I put down my thoughts on Manchette's Fatale a few weeks ago, basically saying that I didn't really enjoy it. A little browsing among other reviewers suggested that Fatale wasn't one of his best and I sensed that he deserved another shot, so I jumped into Three To Kill.
There are many elements to this one that should have made me enjoy it more than I did.
A man is thrown out of his usual life pattern following an incident on the road where he saves a man from a car accident and drives him to hospital. It turns out that the victim of the accident had, in fact, been shot and that by attempting a rescue the protagonist (Georges Gerfaut when we meet him) has interfered with an assassination attempt. This triggers an attempt on his own life by the pair of hit men and causes a series of events that he may never have expected.
Truth be told, Gerfaut wasn't enamoured by his existence in the first place (job, wife and kids all rather humdrum) and his love of jazz was never going to be enough to save him. When he is plunged into responding only to what is around him and driven to act in order to survive, he finds a new vigour as he casts off the restraints of the norm.
The two hit men are a great creation- they're like bickering brothers or an overly-familiar married couple. The lists of jazz musicians hit the spot. Gerfaut's response to his new life is interesting and his new encounters are interesting and imaginative. Manchette has the skill of summing up a huge amount in a very short phrase. The plot works well and there's enough to maintain interest even though it's difficult to predict which direction lies ahead. All to the good.
Where I struggled again is with the matter-of-factness. It's brutally cold. Emotions are practically stripped from the work to an extreme, reducing people in a way to something less than human. While this may be a bonus for many, I think that's my main issue with the style. There's also something about the point of view that is a bit off- occasionally the author will raise a question or suggest a not-quite omnipotent understanding of the characters that intruded on my involvement.
This is likely to appeal to those who like straightforward prose, crystal clear noir, existential sensibilities and uncluttered action (which, in theory should include me). Don't let this put you off and find out for yourself, but two shots and two hits of the woodwork mean I'm unlikely to be back.