Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain tr. Louise Rogers Lalaurie

Antoine Laurain is one of my go to author’s when I’m in the mood for something short and light and of course, being a French author, there’s going to be the inevitable addition of the little French quirks, the things that one recognises from living here in France for more than 10 years.

Smoking Kills is a little more macabre than his other works I’ve read, The Red Notebook and The President’s Hat, the latter are charming, uplifting novellas and Smoking Kills has been described as ‘black comedy’, a phrase that fits it well.

At the beginning of his career, the smoker is generally intent on killing no one but himself. But forces beyond my control drove me to become a killer of others.

The ban of smoking in public places took place in France later in than many other countries and I’ve seen how vigilantly it is respected in some countries, how in England they adapted and accepted the inconveniences it placed on them, how the pubs turned gastro and Friday night drinkers were pushed off the footpaths out onto the tarmac. (Note the word ‘gastro‘ is a false friend, in French it means gastroenteritis, the word gastropub entered the English dictionary in 2012, probably the nearest equivalent to a gastropub in France is a bistro).

In NZ it seemed like everyone gave up, in the UK it appeared they adapted, but here in France, they kind of reinvented or stretched the rules, in a restaurant in Paris, if your table at a cafe is beyond a certain imaginary line, you can still smoke, it’s all about how you define a space, indoors versus outdoors, public versus private; I don’t profess to know what the definitions are and I’m not a smoker, but it amuses me to see how different cultures interpret the laws, how people find ways to protect their small pleasures and resist certain laws that infringe upon their personal liberties, despite the arguments that exist to the contrary.

Antoine Lauraine has created a character who is about to be affected by the change in the law, not because of the law itself, as his workplace has just refused to go along with it and he is senior enough not to have to kowtow to anyone above him, the owner of the company is a resolute cigar smoker, immune to much that affects those on the ground floor. However when a new chief is brought in, he starts to enforce the rules so Fabrice Valantine decides to make a hypnotherapy appointment to see if he can quit without the agony he’s experienced in previous attempts.

Although he doesn’t believe it will work, it does but it leaves him a little disappointed in the deprivation of the familiar ‘urge’ to want to have a cigarette and nonplussed by the reaction of the cigar smoking gentleman who immediately takes him for one of those irritating non-smokers.

After a series of stressful events overwhelm him, he takes up the habit once more, relieved to find that the ‘urge’ has returned, but shocked to discover that the subsequent ‘pleasure’ that should follow it when he does light up has gone. Angered and determined to have that aspect returned to him, he makes a follow-up appointment with the hypnotist to reverse the procedure, which will lead him down a rocky road towards involvement in a worse crime, in pursuit of that elusive ‘pleasure’ he is determined to retrieve.

It was just the mini escape I thought it would be, the perfect lakeside read, with its occasional humorous anecdotes, its portrayal of the addict whose therapy makes life worse for him, not better, and being a man of privilege, we’re not inclined to feel sorry for him.

Happy to know there’s another one I haven’t read French Rhapsody and I have no doubt
that more will be written and translated.

If you would like to read a sample of the first few pages and read the comments on the back cover without having to download anything, click on the image below:

Click on this image to read a sample

Note: The book was a review copy kindly provided by Gallic Books.

Buy a Copy of Smoking Kills 

via Book Depository

15 thoughts on “Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain tr. Louise Rogers Lalaurie

    • Oh, I checked and it seems to work, if it helps the website is
      You can just type in Smoking Kills to come up with the sample. Gallic Books have created a number of samples for their new books, I read an extract of another book coming up soon called Little by Edward Carey which sounds like a potentially great read too.


  1. I do like the sound of the black comedy in this one, something to give the story a bit of an edge. I’ve heard good things about French Rhapsody as well, so you’re sure to have something to look forward to there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do love knowing those authors that know how to use charm, humour and tat dark aspect to create an entertaining read. This one was so topical, I’m sure it was much talked about at the time it was originally published as this law was really changing things in workplace in France. So many younger people today won’t be able to even imagine what is was like when you sat in your bosses office or a meeting or even on a plane and smoking was still the norm. He uses that turning point to great effect.


  2. I love our properly enforced smoking ban in the UK (I’m just old enough to remember coming back from pubs and clubs smelling of smoke – horrible) but I also love your description of the unwritten rules and the ways people subtly infringe it in France!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is funny too how our relationship to words changes, I find being about French every day has changed my relationship to so many English words, both in a positive and a negative way and I’m sure I don’t even see some of the ways my use of language has changed as a result of this exposure.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the sound of this one – I am really relieved how the smoking ban is defined in the UK, as being a hay fever sufferer, I used to find other folks’ cigarette smoke was like breathing in barbed wire…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the irony in this, and the way that you could connect to the inner nuances of the French because of your knowledge from living there. I love when that happens! And, to me, the French are such a fascinating group. (I was especially fortunate when Invisted there because I could speak French fluently, and they weren’t offended by my being American. Which can offer a lot of offense these days.)

    Liked by 1 person

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