cover image Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy

Jean Echenoz. David R. Godine Publisher, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-87923-916-9

The latest novel by Echenoz, who won France's Medici Prize for Cherokee , justifies the cliched description ``a roller-coaster ride,'' not just because of its wild velocity but also because it concentrates on the ride itself rather than on getting anywhere. Jean-Francois (``Jeff'') Pons and Charles Pontiac were once in love with Nicole Fischer. When she preferred a third man to either of them, Jeff went to Malaysia to manage a rubber plantation, while Charles became a protean Parisian vagrant. Thirty years later, Jeff needs weapons for a particularily frivolous labor dispute he has fomented. Returning to Paris, he enlists the aid not only of Nicole and Charles, but also of his nephew Paul and Paul's buddy, Bob, who occasionally smuggle small arms. To complete the generational parallel, both Paul and Bob are interested in Nicole's daughter Justine. Further confusing the plot are a Russian manservant, a used appliance/small weapons importer, Malay insurgents, mutinous sailors and an appealingly inept crew of Belgian toughs. Those willing to suspend demands for narrative cohesion will savor Echenoz's easy command of comedy based on rhythm, juxtaposition and, most of all, upending the reader's literary assumptions. (Apr.)