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Monsieur X: The incredible story of the most audacious gambler in history By Janie Reid

Release date: 23rd March, 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sport

List Price: Ł16.99
Our Price: Ł12.81
You Save: Ł4.18 (24%)
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The backdrop to this thrilling, fast-moving tale reads like the introduction to a Gallic version of a Bond novel. It’s to author Jamie Reid’s credit that readers could believe Ian Fleming was at the typewriter as we’re introduced to the book’s Monsieur X, Patrice des Moutis.

Des Moutis enjoyed a privileged childhood, was especially bright and gained a place to read Mathematics and Engineering at the respected École Centrale Engineering School, graduating with honours in 1943. Upon graduation, he worked for his father’s firm as a risk assessor and cultivated an image of which Bond himself would be proud.

He wore tailor-made suits, was urbane and witty and despite being a chain-smoker, was athletic, playing rugby and running well into middle age. He was also a passionate devotee of the turf, preferring a day at the races to one working in the office.

Reid successfully invokes Paris of the 1950s, isolated pockets of which became a glamorous, fashionable, Gauloise-smoking counterpoint to much of Europe, still on its knees following six years of war. It was also a city of hope with tens of thousands of residents risking a few francs on the daily Tierce, a forecast place bet where the punter attempts to predict the first three horses over the line in a specific race. The Tierce still operates to this day, but in a modified form from its 1950s version.

Patrice des Moutis proved an astute gambler, drawing upon his mathematical skills to win enormous sums of money. Bookies didn’t mind this happening once or twice (it generates free publicity), but des Moutis made a habit out of it and the state-owned operator, PMU, became so concerned at him taking them to the cleaners that they began changing the rules to prevent him emptying their vaults.

Des Moutis’s reputation soared once the public got wind of his success. Though they were not winning with anywhere near the same frequency as their hero, they willed him on, desperate to see him beat the state. Eventually, the French government criminalised his activities, much to the interest (and delight) of the nation’s criminal underworld.

A gripping tale from the off, readers will be rooting for the debonair Monsieur des Moutis throughout; if you’re thinking of emulating his winning system, however, it’s still illegal.


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