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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Bordering on the absurd
on 28 April 2008
Judging by the previous four reviewers, you would think this was a flawless novel. I assume they're die-hard fans (or friends of the author).
Jacquot and the Fifteen is based on a ridiculous premise. Various ex-members of the French national rugby team have reunited at the palatial home of their former captain. They now include the following professionals: policeman, billionaire businessman, architect, journalist, vicar, lawyer and surgeon. (Pull the other one!) Three of the former team have already died before the book starts, one of them in gratuitously gruesome circumstances. Then three more are murdered, and another dies after an accident (I gather this only from reading the last few pages; ploughing through the whole book was beyond me), so that by the end a total of seven former rugby players have snuffed it. This is famous men we're talking about, and you're expected to believe this could happen without the attention of the world's press battering on the doors. OK, fiction requires you to partially suspend belief, but this was laughable. You also get one of the flimsiest rationales imaginable for serial killing.
I suppose that if you don't have a problem with the credibility you might enjoy it. But it's not his best in terms of style, either: nearly all of the chapters I got through have a terribly lame ending, and it feels rushed and careless. He also chops sections that ought to constitute just one chapter into several very short ones, as if you can't be expected to cope with more than a few paragraphs at a time.
O'Brien does deserve success; in Jacquot, he's created a likeable detective, and his descriptions of the French landscape, culture and people are so good that his books are a cut above the average crime fiction. (One of them, Jacquot and the Angel, is a very enjoyable read.) But be warned about this one. And don't be conned by the fact that it has 530 pages: they're smaller than normal, with generous margins, and the lines are widely spaced, so in effect you only have 350 pages of a standard paperback.