Beyond Suspicion by Tanguy Viel

In Three Lives back in December, my favorite clerk told me to slow down on the Bolano craze. She could see my fatigue, my lack of commitment to a new big book. Try this, she said, passing me a copy of Tanguy Viel’s Beyond Suspicion, it got me through a reading slump.

Reading slump: that is certainly where I was in December. No fool I, I knew that a single stylish French thriller couldn’t kick me back into gear, so I eased back into reading with the latest Eloisa James. She never disappoints. But, back to the Viel. What is it and what did I think?

It’s a slim little noir volume. The blurbs compare it to Patricia Highsmith, whom I have not read, but it does have that Talented Mr. Ripley perverse-Hitchcockian flavor. The story centers on two couples: an older pair of brothers and a brother and sister pair who target the older couple in a gold-digging scheme.

The brother and sister are also lovers. Or the lovers are pretending to be brother and sister. Part of the pleasure of the text is the coyness on that front: the frisson of incest. The incest taboo also insures that they will be beyond suspicion (the title) in their scheme to hook, marry, and murder the one brother.

I liked the book, but it’s not going to resonate with me long term. At the same time, I would read another of these little confections. It’s stylish, slick, and short. Even I, distracted and slow, consumed it in a couple days. It’s very cinematic for sure, without reading like a film treatment. And yet it really is just very very elegant candy: there isn’t much to it. The frisson of incest is important to the plot, sure, but it doesn’t lead to any insights, it doesn’t really lead anywhere. The book does have a thriller-climax, but it’s not thrilling: there’s a dead body, the murder hasn’t quite gone as planned, there is a witness…or is there? Isn’t that the way they all end?

Sarah, she who reads all, read it too.