Patrick Conrad, author of No Sale, is one of Belgium's most famous thriller writers and film makers, so it makes sense that his literary work has so many references to classic movies and their famous actors and actresses. The enigmatic central character of No Sale, Victor Cox, is a professor of film history and seems to have a more extensive knowledge and understanding of the classic films noirs of the Hollywood golden age than he does of his real life. I found that these constant allusions to the big screen actually seemed to distance the reader from the action and the characters – at times, I felt like I was being left out of some private joke that I'd only appreciate if I was an expert on classic movies.
The teaser on the front cover says “Must each man kill the thing he loves?” but in my opinion, a more apt subtitle would be “Has this man killed the thing he loves?”. As a series of gruesome murders unfolds, all inspired by scenes from classic movies or the deaths of famous actresses,Victor Cox finds himself inextricably linked to each of the victims. Is he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is it pure coincidence? Or is he in some way linked to the deaths? His wife has already been found dead – was she a victim of one of these murders or was it an accident? - and when his girlfriend also goes missing, Cox begins to wonder if he is to blame, especially when strange flashbacks seem to suggest that he knows know than he thinks about the circumstances of the gruesome murders.
Although I love multi-faceted characters, whether they be imperfect anti-heroes or ruthless villains, I found it hard to warm to Victor, purely because we never know what is truth and what is a pure invention of his possibly crazed mind. Not knowing what is real or imagined gives us an insight into his inner turmoil and anguished psyche, but I would have preferred to have a more omniscient narrator, helping the reader to understand what is going on.
It's a cleverly worked plotline and the numerous cinematographic mentions are fascinating, so – even if I felt it dragged on slightly in the middle section – I was still raring to get to the end to finally understand what was happening. The novel has been translated from Dutch, which can sometimes lead to stilted, clumsy wording, but Jonathan Lynn has done a fine job with the translation, which is especially impressive as this is the first novel that he has translated.
Star rating : 4/5
RRP : £8.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to write an honest review.
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