives. And she does, but not in the way you expect. Ms. Levy manages to create a tense and foreboding atmosphere with only a few words (the book runs about 100 pages), to reveal and to hide their relationships not just with each other, but with locals and, mostly, with Kitty, the engine of the books, as The Guardian puts it. She hints at secrets and baggage that none of them has the possibility (or the opportunity, or desire) to shed with a delightfully dry sense of humor – who wouldn’t love that?
Couples were always keen to return to the task of trying to destroy their lifelong partners while pretending to have their best interests at heart. A single guest was a mere distraction from this task.
Reading the back cover made me both get the book (for the promise of psychological analysis) and not be all that eager to read it (for the hinted-at descriptions of whatever is considered perverse in Japan). But if anyone has similar doubts, I can only say that there was nothing to be wary of, because the author never goes further than some mild S&M. What is actually interesting is Suguro’s descent into his own repressed subconscious. Being a Christian writer in Japan apparently means that you ascribe to a stricter morality than your peers and Suguro’s inclination to imbue his prose (yes, Suguro is a well respected writer, pushing 70) with Christian values makes him a sort of poster boy (not a good choice of phrase, I’m the first to admit) for an austere and righteous way of life. While receiving a literary award, he thinks he sees his own face contorted in an evil and depraved rictus at the back of the crowd and, later that same night, he meets a woman claiming to have met him in a rather disreputable neighborhood (Kabukichō?). These two seemingly inoccuous events coupled with a nosy and jealous reporter and a mysterious woman with some unusual proclivities form the tipping point that makes his life unravel. It ends up being an engrossing confrontation with the self, a deeper look into the relativity of good, evil and, most of all, humanity.
The last novel in the Mickey Spillane omnibus was…exactly like the others. Not better, not worse and definitely not thrilling.I suppose this type of noir works so much better in the movies, helped along by a charismatic lead. The dames, the jargon, the tough no-nonsense PI – they’re all here, but when you can guess the killer in the first 10 pages there’s very little fun left.