L’Adversaire by Emmanuel Carrère

Review contributed by Mireille Auzon.

On January 09, 1993, Jean-Claude Romand shot and killed his wife, along with his young daughter, eight years old, and his son, five. After buying some newspapers, he then drove to his parent’s home, some 50 km away, shot his father in the back, and his mother in the face. He then had a rendez-vous with his mistress, in Paris, with the purported intention of taking her to dinner at his “friend’s” home, Bernard Kouchner, founder of Medicine sans Frontière. He tried to kill her too, but suddenly stopped. Later, he drove back to the Jura region, and attempted to burn his house, with the bodies of his family, and in the process (maybe) kill himself. He failed in that attempt also.

Carrère writes to the now recovered Romand in prison, seeking to tell his story, the story of a psychopathic liar, con artist, embezzler, and murderer who has just fallen out of the façade of a successful upper middle class life.

I am a big fan of true crime stories, and although this one is fascinating, I didn’t find the narration enticing enough. I finished the book in record time, which earns it credit for smoothness and directness, but still, I had somehow expected more. The complexity of Romand’s character, the extraordinary aspect of the life he led and the nature of his sickness will hook you to the book, but the dullness in the descriptions will exasperate you in a way. This is the first book I read by Carrere, so I don’t want to be too harsh in my judgement on his style, but one thing I can say for sure, I hope the next time I pick a book of his, there won’t be a ton of correspondence in there, it kills me to read people’s letters! All in all the book wasn’t bad, I liked the story and got intrigued by its hero.

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