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Summary

Sex, betrayal, murder and corruption form the basis of this sensational novel by one of the leading French authors of the 19th century.

Jacques Lantier is a man with a hereditary homicidal lust. When he sees Roubaud and his wife Severine slit the throat of a wealthy nobleman, it is the catalyst for a string of murders in a convoluted plot full of horror and suspense. Severine starts an affair with Jacques to keep him from informing the authorities, but the couple soon realise that Roubaud has become an obstacle to their happiness.

The malevolent Flore, feeling spurned and betrayed, takes her revenge in catastrophic fashion. If Jacques could cure his illness with just one murder all might be well - but who will be his victim? And can he stop there?

Zola constantly reminds us that underneath the veneer of education and an accepted moral code, the savage beast will always remain. Characteristically, the writer doesn't shy away from the raw sexual element and baser human impulses, confronting us with a truth that, while not always palatable, is always enthralling. It is a brutal study of individuals derailed by primal forces beyond their control which, at the close, leaves us questioning our belief in ourselves as civilised creatures.

Public Domain (P)2009 Assembled Stories

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