Roger Brunyate's Reviews > Central Park

Central Park by Guillaume Musso
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really liked it
bookshelves: mysteries-kinda, other-languages

A Flic in New York

According to the book jacket, Guillaume Musso is the most-read author in France. It is not literature we are dealing with here but a detective suspense story that kept me glued to the page for the better part of two days. And right up to the minute too! One of the greatest joys of reading was to discover what has become of the French language; the writing is full of slang, abbreviations, English words converted to new uses, and sheer exuberance of invention. This is no longer the language of Voltaire, or even of Simenon.

I should not say much about the plot. Alice Schäfer, 38, a Paris detective captain, wakes up in Central Park with blood on her clothes and a strange gun in her pocket. Stranger still, she is handcuffed to a man who calls himself Gabriel Keyne, a jazz musician. Neither of them knows how they got there. The night before, Alice had been out drinking with three girlfriends on the Champs-Élysées; Gabriel was playing in a Dublin bar. But they are resourceful, and find a way to get the cuffs removed and begin to investigate their own mystery. During the course of their adventure, Alice has an increasing number of flashbacks, offering glimpses both into her professional life and private tragedy. It begins to look as though everything is connected to a serial killer she tracked down three years before....

Increasingly, the book reminded me of Night Film by Marissa Pessl. Both writers exploit the New York setting beautifully; this one starts on the Upper West Side and takes us in rapid succession to Red Hook, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Astoria, and then to the White Mountains. Both set off on a treasure-hunt so breathless that we have no time to question the plausibility of the clues or the many twists in the plot. And both, I have to say, end the chase with gear-changes so abrupt that it is touch and go whether you applaud their brilliant invention or dismiss them as blatant cheating.

I rather suspect that, were I to read this in English (surely a translation will appear shortly), I would be turned off by the popular style—for example replacing the word "said" at every opportunity by an action verb: commanded, hammered, challenged, mocked, disbelieved, and numerous others with no English equivalent. But it is such fun in French! I love seeing words for guy, car, cigarette, gun, no doubt in common street use, but too new to appear in dictionaries. I'm fascinated by the tendency to abbreviate everything down to its first syllables: fac, clima, psy, ordi, fluo. And I love the wholesale appropriation of American words, as when someone is described wearing un jean et des baskets usés, or, to repeat what I said earlier about being glued to the page, to see ses yeux restaient scotchés à la page. In short, a five-star learning experience for me with what is probably a three-star book.
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Reading Progress

July 17, 2014 – Started Reading
July 19, 2014 – Finished Reading
June 11, 2016 – Shelved
June 11, 2016 – Shelved as: mysteries-kinda
June 11, 2016 – Shelved as: other-languages

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