Monday, March 7, 2011

Fantômas by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain - Book Review #127

Monday, March 7, 2011
by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain

“One episode simply melts away as the next takes over”(The New York Times) in this deliciously sinister turn-of-the-century tale of a French evil genius run rampant. Three appalling crimes leave all of Paris aghast: the Marquise de Langruen is hacked to death, the Princess Sonia is robbed, and Lord Beltham is found dead, stuffed into a trunk. Inspector Juve knows that all the clues point to one suspect: the master of disguise, Fantômas. Juve cleverly pursues him in speeding trains, down dark alleys, through glittering Parisian salons, obsessed with bringing the demon mastermind to justice.

Until recently I had no idea that one of my childhood beloved movie trilogy Fantômas was based on once widely popular book series by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain with alarming number of installments – forty three. After finding it out I could not resist to check out at least the first installment – Fantômas.

I didn’t know much about book series, so I started reading it with impressions from movie trilogy: a light-headed, vaudeville-like story with clumsy, rushed inspector Juve, portrait by Louis de Funès and green-faced comical-like villain Fantômas, played by Jean Marais. And even though in the book inspector Juve turned out to be a smart and pedantic; and Fantômas felt not at all like a make-believe villain; I could not stop giggling and see the great Louis de Funès in Juve and equally great Jean Marais as Fantômas. So I didn’t really get to experience Fantômas as a serious crime fiction as it was meant to be.

It appears to me that Fantômas wasn’t meant to be a mystery, because the identity of Fantômas is easily recognizable at almost the very beginning of the story. Notwithstanding, it didn’t make the story less thrilling or interesting. It was still quite amusing to follow Fantômas’ crimes, notice his mistakes and imperfections that helped inspector Juve in his investigations. It was also quite engaging to follow inspector Juve’s line of inference.

Fantômas is probably one of the greatest French villains created in the twenties century. He is a master of disguise. He is ruthless, smart, with no moral code. He will not stop at anything, neither spare anyone to get what he is after. He uses the latest technology available at the beginning of the twenties century to aid in his crimes. He signal handedly put the police all around France in despair to solve the crimes he committed. He is unbeatable. Or is he really?

I will return to this series with great delight some times in the future, even though, I feel it is going to be quite a challenge to be able to get my hands on all the books from this series. Unfortunately, once widely popular, this series nowadays are hardly known to anyone.


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