The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier (Gallic)

“He was sitting alone at the end of a bench on a deserted railway station.”

I REALLY like the way Passcal Garnier writes. Setting aside the surrealist crimo plotlines, his characters breathe. They are in the moment. We are with them. They think. The atmosphere is gangster-ish in that the women are molls and the men have secrets. The plot unfolds carefully like a piece of origami. Everyone is going here, there, there is motion and development… Joe’s wife is in hospital. Rita’s boyfriend needs money, Madelene wants to go back to Guadaloupe, Gabriel wins a giant panda at the funfair shooting gallery…

Each short chapter opens slightly off-message. Things have moved on. Like his last book How Is the Pain which Gallic are re-releasing this month, we open with a hotel scene, we are in provincial France, this time Brittany, food and drink are notable assets, Gabriel our central figure likes to cook for other people and asks the reception desk to look after the liver he just bought at the butchers. There are some wonderful not necessarily complimentary descriptions of the women. “She resembled a cake that been left too long in the shop window”. Or this one

“Francoise stood on her doorstep flanked by two small children. Had they been replaced by weapons she would have made a magnificent war memorial.”

Humour is not easy, especially in translation, but each of these reprobates manages to elicit a wry smile. Technically you might say the ending is a bit form-over-substance, the poor old panda does not get a look in, but what leads up to it is classy and mesmerizing.

I liked this other cover, which I think is from Croatia:

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About drewsmith28

Words, words, words...
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