The Inheritors features another of those ruthlessly pragmatic women we met in The Godmother, a woman who doesn’t mind a bit of murder and mayhem in a good cause. Blanche de Rigny was a wild child and she’s a wild woman, even though the world overlooks her as just another disabled person. She’s physically handicapped after a car accident in her teens but mentally she’s a killer, with a razor-sharp and unforgiving view of humanity. Her job as a civil servant is menial – it consists of scanning all the documentation related to every indictable offence committed in Paris – but it gives her access to lots of damaging information about the dodgy dealings of people in high places which she leaks selectively to the press just out of malicious delight, to see how it sowed the seeds of panic in people busy running round a stack of dominos they had spent months building and which was in the process of collapsing before their very eyes. It’s just punishment, she thinks for high-flyers whose greed has devastating effects on ordinary people.
At the beginning of the book we learn that Blanche, by devious means, has come into a huge fortune that she plans to use in her war on the corporate exploiters, the big polluters and the social media opinion manipulators. The story of how she came into that fortune takes us back 150 years to the heyday of the de Rigny family. Plus ça change – the de Rignys and their aristocratic ilk were playing the same game as the modern lords of industry, convinced that there was one law for them and another for the hoi polloi. So there’s poetic justice in their fortune being used against their interests.
I’m not sure why this didn’t work better for me. I enjoyed the history of the de Rigny family, but there seemed to be something too scripted, too linear, about the way Blanche goes about removing obstacles (including two members of the family). The voice that was so coolly invigorating in The Godmother now seems merely quirky, and the book’s argument, based on Cayre’s reading of Thomas Piketty’s Capital In The Twenty-First Century, is neatly tied-off but doesn’t really take you anywhere. This is very different from the indictment of French society and the legal system that’s the bedrock of The Godmother. Still, Hannelore Cayre is always worth reading and I’ll be lining up for her next book.