By Chet Yarbrough
By Gustavo Faveron Patriau, Joseph Mulligan (translator)
Narrated by: Joel Richards
Gustavo Patriau channels Edgar Allen Poe in The Antiquarian. This is a dark tale of murder, psychiatric imbalance, human’ guilt, and isolation. Mulligan’s translation appropriately gives one the creeps but the story becomes too predictable, early in its telling. The listener knows who the murderer is well before its ending.
The saving grace of the story is the vividness of Patriau’s characters. One is appropriately reviled, fascinated, and frightened by the author’s description of a psychotic murderer, the mysterious personalities of major and minor characters, and the credible profile of a misanthropist.
Like stories of children torturing animals and growing into psychotic murderers, Patriau creates a character that enjoys making paper mock-ups of houses; only for the sake of destruction. With escalating fascination a lit match sets paper houses ablaze. Patriau presages a cascade of horrific events. Morbid fascination with fire leads to a sister-child’s destructive self-immolation, and hideous disfigurement. An irredeemable guilt is pasted to a brother’s psyche. The brother’s guilt comes from his effort to save books rather than his sister’s life. The disfigured and psychologically unbalanced sister is committed to an asylum by parents that unknowingly exacerbate an enabling brother’s guilt.
The sister is rescued from the asylum by the brother who tries to redeem his guilt by secretly taking care of his sister. However, his sister becomes increasingly unmanageable. She remains self-destructive and becomes overtly sadistic. The brother is compelled to re-commit his sister to a psychiatric ward. The brother is a mysterious character that exhibits a kind of misanthropy that values stories people tell more than people who tell them. He is drawn to a ménage à trois with one woman who strokes his ego and another that strokes his id; i.e. one listens and the other tells tales. One plays the part of an attentive wife; the other plays the part of a psycho/sexual muse.
The brother is convicted of killing his “listening” wife. He is committed to a psychiatric ward for the criminally insane because of the circumstances of the murder. The sister disappears from psychiatric care and is presumed dead.
The person telling this story is the brother’s childhood friend. The brother calls his childhood friend because of a new murder in his psychiatric ward for which he is accused. The childhood friend investigates and becomes embroiled in a mystery that involves three murders, rather than the one, an illegal human vivisection ring that sells body parts, and a search for the missing, presumed dead, sister.
Patriau’s denouement reveals bizarre circumstances that fit Edgar Allen Poe’s oeuvre but miss Poe’s macabre and surprising twists of fate.