A novel with no heroes
The workers do not get left behind, though. Author Dominique Manotti weaves them in and out of the story, as victims, conspirators and hangers-on, caught up in the deepening plot without being reduced to sentimental tools.
The plot is that of a corporate thriller ripped right from today's headlines: Two corporate rivals fight for control of a giant state-owned company about to be sold off by France's government. (It may be significant that no political party is named anywhere in the novel. That could lead to easy polemics, but power in Manotti's world has nothing to do with party lines.)
The weapons in the corporate battle are murder, drugs, bribery and sexual blackmail. Corporate and political battles like this must be waged at the whitest heat, yet Manotti's prose is cool, distant and choppy even when it probes its characters' emotional lives. Corruption and the risk thereof at the highest levels – in European Union privatization schemes, in the clubby nature of power in France – are cited briefly and matter-of-factly.
And, in the novel's most intriguing touch, the private eye is no hero. He's no villain either; that would be too easy. He's just one more figure in the story, employed by one of the rival corporate groups to discredit the other, a human with, like so many other characters in this short novel, a compromised past. It's not the least of Manotti's achievements that she has no truck with the ideal of the hero who can save the world through his own will or die trying. This may be the least sentimental crime novel I have read, and one of the most original and impressive.
© Peter Rozovsky 2009