Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Bed of Nails

Antonin Varenne

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Bed of Nails

Title: Bed of Nails
Author: Antonin Varenne
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 244 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Bed of Nails - US
Bed of Nails - UK
Bed of Nails - Canada
Fakirs - Canada
Bed of Nails - India
Fakirs - France
Fakire - Deutschland
Sezione suicidi - Italia
  • French title: Fakirs
  • Translated by Siân Reynolds

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : dark piece of work, quite nicely turned

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 13/7/2012 Laura Wilson
The Times . 7/7/2012 Marcel Berlins

  From the Reviews:
  • "Bed of Nails is an excursion into Fred Vargas territory with a fair dollop of self-conscious eccentricity (.....) While this may not be to all tastes, it's an intriguing read, with a bold and surprisingly moving ending." - Laura Wilson, The Guardian

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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Bed of Nails -- Fakirs in the original -- has quite a few characters who have withdrawn, imposing varieties of suffering on themselves. Alan Musgrave's personal withdrawal culminates rather spectacularly, as he dies in the middle of his cabaret-style fakir-act that involves a true excess of self-inflicted suffering, while his friend, a fellow American expat, John Nichols, summoned to Paris to identify the body, has taken a very different (and less alarming) tack in distancing himself from what weighs so heavily on him. And there's Richard Guérin, forty-two, and living with his mother's annoying, ancient parrot (who isn't in great shape), a police lieutenant exiled as part of a dirty little police cover-up to the last corner of police-duty: the suicide desk, where his investigative talents go to waste -- if the death turns out not to be a suicide, he has to hand it off to homicide. Trusty trainee officer Lambert dutifully assists Guérin; still young, and not undamaged, he's still the most grounded of the lot -- though he would have preferred to become a nurse than a policeman.
       Summoned to Paris from his countryside retreat, John Nichols finds his friend's death more than a little suspicious. John is an "unfrocked PhD in behavioral psychology" -- he completed his dissertation but stopped short there -- and knew Alan -- the drug-abusing homosexual and war veteran who had long played at being a fakir -- very well. The American consular official handling things was apparently personally involved with Alan -- seduced by him -- and that alone complicates matters. But beyond that, even if John would like to let go, others make sure that Alan's death is not the final chapter in John's own complicated relationship with the deceased, and the secrets that Alan didn't quite take to his grave.
       Guérin, meanwhile, suspects that some of the cases of suicide he's come across are anything but -- and Alan's case looks suspicious to him too. His and John's paths naturally cross, and they work together to figure it out. Each is also in danger -- Guérin because of the case from two years ago whose after-effects still reverberate throughout the police, and John because of what he knows about and from Alan.
       Putting the pieces together isn't that complicated, not when John reveals what he knew about war-veteran Alan, but it does force some showdowns. The resolutions are, in a way, neat and tidy, but this novel only comes in dark and darker hues; there are no happy endings here.
       These men -- all of them, including the one-time criminal Bunker who helps John -- have isolated themselves in one way or another, with only Alan doing so very publicly. They're damaged goods, in a variety of way; isolation offers some safety, but it's impossible to keep the ugly world at bay and it tests them. Release comes only in varieties of withdrawal again -- including the most radical (even for the parrot).
       Bed of Nails is a study in what can be done to the minds of men, and what becomes of them when they have to deal with the ugliest of knowledge. It's fairly well done -- though a lot is crammed into a relatively short novel. It's also very, very grim and dark.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 January 2015

- Return to top of the page -


Bed of Nails: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       French author Antonin Varenne was born in 1973.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2015-2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links