RARA-AVIS: Simenon- The Brothers Rico

From: Etienne Borgers ( wbac1203@wanadoo.be)
Date: 19 Aug 2003

I re-read one of Simenon's Noir novels:

The Brothers Rico (Les fr貥s Rico- 1952)

Simenon wrote The Brothers Rico in 1952, during his ten years stay in the US (published in English in 1954).

This novel is rather atypical by its background that deals with the Organization (read: the Mafia), as Simenon normally never used organized crime to that extend in a novel. But, it's still the story of a man facing a crisis and dealing with it, or at least trying, restricted by his own temper and by his own views about life and death- all data more common to Simenon's novels.

This short novel tells the story of Eddie Rico, the eldest of three brothers from an Italian family originated from Brooklyn. Eddie is an important member of the Organization, controlling a good part of Florida. He never tried to cheat or to operate individually, he always respected the rules and behavior imposed by his bosses, deeply convinced it was the way to keep everything together, and that this was beneficial for everybody. His views allowed him survive inside the Organization, and rather well. On the surface he's a respectable member of the community, a good family man and a successful businessman. His unspoken daily tasks involve in fact to control the local racket operations, avoiding any excess of violence, any danger of involvement of the Justice system, all things he does successfully and firmly since years. His two younger brothers work for the Organization too, but in another region and on a lower level: Gino is a hit man, and Tony is a helper, mainly as a driver. But, one of the organization's plots involving Tony and Gino goes sour and a man is murdered. Apparently, too many tracks could lead to the organized crime and the District Attorney is convinced that Tony could be a prime witness. Fearing for the Organization, Eddie's bosses will ask him to find out where his brother hides with his young wife. SPOILER FOLLOWS (TO AVOID: GO DIRECTLY TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH )

SPOILER SPOILER Knowing very well he's manipulated by the Organization that pretends they just want to sent Tony abroad for the safety of the involved persons, Eddie will pursuit his mission and will apply all the duplicity he can to obtain some information from his family. When Tony is finally located, Eddie will speak to him trying to convince him of the genuine intentions of the Organization: he's only the messenger to inform Tony about the Organization's wish to send him to another country.
 Eddie has to face what he knew all the time: his brother will be killed by the two hitmen sent for the purpose. Worse, by accepting to track down his brother he knew he was just scouting the path for the killers and that by this he could not hide Tony from the Organization that was watching him all along his investigation, in every town, in every neighborhood, day by day, hour after hour… But Eddie was convinced that the rule prevailed, that it was the way, that it was the only way.

Simenon, in this novel, masterfully let us see the slow disintegration of Eddie, terrorized by what he feels, knowing what will happen to his brother and refusing to admit it openly, continuing his mission in the name of his code of conduct that led his whole life. But what is really left now from his real life? END OF SPOILER - END OF SPOILER END OF SPOILER

In an insidious and efficient manner, Simenon will lead his central character to face his own destiny, after the artifices of his position and all the false rewards and comforts of a "successful life" suddenly become meaningless in front of the events and of their tragic consequences for Eddie. By this process, Noir is slowly invading the novel all along a story seen through Eddie, until he reaches the total darkness wherein he is left at the end… a real negative climax. A very good novel.

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries http://www.geocities.com/Athens/6384

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