Monday, March 7, 2011

The Main by Trevanian

The Main is Montreal's immigrant district. It is noisy, its sounds a babel of languages and traffic and life being lived. It's dirty, often violent, and is both the beat of thirty-year police veteran Claude LaPointe and his home. LaPointe is a throwback of a cop, who ignores paperwork and roughs up the bad guys when they need it. Needless to say, the modern bureaucrats of the enlightened Montreal Police Department circa the mid 1970s can't wait to get rid of him.

The action of The Main centers around LaPointe's investigation of the murder of an Italian immigrant that opens the novel. And Trevanian writes a top-notch crime novel. But the novel is more a meditation on loneliness and loss, and the fragile connections that people manage to make. LaPointe, once too briefly married, has been a widower for thirty years. He works twelve hours a day, checking in and making contact with every corner of the beat he's made his own. Twice a week he plays pinochle--his buddies are two Jewish immigrants and a Catholic priest (and no, the joke possibilities are not lost on the four men), but ultimately he is always alone. 

And then one day, as natural as you please and because it's the right thing to do, he brings home an undernourished runaway, a street waif, a hooker, who's been beaten by a client. She's prickly and far too young for him. He's prickly and far too set in his ways. They don't exactly get along, and yet...

The words of a reviewer can't do justice to the beautiful, ravaged, desolate world, full of longing and too much settling, that Trevanian has created. Where his first two books were raucus meta-romps, out-Bonding Bond and paving the way for the Austin Powers of the ensuing decades, this book leaps several levels at once. It is rich with detail of place and character, so powerfully written that the reader's heart aches and soars whether she wants it to or not.

2 comments:

Robyn said...

This sounds interesting, and I love Montreal, so nice to read a mystery set there.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I've just read The Main, and I like your assessment. And Montreal is my home town!
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