The Panda Theory, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


"You've only been here for a few days but you already know loads of people.

You walk into people's lives, just like that." Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he's here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals. His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair. But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past...


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In the Bible, Gabriel is God's messenger, and in Pascal Garnier's The Panda Theory, his namesake delivers a bleak message indeed:Happiness is a calamity you can never recover from. As soon as you catch a glimpse of it, the door slams shut and you spend the rest of your life bitterly regretting what is no more.Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about the experiences in Gabriel's life which have shaped this philosophy; those flashbacks come more quickly the closer we come to the book's classic noir ending, building the tension until the past and present collide in a sudden burst of violence.At times, Gabriel's thoughts sound like those of an amoral psychopath: "It was a day to kill someone for no reason"; he cannot "feel the difference between good and evil." However, he also believes that he performs a "service," whether cooking meals for a bistro owner whose wife is in a coma, paying the hotel bill of an abandoned girlfriend, or offering companionship to a lonely hotel receptionist, and it is this desire to be of service which is the key to Gabriel's character and ultimately horrific actions.The Panda Theory rewards reflection, leading me to raise my rating from 3.5 to 4 stars after writing this review. I recommend this book, and this author, to those who want more from their crime fiction than entertainment or fleeting thrills.I received a free copy of The Panda Theory through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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