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4.5 out of 5 stars18
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on 31 January 2013
This was probably one of my favourite books of 2012, and Pascal Garnier overall was one of my best discoveries for this year. It is hard to do justice to this novel: it is an existential literary novel, crime fiction, road trip, it is funny and tender, yet also very dark. Not quite what you would expect from a thriller, but ultimately delivers so much more than a plot which you might forget within a couple of days.
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on 15 February 2013
I romped through this comically trenchant novella as if I were devouring a bowl of French onion soup, impossible not to woof it down in one go. It refuses to be genre defined but pays homage to the noir origins of American hardboiled fiction of the 1930s and 1940s. One can hear the influence of Raymond Chandler in the beautiful pared down prose, but the cultural references are decidedly Gallic. Emerging from a simple straightforward narrative, the main protagonists interlock against a background of supermarkets, service stations and campsites. Mostly, we see the story through the ironic gaze of Simon, the washed up assassin, and with it come instances of stark violence that not only surprise but also delight with lashes of mordant wit. The surreal tendency makes this a literary work rather than a plot driven crime story, but with diamond bright prose allied to a superb translation, it leaves one in no doubt that this is a French gem par excellence.
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This short novel by the late Pascal Garnier is a sheer joy to read, but only if you are into black comedies. As we all know the French do such dark comedies with a certain panache that no one else has really been able to capture, and in the hands of someone like Garnier this is the height of style. But please don’t think this is style over substance, because you would be quite wrong.

As we first start this tale we see that a man called Simon is awaiting the arrival of Bernard to assist him in his suicide. From there we go back to the events that led up to this point. Simon is in the ‘pest control’ business as he is quite ready to tell anyone, the only thing he doesn’t mention is that the pests he is controlling are human - for Simon is a hitman. For Simon there is just one more hit before he retires, and meeting Bernard he finds someone who seems willing to drive for him, thus meaning he can rest, as he is not in the best of health. Whereas Simon is cynical and jaded Bernard is the complete opposite, optimistic, naive and a bit simple minded.

Although relatively short this book packs so much in its pages with Garnier using the minimum of words to create something that would take others hundreds of pages to write. There is the black comedy element here, there are hints of a thriller, after all this involves a hitman, there is a bit of a road trip tale as the two men travel to Simon’s last job, love, friendship and alcoholism. Thus what is short and quick to read on the page stays with you much longer and really makes you think. This would make a good read for book groups as there is a lot to discuss here, and if you are looking for something that will really get to you, then this could be it. This is the kind of story that the Coen brothers would love to get their hands on, as it has the ingredients for a really quirky off the wall film.

I was very kindly provided with a free review copy of this by the publishers via NetGalley for an honest and completely impartial review.
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Another in the series of delightful crime noir books by the French writer Pascal Garnier, this has all the best of Garniers amazing writing features. The book has a spare narrative, not a word out of place, a pitiless trajectory and some wonderful characterisation. Not forgetting the skills of the translater, another brilliant job by Emily Boyce. The only sadness is that Garnier died in 2010. The title is a strange African greeting which assumes there is pain without end for everyone.

PGs work is unlike anyone else – and there is pain, amusement and shock aplenty for anyone reading this dark noir novel which is, in the manner of his other books, a profoundly guilty delight. When Bernard tells his mother that he has a commission to drive a man to another city she assumes his employer is a Gay man, in pursuit of her unworldly son but her suspicions are unfounded. The man who has offered this commission is in fact an underworld killer, and Simon has two or three jobs to complete. Anais, Bernard’s mother will undergo her own epiphany before becoming a victim in a quite different sense. Along the way they will, courtesy of Bernards gallantry, wind up in a seaside town along with Fiona and her baby Violette

How can one describe this brilliant scenario – go back to the first chapter and read it again, and it all slips delightfully into place. What a beautiful, violent surprise, and a completely satisfactory ending. I’m betting you will love it as much as I do.
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on 10 October 2014
This short novel (163 pages) by Pascal Garnier as translated from the French by Emily Boyce, is an unpredictable and darkly comedic page-turner. With some real places and people together with the handful of fictional and odd mix of main characters I found How’s The Pain to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. The prose is a joy to read and Emily Boyce had made every word of Pascal Garnier’s novel count – there is no unnecessary filling out of the word count here. If you think you could like a story that can be sometimes funny or touching and at other times quite sinister, then you might well enjoy this wonderful novel. Definitely a five star read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2016
I would like to thank Netgalley and Gallic Books for allowing me a free copy of How's The Pain? Never having read Mr Garnier's work I was interested to see what it's all about. Firstly it should be noted that it is more a novella than a full length novel but it seems to be the right length for what it has to say (plenty). It opens with Simon preparing for his suicide and then flashes back to how he got to that point. Simon is a pest controller, only the pests in question are human. He is on his last job but is seriously ill so, on a whim, he hires Bernard to drive him to the job. What happens on the journey is seriously funny.
The contrast between Simon and Bernard is stark. Simon doesn't much care for people and seems to be hard through and through whereas Bernard is pretty thick, naive, unambitious and easily taken advantage of but he is full of goodness with a kind heart. It is never said why Simon picks him as his driver but, at the end of his life, maybe he wants a little light in his life or, more in keeping with his character, he wants to corrupt a simple soul.
Mr Garnier packs a lot in to this short novel - human relationships, alcoholism, manipulation and through it all the malignant presence of Simon and his illness, the metaphor of sick body reflecting the sick mind. As I said the novel is savagely funny but Simon's manipulation of Bernard is heartbreaking. If you want a short, sharp read which is out of the ordinary in the crime genre then I heartily recommend How's The Pain?
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How's The Pain is an odd little French novella. It opens with a death, and then we spend the rest of the piece trying to work out how we got there.

Broadly, the novella features Simon Marechall, who works in pest control, hiring Bernard, the indolent son of Anais - a woman who pretends to run a shop to mask her own inactivity - to drive him to and from one last job. On the way they meet various people and discover more about each other. There is an air of menace throughout and one fears for Bernard. Bernard is intriguing; optimistic, very selective in the application of his moral scruples, and desperately in need of a life away from his mother. Anais, too, casts a long shadow despite featuring only briefly. Her belief that the world owes her a living is staggering; she refuses to carry money and resents even the one night Bernanrd is away from home. Simon is thinly drawn; he seems not to have much meaningful past and really just plays a role of listening to Bernard.

Not much happens. It's a bit like Pulp Fiction where the two guys spend time nonchalantly discussing life, the universe and Royales with Cheese in between acts of evil. Here in France we have those conversations in servoes and campsites rather than in diners and parking lots, but the idea is the same.

How's The Pain bills itself as a full novel. It isn't. It is a competent novella but it lacks the depth and character development of a novel. It does create an atmosphere of menace but doesn't do much with it. Being a French work, set in France, it is too easy to categorise it as Noir, but the comic repartee should really disqualify it from that category. I think this is the kind of book that a publisher would decribe as "hard to place". It's the second Pascal Garnier work I have read; both were OK but not hing to suggest I should seek out a third.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 December 2014
The book is probably going to be termed noire for being both French and for revolving around the crime genre. And while this is a simplification and not strictly correct, it is the easiest pigeon-hole to place it in. The author has long been known as a spiritual successor to Georges Simenon and while there is no detective in sight, and there are many humorous elements included, one can definitely see the connection.

So you get an assassin at the end of his career, a young, naive adolescent looking for a father figure, his alcoholic mother, a young mother with a baby picked up in a random town after a fight with the child's father and an elderly Belgian taxidermist spinster looking for a relationship being thrown together over a couple of eventful days. Given the mix between the seriousness of the assassination business and the frankly bizarre and downright funny moments elsewhere, the style has been termed gris (grey) by some - and with good reason.

You could compare it to Leon [DVD] [1995] with much more humour, or to something from Elmore Leonard with a French twist. In any case, it is a well flowing easy read, entertaining and partially shocking at the same time, and probably quite typical for the author (so if you liked his other works...). If you want a bit of weird mixed with noir / gris French crime fiction, you will certainly enjoy the book.
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Another little gem from Pascal Garnier. In this one, “vermin exterminator” (the term vermin being used somewhat loosely) Simon is coming to the end of his life but has one more mission to accomplish. A chance meeting sees him recruit naïve and rather simple Bernard to be his chauffeur. It’s not long before Bernard’s duties turn out to be rather more than just driving a car. Full of Garnier’s trademark black humour and his unlikely but always somehow just about credible scenarios, this is a wonderfully enjoyable and macabre short novel and I think one of the best Garnier tales I have so far read.
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on 14 March 2014
If you want to read something written by a master writer, read this. Genius at work. Superb understanding of human nature and the ability to express it.
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