The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet (Shane's book 36, 2010)

I was part of the way through this book when I realised that Alain Robbe-Grillet wrote the screenplay for Last Year at Marienbad, a film that is widely considered a classic but remains without doubt the most boring film I have ever seen. I saw it in the cinema so I had no way of knowing when it would end and I swear I actually started to hurt with boredom.

[amtap book:isbn=1847490948]

Thankfully, The Erasers is much better, though it's more like an intellectual and philosophical exercise than a novel. Robbe-Grillet deconstructs the detective story in this cryptic and faintly humorous book.

The plot is reminiscent of Borges, with Wallas, a police inspector, traversing a labyrinthine town in search of a murderer. What Wallas doesn't know is that the murder attempt was unsuccessful but the intended victim, Daniel Dupont, has faked his death so as to thwart any further attempts on his life.

As Wallas pieces things together - all the while trying to buy himself an eraser - the plot remains one step ahead of him and Robbe-Grillet brings things to a pleasingly surprising conclusion.

The chronology of the novel is broken up and events repeat oddly - sometimes identically and sometimes with subtle differences. It is, as I say, something of an intellectual exercise with no real emotional impact but that was partly Robbe-Grillet's objective. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in stylistic experiments in fiction and in the wilder reaches of the detective novel.