11 October 2015

Yves Ravey: La Fille de mon meilleur ami (2014)

Yves Ravey's La Fille de mon meilleur ami (lit. 'My Best Friend's Daughter') is, like I think all of his laconic fictions, short, lacking in a great deal of dialogue and psychology, packed with action (some of it described in obsessive detail), suspenseful, but most of all unpredictable right up to the end.

William Bonnet has promised, on his best friend Louis's deathbed in Montauban, to find his daughter Mathilde, who has spent a number of years in a psychiatric hospital, and who has lost custody of her son Roméo to her former husband Anthony Simonin (which is of course very close to the spelling of the crime writer Simenon, but no matter). Mathilde is easily found, and although William feels he's been thrown in at the deep end, he agrees that the least he can do for her is try and arrange a brief meeting between Mathilde and her five-year-old son, even though the judge has decreed against it.

So they end up sleeping separately in a room in a Super 8 on the outskirts of Savigny-sur-Orge, where William, using a false identity card, poses as a child welfare worker personally interested in Mathilde seeing her son for a short time. He says this to Sheila, the second mother of Roméo and the second wife of Anthony, who's the union treasurer of the Rhône-Poulenc factory which is at the moment on strike.

William arranges Mathilde's meeting with Roméo, although he has a dark side: as the financial director of Vernerey cycles in Montceau-les-Mines, he's been embezzling funds and needs a large sum of money to get out of the mess he's created. There are an awful lot of coincidences in this story, but he finds a method of blackmailing his way out of things: he's chanced upon Sheila's rather odd relationship with the Rhône-Poulenc boss Leduc, and has taken a compromising photo which will allow Mathilde to see her child and – much more importantly – can get his hands on the strike fund money and pay off his debts to Vernerey. (He arranges this in a café, and there's a great deal about milkshakes, vaguely recalling the five-dollar milkshake conversation between Vincent (John Travolta) and Mia (Uma Thurman) in Quentin Tarentino's Pulp Fiction (1994).)

But the blackmail plan is of course easier said than done, and William has to run the gauntlet of Leduc's human bulldog Bardot (certainly no Brigitte: ah, the cinematic references in these books!), plus the menacing Leduc himself, who demands the photo, the memory stick and camera memory card, and (via Bardot) sees to the destruction of William's laptop hard drive. Somehow though William still manages to steal the strike fund money, stash it in his car trunk, but just dithers over the safety of Mathilde now Bardot has trashed the hotel room and she is in the hands of the police for, or all things, taking clothes from a nearby shop when she was bored and/or drunk at the Super 8 on her own.

Never mind though, perhaps – even though William goes to the cops to find Mathilde and they suspect him (a new event) of shooting Anthony with a rifle, they find nothing in his car and even ignore the case with all the money in the trunk. He's safe, and he's won the jackpot. Or maybe he hasn't, yes he has, no he hasn't, yes he has: didn't he know all the time that Mathilde spelt trouble? Right to the final paragraph, Ravey holds his readers in suspense.

My other post on Yves Ravey:

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Yves Ravey: Un notaire peu ordinaire

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