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Category Archives: International

GASTON LEROUX. The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1907).

In the decades immediately following its release, this canonical work cast a mighty spell over the field of impossible-crime fiction. “The best detective tale ever written,” wrote John Dickson Carr, speaking through his protagonist, Dr. Gideon Fell, who issued that proclamation in the fabled “Locked Room Lecture,” published (as a chapter in The Three Coffins) in 1935. “It remains, after a generation of imitation, the most brilliant of all ‘locked room’ novels,” wrote Howard Haycraft a few years later in his magisterial genre history, Murder for Pleasure. Now, more than a century after the book’s publication, that worshipful attitude is hard to comprehend. The magic that Yellow Room was once able to work on acolytes and enthusiasts has vanished. What stands out today is the clumsy and sometimes comically antiquated way that Leroux handles a set of ingredients that are, in their own right, fairly appealing.

YellowRoomIn its setting and its setup, the novel presents a classic combination of easeful gentility and violent death. There is a garden: The action occurs chiefly at the Château du Glandier, a venerable and verdant estate on the outskirts of Paris, during the Belle Époque (in 1892, to be precise). Living there are Monsieur and Mademoiselle Stangerson, a father-daughter team of scientific geniuses who call to mind the husband-wife team of Pierre and Marie Curie. Surrounded by ostensibly loyal servants, the Stangersons devote their days to working in a laboratory located in a pavilion on the estate. (Their research involves a phenomenon that they call “the dissociation of matter.” In light of what follows, that concept will resonate in a provocative way.) And there is the introduction of a snake: One evening, after a long day of work in the lab, Mademoiselle Stangerson retires to an adjoining space called the Yellow Room. She locks the only door to that chamber. Soon afterward, gunshots ring out. Monsieur Stangerson, with three servants in tow, breaks the door open and discovers a scene of mayhem. His daughter is alive, but she has borne a wound to the head. A search of the premises shows that no one else is in the room—and that no one could have escaped after she sealed it shut.

From there, the book follows a now-standard model for structuring a locked-room novel. (Indeed, in these pages, Leroux is helping to establish that model.) An amateur sleuth, in the form of a boy-wonder journalist named Joseph Rouletabille, arrives on the scene. He reconnoiters the problem, both physically and intellectually: Footprints are located and examined. Theories of what happened in the Yellow Room are broached and critiqued. Then, just as readers’ attention might start to flag, Leroux compounds the original mystery by introducing new apparent impossibilities. One night at the château, for example, a figure disappears from a hallway—a space that Leroux (or his translator) amusingly calls the “inexplicable gallery”—even as witnesses guard every point of egress. Leroux builds further interest by setting rival sleuths in conflict with each other. Throughout the investigation, Rouletabille jousts with an array of officials, including Frederic Larsan, a detective from the Sûreté who functions as a half-serious, half-comic foil (somewhat in the tradition of Inspector Lestrade).

These features of the tale work well enough. Unfortunately, they tumble forth in a style that is lumbering yet frenetic. Leroux’s prose is a creaking mass of Edwardian-era tics and travesties—a bundle of melodramatic phrases and orotund flourishes. (Again, the translator may bear part of the blame; perhaps the style falls on the ear more softly in the original French.) At the same time, the storyline jumps about constantly; like Leroux’s juvenile protagonist, it displays more energy than intentionality. But the inelegant storytelling would be largely forgivable (at least to many impossible-crime mavens) if the story itself didn’t suffer from glaring flaws.

Leroux botches the main puzzle (the one that originates in the Yellow Room) by attaching too many extraneous elements to it. Deep within the puzzle, one can discern a key inspiration for the wondrous trickery—the quasi-magical use of narrative technique to bend time and space—that successors like Carr would exhibit with greater artistry. YellowRoom2Solving this conundrum requires both painstaking analysis and bold intuition. (“We have to take hold of our reason by the right end,” Rouletabille notes.) But Leroux, having contrived this feat of deception, proceeds to swaddle it in layers of over-embroidered, shoddily sewn story material. As a result, when the time comes to explain this sleight of hand, what should be an adroit revelation becomes a labored and almost impossible-to-follow disquisition.  

More egregiously, Leroux doesn’t play fair in the construction of his plot. Although he doles out clues that point toward some aspects of the solution, he also withholds several pieces of data that illuminate either the motive or the mechanics of the Yellow Room episode. Only when Rouletabille disgorges this information in a final, disordered rush of exposition do critical parts of the story come into view. And yet Haycraft, in his write-up on Leroux, claimed that the author “played religiously fair with his readers.” Arguably, Leroux’s neatest trick was his ability to beguile readers (some of them, anyway) on that front.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2020 in International, Novel, Puzzle

 

FRED VARGAS. The Chalk Circle Man (1996).

The actual story in this novel—a variation on the classic serial murder case—comes swaddled in layers of narrative whimsy, psychological exegesis, and self-consciously fine writing. That’s both good and not so good. By deploying a high literary style that is alternately playful and serious, Vargas is able to work imaginative inflections on some now-standard tropes: a villain who seems to be following the dictates of a strange inner compulsion, a string of apparently disparate killings that may serve to hide the motive for one particular killing, an investigation that uses the tools of psychology to tease out the villain’s homicidal logic, a slow-building aura of suspense that arises from waiting for the next move in a campaign of terror. Vargas, in short, knows her way around the tradition of serial-killer fiction that originates in cornerstone works such as The ABC Murders, by Agatha Christie, and Cat of Many Tails, by Ellery Queen. In striving to invest that tradition with a measure of sophistication, however, she runs the risk of obscuring the contours of her plot.

By and large, the plot conforms to type. All over Paris, in arrondissements far and wide, a faceless city dweller is choosing to make his mark in a most unusual fashion. In the early morning hours, before the Métro closes for the night, he (as the title indicates, and as an eyewitness vouchsafes, it is indeed a man) stops at a patch of ancient pavement and draws a neat circle in blue chalk around an ostensibly random found object. The list of encircled objects steadily grows—an orange, a piece of wire, a candle, and so on—but no pattern emerges to explain why the man has chosen these bits of flotsam and jetsam from the churning urban sea. ChalkCircleMan.jpg Then, one morning, it’s the body of a murdered woman that turns up inside a freshly sketched perimeter of chalk. Then a second corpse gets the chalk-circle treatment, and then a third. All three victims have had their throat slit. Otherwise, as far as the police can determine, there is no connection between them, and likewise there is no discernible motive for anyone to end any of their lives. Until fairly late in the novel, the only apparent method to all of this madness pertains to the geography of the Chalk Circle Man’s activity: Much of that activity clusters in either the Saint-Georges and Pigalle neighborhoods on the Right Bank or the Panthéon and Montparnasse areas on the Left Bank.

Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, newly installed as commissaire of the 5th Arrondissement after spending his early life in the provinces, is just the man to solve this quintessentially Parisian crime spree. He’s a homely and unkempt fellow, and Vargas plays up his status as naïve rustic among jaded cosmopolitans. She calls him a “wild child” and celebrates him as a creature of pre- or post-rational intellect. His attunement to the subliminal vibrations that connect people with their destinies, she contends, has enabled him leap over his more plodding colleagues in the French gendarmerie. The puzzle on which Adamsberg works his magic contains a few smart twists, and while some readers may guess the correct solution to that puzzle, few of them will be able to deduce it. Vargas drops a fair number of clues along the way, but they are thin and brittle—like the fallen leaves that Adamsberg pauses to contemplate as the case winds to a finish.

The novel, the first in a series about Adamsberg and his retinue, is very much a late-modern work—and very much a French work. Vargas adopts a highly conceptual approach to what remains, at its structural core, a police procedural of the sort that Ed McBain might have written about the cops of the 87th Precinct. Although Adamsberg comes across as a taciturn and down-to-earth fellow, his creator lades her depiction of him with rambling theoretical discussions of his version of police procedure. The Chalk Circle Man contains some detection, but far more abundant in its pages are instances of meta-detection: Both the author and her principal characters chatter quite a lot about what it’s like, and what it means, to be a detective. Vargas’s emphasis on her hero’s intuitive faculties is another aspect of the tale that has an honorable French lineage. Adamsberg, like his illustrious fictional predecessor Inspector Maigret, is an inscrutable genius par excellence, and Vargas evokes the special qualities of Adamsberg’s mind with brio as well as brilliance. Yet she writes about those qualities at such wearying length that one longs for the crisp, exacting technique that Georges Simenon uses to summon Maigret into being.

 

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2019 in International, Novel, Puzzle

 

LESLIE FORBES. Bombay Ice (1998).

India, confined to a mere subcontinent of space, famously contains enough life to fill several continents with an ample supply of beauty, sordor, and intrigue. The temptation to duplicate that quality of excess in literary form has afflicted countless writers from the West, including the author of this hyper-intelligent thriller. BombayIce.jpg Here are some of the elements that swirl about in Forbes’s veritable monsoon of a novel: the history of alchemy, sibling rivalry, the cinematic achievements and social vicissitudes of Bollywood (India’s answer to Hollywood), colonialism, the culture of the hijra (the pre- and post-op eunuch prostitutes who haunt and enliven the streets of Bombay), suicide, the practice and lore of gilding, Indian nationalist politics, biracial mating and its offspring, the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the smuggling of antiquities, the craft of art forgery, meteorology, high technology, the deadly allure of water, the dispensability of wives, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest (which one character, an Indian version of Orson Welles, has worked for decades to bring to the Bollywood screen).

Rosalind Benegal—sired by a polymathic philanderer from Kerala, borne of a self-destructive Scottish mother, named after a hearty Shakespearean heroine—returns to the India of her anguished youth. There, she soon discovers, signs and rumors abound to suggest that someone intends to kill her estranged half-sister. A journalist by trade and a seeker of truth by neurotic inclination, Rosalind delves further and further into a maelstrom of human desperation and omnipresent deceit. Bombay, through her eyes, becomes a landscape of cheapened lives and richly imagined schemes. Yet the abundance of mirrors and baubles that grace the surface of this narrative keeps the story from functioning well at a deep level. Bombay Ice features superb writing and generous erudition, but it culminates in a confusing, inconsequential finale. Rosalind, who narrates the book, notes at one point that Indian music has nothing like the self-contained structure of Western music. Forbes errs in giving this novel a similar quality: What works in a raga fails to serve the needs of a detective tale.

 

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2018 in International, Noir, Novel

 

ARNALDUR INDRIDASON. Jar City (2000).

“He thought about mothers and daughters and fathers and sons and mothers and sons and fathers and daughters and children that were born and no-one wanted and children who died in that little community, Iceland, where everyone seemed related or connected in some way.” The agent of these musings on the vagaries of paternity and maternity, and on the intricacies of the Icelandic “family,” is Erlendur Sveinsson, detective inspector on the Reykjavik police force.

Following the now-standard format for gritty procedurals, Erlendur functions less as a traditional protagonist than as a prism through which his creator can refract multiple rays of investigative, personal, and social drama. (An introductory note explains that Icelanders generally go by their first name; they don’t have surnames in the usual sense of that term.) Indradason surrounds the inspector with a cast of supporting players who function as a work family—Sigurdur Oli, an up-and-coming fellow with a degree in criminology; Elinborg, a female junior officer; Marion Briem, a crusty senior officer; and so on. On the home front, meanwhile, Erlendur faces challenges that are typical of put-upon fictional cops everywhere: He has a troubled daughter, Eva Lind, and his stumbling efforts to maintain a connection with her form a major subplot in the novel. JarCity.jpg

Erlendur is also keenly aware of his membership in a distinctive national family. Iceland has a population no bigger than that of a mid-size American city, and its people can trace their ancestry back many centuries. Consequently, the country has been able to create a database that combines information on the health and family histories of virtually all of its citizens. Affiliated with this vast genealogical undertaking is a laboratory that retains specimens of biological material from a vast assortment of Icelanders; the book’s title is a mordant reference to that facility. The scientific value of these projects derives largely from the country’s genetic homogeneity. Even so, Indradason manages to suggest that there are an infinite number of stories to be found in Jar City.

There is, for instance, the story of Holberg, a 69-year-old truck driver whose penchant for sexual vice appears to have been the only notable element of an otherwise drab existence. Acting on a neighbor’s tip, Erlundur and his team enter a seedy basement apartment in the Nordurmyri neighborhood of Reykjavik and discover that someone has bludgeoned Holberg to death. What follows is an engrossing tour through the seemingly ordinary lives of people whose fates had intersected with that of the murdered man. Attention turns before long to a set of women who were, or may have been, raped by Holberg—and to people who have familial connections with these victims. (That’s where the revelations of Jar City come into play.) Within this group, presumably, Erlendur will locate a culprit whose yearning for vengeance found an outlet in the savage murder of a sad, dirty old man.

Although Indradason suffuses the tale with an ample portion of Nordic dourness, he avoids the plodding exposition that mars some works of Scandinavian noir. Indeed, the most compelling element of this novel—the third in the Erlendur series—is the author’s careful management of suspense. From chapter to chapter, Indradason switches between one investigative lead and another, and he further varies the mix with chapters about Erlendur and Eva Lind. By braiding his narrative strands in this way, he creates a sequence of cliffhangers that are small in scale but cumulatively large in impact.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2018 in International, Noir, Novel, Procedural

 

L.R. WRIGHT. Prized Possessions (1993).

Where does one draw the line between the mystery novel and the work of serious fiction? In some instances, that line blurs to the point of nonexistence. Those who write about crime often work to attain—and often do attain—the depths of psychological insight and the lofty reaches of social observation that great novelists have traditionally claimed as their exclusive literary domain. Mainstream writers, meanwhile, often descend into the precincts of genre fiction, if only because a work presented as “A Mystery” will sometimes garner more readers than one marketed as “A Novel.” PrizedPossession.jpg

Somewhere between those publishing trends falls this tale. Issued as a “crime” novel, it has a good deal in common with a straight novel that came out in roughly the same era: Paris Trout, by Pete Dexter. Like that work, it traces the process by which a handful of characters converge—slowly, tortuously, inexorably—upon acts of horrific violence. At no point is there any doubt as to “who” or even as to “what.” In the fictive world that Wright has built, only the question of “how” appears to matter. How will the perpetrators find their victims (or vice versa)? How will the murderous impulses foreshadowed in the novel’s earliest scenes finally be unleashed? Nothing beyond the presence of a professional detective, one Karl Alberg of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, signals that we are reading a genre piece rather than a “literary” product.

Alberg, in fact, performs no detection. He merely goes about his business, most of it personal, while just over the horizon of his life in staid, orderly Vancouver, two stories of conflict between the sexes unfold—stories of desire thwarted and transposed into hate. In one, a drugstore clerk of subnormal intelligence, believing that a haughty college girl has snubbed him, sets forth to demand an apology from her. Not really knowing why, he takes a gun along with him. In the other, a woman has invested every resource at her disposal into being the perfect wife, only to discover that she has failed. When she goes in search of the husband who has left her, she too carries a gun. The two dramas proceed separately, in parallel fashion, for most of the novel. Then they intersect with one another, and with Alberg, in a concluding sequence that is none the less explosive for being perfectly predictable.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2014 in International, Noir, Novel, Procedural

 

MAJ SJÖWALL and PER WAHLÖÖ. The Laughing Policeman (1968).

One thing that Inspector Martin Beck and the policemen who serve with him on the Stockholm homicide squad rarely do is laugh. The emotions that they express, or that Sjöwall and Wahlöö express for them, generally align with the kind of gloom and dyspepsia that have come to define the Scandinavian soul (for non-Scandinavians, at any rate). The disappointments of married and family life, the unfulfilled promise of the welfare state, the dank and dreary skies that hover perpetually over the Swedish capital—these are the topics that typically preoccupy Beck and his comrades, who therefore come across as a dour and serious lot. The title of this novel, the fourth of the ten books that make up the Beck saga, thus contains a strong element of irony. And right away that irony takes on a dark hue, for The Laughing Policeman essentially begins with a dead policeman. Late on an evening in 1967, when the Stockholm police are focusing most of their energies on an anti–Vietnam War protest being held at the U.S. Embassy, an assailant guns down nine people on the 47 Bus as it nears its terminus in the city’s Vasastan neighborhood. Among the dead is an off-duty cop named Ake Stenstrom. Was his killing a mere byproduct of a senseless mass murder? Or was he the intended target of an assassin?

LaughingPoliceman.jpg

In the now-classic manner of the modern procedural, the investigation of that crime proceeds by fits and starts, with different investigators pursuing different leads with varying degrees of success and (more often) failure. Over time, usable clues—a hidden sheaf of sexually charged photos, a scrap of memory shared by a surviving bus passenger—do accumulate. Then comes a moment, understated but nonetheless climactic, when readers learn the source of the book’s title. Many weeks have passed since the murder spree, and it’s Christmastime. As a present from his daughter, Beck receives a recording of an old song called “The Laughing Policeman.” It’s actually a gag gift of sorts, but it triggers the stroke of insight that Beck needs to arrange an apparently ragtag set of clues in their proper order.

The resolution of the case carries no great surprise, yet it packs a real punch. In large part, that’s because it arises organically from its milieu. Stockholm is a city of islands, populated by residents who skillfully make islands of themselves, and Sjöwall and Wahlöö excel at depicting particular Stockholmers as they inhabit particular locations within that metropolis. The result is a somber, documentary effect that resembles the feel of mid-century noir film and fiction. Still, the noir scene that these authors evoke is a far cry from the prototypical American version. Life in Sweden might breed despair, but social breakdown is a problem that has limited salience in that well-ordered clime. The authors concede as much when they refer—in a glancing albeit telling way—to the day earlier in 1967 when motorists throughout the country miraculously switched from left-hand to right-hand driving.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in International, Noir, Novel, Procedural

 

UMBERTO ECO. The Name of the Rose (1980).

Eco, a renowned literary scholar, brings to this début work of fiction the sensibility of an unapologetic polymath. The result is a novel that brims over with the fruits of his wide-ranging research—and with signs of his brainy, manic ambition. It’s at once a faithful pastiche of the mystery genre and a bravura performance that gleefully transcends the boundaries of genre. NameRose.jpgThere is room here not only for seven violent deaths, all taking place at a secluded abbey located high in the North Italian mountains (the structure is ancient even in 1327, when this chronicle takes place), but also for a discourse on the social and political history of heretical sects, for a psychological and theological examination of the Inquisition, and for a survey of European high politics in a time of two popes and one Holy Roman Emperor, who (as the old witticism goes) was neither holy nor from Rome nor much of an emperor. Two figures stir this bubbling cauldron of ingredients into a coherent narrative. The first is a shadowy murderer who apparently takes his cue from the Book of Revelation. The second is a Franciscan Inquisitor whose forensic methods anticipate scientific criminal-investigation techniques by half a millennium. This proto-sleuth bears the none-too-subtle name William of Baskerville, and he’s accompanied by a Dominican novice whose own cognomen, Adso of Melk, carries a trace echo of the name Watson.

As Conan Doyle does in the Sherlock Holmes tales, Eco in The Name of the Rose turns the quest for knowledge into an engine of drama. Indeed, the question of knowledge (Is it a matter of reason, or of revelation?) lies at the very core of this opus. In the case of Adso, the knowledge that eludes and addles his mind is carnal, and he devotes much of his time at the abbey to exploring the mysteries of love and lust. But he also finds time to watch William’s quest unfold. (True to his Watsonian model, he narrates this adventure.) The man from Baskerville acts as a hound of truth—truth in its modern form as a quality that is lodged in nature and amenable to human scrutiny. Dead friars pile up at a rate of one per day before William at last finds the pivotal clue deep in the center of the abbey library, a maze-like structure that looms as a veritable labyrinth of turpitude. In the end, a resolutely medieval darkness hangs over the story. Even so, William’s feat of detection offers a narrow sliver of light and, perhaps, the promise of further enlightenment yet to come.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Historical, International, Novel, Puzzle

 

GEORGES SIMENON. Maigret and the Yellow Dog (1931).

“What I’m telling you may not be pretty. But I’ve been watching you. You look like a man who can understand.” That line of dialogue, spoken to the benignly gruff Inspector Maigret and uttered by a suspect under interrogation, suggests the essence of Maigret’s power. It’s Maigret’s job to smoke out the ugly truths that hide in the folds on ordinary French life, and he does so not just by possessing a deep awareness of the ways of humankind, but by projecting that quality among those who cross his investigative path. YellowDog.jpgHere, his mere presence in the seaside village of Concarneau exerts an almost physical influence on the atmosphere of the town: Wayward clues, and the confessed secrets of wayward souls, attach to him as inexorably as metal filings attach to a magnet.

The criminal incident that draws Maigret from Paris to Concarneau is a curious one: A local wine merchant, tipsy after a night of card-playing and conviviality at the Admiral Hotel, stumbles through the town’s near-empty streets. Buffeted by a storm-loosed wind, he stops in a doorway to light a match, and immediately shots ring out. Did someone really intend to kill this apparently inconsequential fellow? Who, in any event, would have known that he’d be passing by that doorway at that late hour? Other crimes, or indications of crime, follow. Stray clues multiply. The yellow dog of the title, for instance, looms for Maigret as a sure sign that something odd is afoot. The dog also functions as a symbol—as a figure of vague menace that flits in and out of view. A symbol of what? Of fear, more or less. Raw, animal fear is a pivotal theme of this novel.

As ever in the casebook of Maigret, the search for clues and the hunt for criminals matter less than a receptivity to less tangible forms of human truth. Simenon, as if to highlight his disdain for traditional modes of detection, provides Maigret with a comic foil—a sidekick named Inspector Leroy, who favors the latest scientific sleuthing methods. Leroy dashes about, making plaster casts of footprints and conducting chemical analyses of liquor bottles, and in general comes across as a feckless skimmer of the surface of things. Maigret, meanwhile, practices a kind of anti-method that lets him plumb the depth of things while seeming to do very little. He presides over the unwinding of a plot that (like the plot in many Sherlock Holmes tales) traces its origins to a past injustice and finds its impetus in a bid for revenge. Less a mystery story than a moral fable, Yellow Dog delivers the age-old message that sin begets sin, and that a man’s worst sins will come back to bite him.

Simenon deftly roots his fable in the here-and-now of a Depression-ravaged provincial town. He limns the foreclosed horizon that residents of a tourist locale see in front of them during the dreary off-season months of the year, and he poignantly evokes the patterns of economic hardship and personal exploitation that circumscribe their behavior. (To wit: More than one character off-handedly notes that of course a waitress or a servant girl will share a bed with a well-off man, in the hope of getting a franc or two for her trouble.) In brief, there’s no shortage of objects for the powerful intuitive sympathy that is Maigret’s trademark.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Golden Age, International, Novel, Procedural

 

HENNING MANKELL. Faceless Killers (1991).

The police-prodedural genre—in which a cop-hero marches through long days of investigative drudgery, all the while contending with the personal fallout from a professional life marked by too much work and too little reward—well suits the wintry outlook that the Swedish people are known for (not least by themselves). This novel, set in the Baltic-chilled region along the southern coast of Sweden, exploits that close kinship between narrative style and national temper. FacelessKillers.jpgIt’s the first of what has become a long and popular series of books that feature Inspector Kurt Wallander as their put-upon protagonist. Here, along with calling upon Wallander to make sense of the shockingly violent murder of an old farmer couple, Mankell immerses him in a flow of worries that includes a wife bent on divorce, an estranged daughter, and a selfish, senile father. A further layer of angst, derived from the view that immigration and the nativist response to it are disfiguring Swedish society, covers these grim proceedings like a sheet of thin, brittle ice. A love of opera and a submerged crackle of erotic longing humanize Wallander, and also pump some life into his saga, but they don’t fundamentally alter Mankell’s depiction of crime-fighting as a thoroughly unromantic affair, random is its course and devoid of dramatically satisfying contours. The murder gets solved, realistically but without surprise or panache. For Wallander and his troubled country, meanwhile, life just goes on: Sadly and stubbornly, it goes on.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in International, Noir, Novel, Procedural

 

GEORGES SIMENON. Maigret at the Gai-Moulin (1931).

A dense, clever plot—ridiculous in parts but ultimately quite satisfying—somehow manages to unfurl its many strands in this very compact yarn about some bizarre goings-on within and around a nightclub in Liège, Belgium. GaiMoulinPI.jpgTraveling far from his base on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir in Paris, Inspector Maigret makes a late, dramatic appearance (detective ex machina!) in this case, which deals with the murder of a Greek playboy named Graphopoulos. A mysteriously migrating corpse, a pair of feckless juvenile delinquents, a woman of easy virtue whose heart may or may not be of pure gold, and an elusive “big-shouldered man” each move in and out of view, providing intimations of possibility rather than clues in the proper sense of that term. Which is exactly how Maigret likes it: Just as he does in most of his outings, he arrives at the truth of this matter not through deduction, but through his own special brand of Gallic divination.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Golden Age, International, Novel, Procedural