The Contract

J. W. Rhoads, Author Henry Holt & Company $0 (108p) ISBN 978-0-03-008082-1
Nothing much happens in this slim first novel but it has, despite flaws, a cockeyed charm. Middle-aged Paris salesman Rene Baudoin invests a legacy in a viagere, the peculiarly French device that pays a property owner a life annuity in exchange for which the property passes to the buyer upon the seller's death. The seller, Mme. Vallette, is 70, but Baudoin quickly becomes impatient. He begins spying on her large apartment just across the street. The spying soon becomes more important to Baudoin than the waiting, eventually an obsession. He adopts ever-changing disguises, living the different roles he invents for himself. When Mme. Vallette drastically changes her daily routine, becoming a recluse except for late night visits to a seedy hotel, Baudoin turns detective. A death and crimes ensue, but not what you'd expect. Baudoin's sudden impatience to be rid of Mme. Vallette isn't properly explained and there are occasional arch moments, but stage and movie designer Rhoads has crafted a nicely elliptical, cinematic tale with some good-humored wit. (May 16)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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