6 October 2015

Tanguy Viel: L'Absolue perfection du crime | The Absolute Perfection of Crime (2001)

As might be expected with Tanguy Viel, there are a number of references to the cinema in this novel: I particuarly liked, for example, the expression 'vol au-dessus d'un casino', which can only be translated as 'one flew over the casino', but more of that subject later. Although L'Absolue perfection du crime (translated literally as 'The Absolute Perfection of Crime') contains very little dialogue, it reads just like a movie, in parts a B movie at that.

But there's nothing wrong with writing a novel like a B movie, and Viel is very good at it. Here we have the cliché of the foiled hold-up, and the book is divided into three parts: the preparation for it; the hold-up itself and its aftermath; and finally the reprisals.

The main reference in the novel is certainly not to a B movie but to The Godfather, complete with a mafioso-type 'uncle' who is the patriarch of the 'family', although this is a family linked not by blood ties but by criminal activities. And these activities don't take place in Sicily but on the French coast, somewhere like Viel's native Brest in Brittany.

The 'brothers' are the narrator Pierre, his friend Marin who's just spent three years in prison for an unnamed crime, Andrei, and Lucho who is pulled into the gang because of his special skills. Marin's wife Jeanne is also seen as necessary for the smooth working of this supposedly perfect crime.

Nothing is skimped on the preparation of the casino hold-up on 31 December, which appears to be in 1991: Andrei poses as a video cameraman making a tourist documentary of the town, and what could be more normal than videoing the casino, the heart of lucrative capitalist exploitation amusement? Lucho knows that the way to do it is through the roof: taking the booty away through the roof via a small tele-commanded air balloon (well, these days were long before drones) is the way to go. Marin puts the money in the balloon which he and Pierre have stolen after Pierre (who's been playing roulette with Jeanne) causes a diversion by claiming a lot of his money has been stolen and demanding to see the manager, who is of course forced at gunpoint of open his safe.

So far so unbelievable, but it works nevertheless, and the five-million franc balloon lands in the sea as planned, and Pierre retrieves its contents only to find the police waiting for the robbers: Lucho has ratted on his 'brothers', and in the ensuing shoot-out Marin escapes with the money, Andrei is killed and Pierre gets out of prison after seven years.

Seven years is a long time to mull over the ways you've been badly treated, and the, er, fun starts again when Pierre is released and ready to settle accounts. First there's Lucho, who (all things considered) is pretty stupid: he knew about Pierre's favourite game of knocking on future murder victims' doors and then withdrawing for them to find a ripped-up name, meaning they were dead men, but Lucho left it too late and gets a bullet in his head and one in his heart in his supposed escape train. And then there's Marin at the opera, who sees Pierre staring at him and escapes, which leads to an unbelievable car chase and a shoot-out. Just like in the movies. And just as gripping.

My other posts on Tanguy Viel:

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Tanguy Viel: Insoupçonnable
Tanguy Viel: Paris-Brest

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