Those familiar with Graeme Macrae Burnet’s previous, Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, His Bloody Project, apparently a historical account of a real murder, will know of the author’s fondness for literary games. This, his third novel, also engages with the meanings of fiction, returning us to the provincial milieu of Saint Louis in France and the borderline alcoholic detective Gorski, who first appeared in Burnet’s debut, The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau.
Here, an epigraph from Sartre sets the tone: ‘What I have just written is false. True. Neither true nor false.’ Burnet investigates the stability of reality and the meaning of signs and signals. Everybody in the novel tries to mislead in one way or another, for reasons obscure or selfish; everybody is watching everybody else and trying to make sense of the patterns and movements.
The story is wrapped in a fictional metatext. We are told by Burnet, purportedly the ‘translator’, that the manuscript of The Accident on the A35 was delivered by a lawyer to a French publisher with a note from its author, Raymond Barthelme, who has committed suicide by throwing himself under