Tuesday 4 July 2023


Whilst browsing in a second-hand bookstore recently, I came across a couple of titles by Jean-Patrick Manchette. They're both thin, have enticing covers, cool titles and have excellent recommendations. Fatale even has a foreword and afterword, so I couldn't resist. 

While I didn't enjoy this one, I'm glad I decided to buy it. 

We meet the protagonist on the cover. She's walking upstairs, a short skirt, high heels and a red filter suggestive of darkness and brooding sexiness. When we find her on the page, she's shooting a hunter at close range and scarpers with a load of cash. Before long, she's altered her appearance and arrived in a small town called Bleville, which the translator kindly points out that could mean Wheatville or, in slang, Doughville. 

She sets about mingling with the local bourgeoisie, a group of clearly flawed individuals who are as transparent as men with glass skin. We become aware that this is part of some kind of modus operandi for Aimee (as we are to get to know her) and that there is going to be suffering among their ranks for sure. We know she's going to do something soon as she spends part of her time training in ways to hurt people. 

Enter an eccentric baron who hates the wealthy self-important oafs of the town as much as Aimee does. He's waiting to bring the whole thing down. With the help of a rather simple and overly convenient plot device, Aimee is going to help him do it. 

Plans are hatched. The town is on the brink. 

Aimee's mystery is suddenly taken away with a backstory that I didn't need and then there's a bloody denouement. Et voila. 

I'm not expert, but I suspect that having a female killer in this mould was something out of the ordinary back in 1977 when this was first published and that strikes me as a plus mark for the book. Other than that, I'm not convinced. 

To my mind, this touches on Simenon territory in lots of ways. There's the undercurrent of sex, the examination of class, the dark noir tones of his roman durs. What it lacks is the heart, the sensitivity, the sense of slow unravelling or the steady build up of the plot. Fatale is cold to the touch and matter-of-fact. 

There are enough stylish strokes to make it worth the time taken to read it and its brevity is certainly in its favour, but it didn't live up to the promise of the jacket.

I'll still read the other Manchette at some time. I won't be rushing to take it from the shelf, but I'll get there.    

Liked it more than me? Tell me why- I'm curious. 

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