Picks and Pans Review: The Adversary

updated 04/02/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/02/2001 01:00AM

by Emmanuel Carrère

"On the Saturday morning of January 9, 1993, while Jean-Claude Romand was killing his wife and children, I was with mine in a parent-teacher meeting...." With this stunningly matter-of-fact opening, French novelist Carrère launches the mesmerizing true-crime tale of an apparently ordinary man whose life mutates in the space of a few blood-splattered hours from the realm of Renoir to that of Stephen King.

What captivates Carrère about the murderous M. Romand is the shocking web of deception his whole life turns out to be. Instead of working as a noted physician at the World Health Organization, as his family and friends believed, Romand has no medical degree—nor any job at all. How did Romand fool so many for so long? Carrère's penetrating psychological insight and scalpel-sharp prose deftly strip bare this life "corrupted by lies." (Metropolitan, $22)

Bottom Line: The murderer next door

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