The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier
One of my favorite Donald Westlake novels is Jimmy the Kid, in which a motley group of criminals plan a kidnapping of a child based on a book one of them has read in prison, in which the kidnapping of a child is plotted and carried out. Westlake includes relevant chapters of Child Heist (written by Richard Stark, which happens to be a pen name of Donald Westlake) in Jimmy the Kid. And this story within a story device works brilliantly and one reads with glee as the kidnapping goes wrong.
Pascal Garnier flips this formula in The Eskimo Solution. This novel opens with the opening chapter of a novel by a writer named Louis about a man named Louis who is unhappy with his lot in life and concludes that killing his mother would be the solution to his problems. And when it works, Louis realizes several of his friends could also benefit from such acts and if he did the job himself, his friends would never know and never be caught. As the real Louis explains to his editor:
“Wait a minute, let me go on. It’s a very modest inheritance - but that’s beside the point. Since everything goes to plan, no trouble with the law or anything, he starts killing the parents of friends in need. Of course, he doesn’t tell them what he’s doing - it’s his little secret, pure charity. He’s an anonymous benefactor, if you like.”
“He kills people’s parents the way Eskimos leave their elders on a patch of ice because … it’s natural, ecologically sound, a lot more humane and far more economical than endlessly prolonging their suffering in a dismal nursing home.”
As the real Louis writes his novel about the fictitious, murderous Louis, Garnier treats us to installments of the novel in progress as he tells us the real Louis’s story. The real Louis holes up in a rented house in Normandy to write the novel and to hide from his own troubles and the troubles of his friends, which begin to resemble the troubles of the fictional Louis. And when the fictional solutions begin to occur in the real world, the fun (or the misery) begins.
Bleak, funny, unpredictable, The Eskimo Solution is tremendously enjoyable. Pascal Garnier died in 2010 and it is only recently that his novels have begun to be translated into English. Gallic Books has published nine of his books so far, which is fortunate because as soon as I finished The Eskimo Solution, I wanted more Garnier. Anyone who appreciates the work of Patricia Highsmith, Donald Westlake, Georges Simenon, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Pierre Lemaitre, or J.G. Ballard should prove to be a natural reader of Pascal Garnier.