Although he tried to commit suicide immediately after the murders, Romand survived. He was brought to trial and sentenced to life imprisonment. Among the reporters, the general view was that sexual inadequacy -- physically, Romand had always been faintly repulsive -- was the key to the whole mess. Carrere neither agrees nor disagrees with this. Nor, on the whole, does he take a reporter’s approach to his material. Although he speaks to members of Romand‘s circle, it is on Romand himself that Carrere focuses. (The book includes selections from their exceedingly polite correspondence.) What was it like to be that man? To live that horror? To commit that horror? are the questions that interest him.
It is after Romand goes to prison that the most disturbing part of Carrere’s book begins. Flattered by the charitable interest taken in his case by various prison visitors (or ”guardian angels“), as well as by members of a Catholic movement known as the Intercessors, Romand seeks forgiveness and salvation in God. In jail, he claims that for the first time in his life he can finally be himself. ”Events of a mystical nature, not easy to communicate, have deeply stirred me and become the foundations of my new faith,“ he writes in the Intercessors‘ newsletter. He expresses confidence that God has forgiven him and that he will one day rejoin his murdered family in heaven.
But can a man like Romand really find salvation? From a Catholic viewpoint, the answer is obviously affirmative, and Carrere doesn’t dispute this. The question he poses is whether a man like Romand can ever truly be sincere -- if he isn‘t, in a sense, possessed by insincerity. ”He is not putting on an act, of that I’m sure,“ Carrere writes, ”but isn‘t the liar inside him putting one over on him? When Christ enters his heart, when the certainty of being loved in spite of everything makes tears of joy run down his cheeks, isn’t it the adversary deceiving him yet again?“
Jean-Claude Romand is due to leave jail in 2015, when he is 61. Carrere finally purports to see in him nothing but ”a pathetic mixture of blindness, cowardice and distress.“ Out of that unholy trinity he has fashioned an elegant and deeply unsettling book about a man -- a void disguised as a man -- who, once he started lying, found he couldn‘t stop. Like Carrere’s fiction, The Adversary will haunt you.