Viel offers a masterful analysis of the banality of the evil which drives today's world ... In many ways, the book reads like a political novel, with its critique of neoliberal capitalism ... unfolds as a psychologically brilliant, politically charged cri de coeur against the villainy of neoliberal capitalism. The book itself hovers between the inward gaze of a first-person psychological thriller and the outward gaze of a trenchant political novel. Although we know the outcome, the narrative still draws us in: we need to know the twists and turns of this sordid tale ... There's a reason the term 'noir' is applied to darkly atmospheric books like this one ... Viel's work speaks to a certain innocence in all of us, an all-too-frequent bewilderment at the state of the world and the way things work ... replete with suffering and shattered hopes, but in the end, innocence -- and the primitive justice through which it expresses itself – achieve a surprising reprieve.
The entire novel is in the form of a monologue, and the narrator-protagonist addresses a courthouse presided over by a patient judge and the reader alternately. While the reader, who acts as the judge, and the judge, who acts as the reader, are directly implicated, Viel is not one to give things away hastily. His craft lies in the deliberate delay ... Kermeur’s crime makes him not an impetuous jerk, but a Nietzschean. That is the bigger point the novel is making, or trying to make. It is not about poetic justice, but artifice ... Viel’s power is in inverting the rationale of law, and in taunting those who are complicit in its finality. Article 353 is a subtle interrogation of the ways justice is conceived of and delivered. For Kermeur, after all, more than the rigors of the method, it is a matter of capricious fortune.
Sharp and memorable ... Kermeur’s high hopes result in a steep downfall. The reader has seen it coming, for early on Kermeur tells the judge that his story is about 'a run-of-the-mill swindle.' But Viel’s novel is much meatier than that. It shows how Kermeur was duped but also how he and those around him coped with it ... Like the fog that blankets the town and pervades the novel, all is hazy; but gradually, and tantalizingly, outlines emerge from the murk and reasons are revealed ... At the end, the novel’s blandly bureaucratic title is explained, and we find ourselves with the tricky task of deciding whether the judge’s punishment fits Kermeur’s crime.