cover image French Exit

French Exit

Patrick deWitt. Ecco, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-284692-1

In this entertaining novel (subtitled a “tragedy of manners”) that lampoons the one percent, deWitt (The Sisters Brothers) follows the financial misfortune of wealthy widow Frances Price, a magnetic and caustic 60-something New Yorker who has spent most of the fortune her late lawyer husband amassed defending the indefensible. Insolvency comes as a shock to Frances despite repeated warnings her financial adviser about her extravagant lifestyle. She reluctantly accepts an offer to occupy a friend’s Parisian flat and sets sail with her rakish, lovesick son, Malcolm; her house cat, Small Frank; and her last €170,000. On board, she concocts a secret plan to spend every penny, while Malcolm befriends a medium who can see the dying (they’re green). In Paris, the book finds its surest footing, as Small Frank flees and a lonely neighbor connects Frances to a doctor, his wine merchant, and a private eye, who locates the medium to contact the cat, who may hold some secrets. The love of Malcolm’s life and her dim-witted fiancé also arrive, as does the owner of the now extremely crowded flat. DeWitt’s novel is full of vibrant characters taking good-natured jabs at cultural tropes; readers will be delighted. (Aug.)