It is August 30th 1999. A twenty-five year old woman named Louise is on her way home from her job waitressing at a restaurant in Paris when suddenly a car races up beside her and sideswipes her white Fiat Uno while driving through the Alma tunnel. In a panic, she steps on the accelerator and speeds away. Behind her, the car that sideswiped her smashes into one of the tunnel’s columns. She doesn’t actually see the accident but hears the crunch of metal and shatter of glass. She makes it home, shaken, pulling her now damaged car into her garage.
This is where the novel opens. Shaken, Lou just wants to go to sleep. She is hoping her boyfriend isn’t home. She wants to be alone. She is too shaken up by what had just occurred and already feeling a little guilty for racing away and not stopping after the accident. Before she is even in the apartment, she is already planning on how to get the car repaired without her boyfriend even finding out what happened.
The next morning she awakes to the shocking news that Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a horrific car accident in the Alma tunnel in Paris. News reports suggest that the driver of the car may have been drinking and also may have been trying to bypass a slow moving Fiat Uno in the tunnel shortly before the accident. Shaken to her core when she realizes that it was she in the “slow moving Fiat”, she sinks into despair, immediately recognizing the consequences that would arise if she decided to turn herself in. Thus begins a series of justifications and a carefully thought out plan on how to keep quiet about her involvement in the accident and slowly, little by little, her life begins to come apart. Her relationship to her boyfriend changes, her seemingly normal Parisian middle class existence disintegrates and although no one really knows her involvement, fear and paranoia turn her into a fugitive on the run. She secretly takes her damaged car to a garage outside of Paris for repairs and once it’s returned to her she begins to think that everything will calm down, that is until word gets out via the press that the police are seeking a white Fiat Uno and plan on interviewing all those in the Paris city limits who own one about the night in question.
Each day the news gets worse and worse and she decides she needs to flee, leaving a note for her boyfriend not to come looking for her. She is just about out the door when a man turns up who will forever change the rest of her life.
To find out what happens next, you must read this novel. It’s a short novel, coming in at a little over 180 pages, a tight, well written psychological thriller that takes you on a wild ride where the twists and turns you will not see coming no matter how much you think you will. There are very strong Noir elements to this story as we follow the protagonists spiral from a normal existence into the nightmare into which she descends and how one chance involvement in an extraordinary event can completely turn one’s life upside down and radically alter it forever. Highly recommended.