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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Rider on the Rain

Sébastien Japrisot

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To purchase Rider on the Rain

Title: Rider on the Rain
Author: Sébastien Japrisot
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992 (Eng. 1999)
Length: 152 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Rider on the Rain - US
Rider on the Rain - UK
Rider on the Rain - Canada
Le passager de la pluie - Canada
Le passager de la pluie - France
directly from: Belgravia Books (UK)
DVD: Rider on the Rain - US
Rider on the Rain - UK
  • French title: Le passager de la pluie
  • Translated by Linda Coverdale
  • Rider on the Rain was originally a 1970 film with a screenplay by Japrisot, directed by René Clément, and starring Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland

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Our Assessment:

B : solid elements, but presentation too much of a movie re-write

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 30/7/2021 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Japrisot skillfully deepens the mystery of what’s real and what’s imagined (.....) Incisive prose is a plus (...). Noir fans will welcome more Japrisot reissues." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The film Rider on the Rain, directed by René Clément and starring Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland, came out in 1970; Japrisot wrote the screenplay for it. More than two decades later he published this novel-version of it -- and it feels correct to say 'novel-version' rather than novelization: it's cinematic, through and through, at times much closer to a screenplay -- with much of the dialogue presented in screenplay-fashion -- than a novel, a re-write of the movie experience more than a work of fiction.
       It begins with a camera view -- the second paragraph practically simply a description of what we might see on a screen:

     From quite high up, well above the housetops, we watch the vehicle -- which is grey, like the road -- entering a deserted seaside resort: Le-Cap-de-Pins. As we can see, it is not even a town, actually, but a single long street that follows the curves of a sandy beach battered by the chilly Mediterranean.
       The story is fairly simple, with two strangers who come to Le-Cap-de-Pins upending the life of "Mélancolie Mau, known as Mellie". (Her name really is 'Mélancolie'; she explains at one point how that came about.) She is married to Tony, an Air France navigator who is away a lot -- so also here, at some of the significant times.
       It's a nightmare scenario: with her husband away, Mellie returns home and, going through her usual routines, is suddenly confronted by an intruder who brutally assaults her. When she wakes the next morning she does call the police but doesn't report the crime. And then, after she's also talked to Tony on the phone, she hears a sound .....
       The nightmare has a second act: the man is still in the house -- but Mellie arms herself with a shotgun, and she confronts and kills him. She doesn't call the police, but disposes of the body and the man's effects; she thinks that does it:
Everything has been cleaned up. She will forget. Nothing has happened.
       Of course, it doesn't work out that way. First, there are the newspaper reports, that a body has been found on the local beach. Then there's the second stranger in town, who approaches her at the wedding she attends, whose first words to her are the question: "Why did you kill him ?"
       Who is this second stranger, and what does he know ? And how can he know ?
       There's a missing red bag, too, which Dobbs -- this mystery-man -- is very eager to get his hands on, and which he thinks Mellie can lead him to.
       It makes for decent suspense, shifting between menace and play, Mellie and audience alike kept off-balance -- but Mellie also managing, mostly, to hold her own, to the extent possible. A supporting cast including Tony and Mellie's mother, Juliette ("one of those people who, hating everything, hate themselves"), who see just part of what's going on, make for a nice counterbalance in their different ways. Almost all along, Rider on the Rain seems like it could tilt in this or that direction; Japrisot keeps you guessing as to who will wind up with the upper hand.
       It's clever enough, with Mellie so consumed by what she did -- and her attempts to cover it up -- that she fails to notice the obvious, the simple twist that allows Dobbs to hook her. But he has his own objective in mind, and remains focused on that; he's tough on Mellie only as long as he needs to be to meet his ends; when there's nothing more to be gotten by pressing her he turns out to be a veritable softie.
       For better and worse, this is a story in which Dobbs eventually reveals to Mellie: "Your victim. His name was MacGuffin" ..... It's the kind of story that works better on the screen: played out, the parts don't seem so far-fetched, the quick progression leaving the viewer less time to notice any holes. Japrisot tries to translate the experience to the page, but without adapting it enough to the written form. It's still a sharp and fast little thriller -- but it's ultimately also too thin. Japrisot pegs some of the characters and incidents perfectly, in just a few words, but he can't sustain that across the entire narrative, leaving it looking somewhat threadbare.
       Rider on the Rain is a solid thriller -- but not nearly what it could have been.

- M.A.Orthofer, 16 January 2022

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Rider on the Rain: Reviews: Rider on the Rain - the film: Other books by Sébastien Japrisot under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Sébastien Japrisot (actually: Jean-Baptiste Rossi) lived 1931 to 2003.

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© 2022 the complete review

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