cover image The Beauty of the Death Cap

The Beauty of the Death Cap

Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, trans. from the French by Tina Kover. Snuggly, $14 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-943813-69-8

French writer Dousteyssier-Khoze (Claude Chabrol’s Aesthetics of Opacity) weaves academic and cultural references in this luscious melding of subtle humor and baleful terror. In the early 21st century, elderly Nikonor Pierre de la Charlanne takes refuge in his ancestral château in Corrèze, France, writing his memoir and waiting for his twin sister, Anastasie, whom he believes is coming to kill him. He muses on his obsession with poisoning people with mushrooms; his pathological aversion to Anastasie and disapproval of her boyfriend; his emotionally distant father; ancient Greek master of poisons Nicander of Colophon; his mentor, crime boss Vilerne; and his misanthropic answers to Proust’s personality questionnaire. Refined, self-possessed, and self-righteous, Nikonor writes in the aristocratic language of the scholar, which enhances his detachment from humanity and his sinister proclivities; the nuance is a testament to Kover’s skilled translation. Having studied ancient mycologists, Nikonor admits, “All mycological roads, alas, do not lead to soundness of mind.” With slow trickles of shocking revelations, the book will gratify readers who like murder with their historical references. (Sept.)