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September 14, 2012 9:55 pm
The Merde Factor, by Stephen Clarke, Century, RRP£12.99, 304 pages
Paul West, Englishman in Paris, is in the merde once again. His duplicitous business partner, Jean-Marie, is planning to turn their quaint tea-room into an American-style diner; his work on a controversial government project is threatening to cause a national strike; and his new apartment is so small that he has to ask the woman at the boulangerie to cut his baguettes in half so he can fit them into the kitchen.
This is the fifth novel in Stephen Clarke’s surprisingly versatile series, which began with a lightly fictionalised memoir but has since taken in romantic comedy (Merde Actually) and policier pastiche (Dial M for Merde). The Merde Factor is ostensibly a satire: the plot turns on Jean-Marie’s harassment of a female colleague, in a thinly veiled reference to the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal. But the tone, as ever, is gentle; the humour more hit than miss. It’s lighter than a good mille-feuille, and just as moreish.
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