cover image The Passion of Women

The Passion of Women

Sebastien Japrisot. Crown Publishing Group (NY), $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-56940-5

Japrisot ( The Sleeping Car Murders ) has set his sexy, brash novel cum murder mystery--a bestseller in France--around the time of WW II, its comic strip/slam-bang plot line and indefatigable hero drawing inspiration from the OuLiPo literary tradition, exemplified in Raymond Queneau's witty, experimental fiction of the 1940s and '50s. At the start, a man lies on a beach, shot to death after 10 years on the lam. Some facts gradually surface: while in the army, the protagonist was convicted of rape and murder, but miraculously escaped from a military citadel and has since been chased around the globe by his nemesis, a military officer who loved the murder victim. Is ``Christophe''--one of the many pseudonyms adopted by this theatrical confidence man--a murderer, or was he framed? To answer the question, eight women seduced by ``Christophe'' relate his remarkable journeys, escapades which take him from a brothel in France to a deserted island in the South Pacific, across China and, finally, back home. ``Christophe'' is as artful as his lovers are dissimilar: he tailors his identity to fit the fantasies of each. Only a writer as suave as Japrisot could pair a manipulative womanizer with a series of blatantly stereotypical women--a whore with a heart of gold, an inscrutable Oriental, a sexpot movie star--and deliver such cunning, amusing fiction. (Oct.)