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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Twisted Gothic Entertainment
This compact roman noir starts off with a bang. It grabbed me from the very first chapter and kept on going. J.P. Manchette's gothic detailing and invention of the driven, single-minded character of Aimee Joubert is a little gem. Its plotting, its cynicism, and its deadly main character reminded me of Stieg Larsson's trilogy. Aimee would find a friend in Lisbeth Salander...
Published on June 8, 2011 by John Sollami

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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so pulp crime novel
In this short but violent French noir thriller, a Female assassin travels to a French seaside town, where she insinuates herself into elite society in order to exploit internecine rivalries among the elites for her own profit. At a mere 90 pages, this is more a novella than a novel, and the chapters are correspondingly short, usually 3 to 6 pages. The first few chapters...
Published on May 8, 2011 by DCB


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Twisted Gothic Entertainment, June 8, 2011
By 
This review is from: Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
This compact roman noir starts off with a bang. It grabbed me from the very first chapter and kept on going. J.P. Manchette's gothic detailing and invention of the driven, single-minded character of Aimee Joubert is a little gem. Its plotting, its cynicism, and its deadly main character reminded me of Stieg Larsson's trilogy. Aimee would find a friend in Lisbeth Salander. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if Larsson knew this book. The plot is loaded with crazed characters, most of whom are rich and despicable. They are parodies of "leading" town citizens: rich corrupt businessmen, a nasty reporter, an adulterous town doctor, a pompous real estate agent, and so on. Aimee, who has already changed her identity six or seven times before arriving at Bleville, where the town motto is KEEP YOUR TOWN CLEAN!, hates them all and spends her time trying to discover the easiest way to exploit their petty conflicts for her own enrichment. I laughed out loud at some of the ridiculous plot twists and absurd deaths sprinkled throughout the book. And the character of The Baron is a fine study of an alienated, debauched, uninhibited lunatic who is hated by everyone. The final pages are a riot! What's also essential for the reader is the Afterword by Jean Echenoz. It's a must-read piece of analysis and shows you how much Manchette accomplishes in just 90 pages (the type is small, though). Recommended for jaded readers with a sense of humor.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So-so pulp crime novel, May 8, 2011
By 
DCB "DCB" (Alexandria VA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
In this short but violent French noir thriller, a Female assassin travels to a French seaside town, where she insinuates herself into elite society in order to exploit internecine rivalries among the elites for her own profit. At a mere 90 pages, this is more a novella than a novel, and the chapters are correspondingly short, usually 3 to 6 pages. The first few chapters are fast paced, and do a good job of introducing Aimee, the female assassin. The middle of the book drags a bit as the somewhat contrived and implausible scheme is developed. But the plot is essentially just a vehicle to get to the bloody denouement of the final two chapters. I don't know if Quentin Tarantino was a fan of Manchette, but with its pulp noir imagery and as a graphic celebration of the violent self-destruction of corrupt groups and individuals, this work certainly seems like it could have been an influence on some of his films.

Overall, I can only give this book a lukewarm recommendation. Fans of pulp crime fiction and Quentin Tarantino films may enjoy this as a "quick read". Most of the supporting characters are little more than generic cardboard cut-outs: the greedy corporate bad guys, the corrupt police captain, the slimy tabloid reporter sniffing out dirt on everyone. The reader must also be able to overlook certain inconsistancies in the behavior of the lead character, as well as the contrivances of the plot.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and brutal, February 26, 2012
This review is from: Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
When reviewing a crime novel it's normally pretty easy to come up with a comparable author or book. Not in this case. Fatale is blunt, brief and brutal; its style brings to mind comics or graphic novels, or a particularly vicious B-movie. That's not to say it's junky or pulpy; this is a proper novel, with crisp, direct prose and a mandate to put the boots to the French upper middle-class.

The central character is Aimee, an attractive woman who travels from town to town infiltrating the local upper crust and then blackmails them once she's found out their dirty secrets. Oh, and she also usually murders her victims after she's got the cash. Aimee arrives in Bleville, a coastal town in northern France, and soon finds that there's no shortage of victims for her blackmail scheme. The denouement finds Aimee facing off against a gang of Bleville's notables. The body count is very high.

A synopsis of the plot can make this novel sound ludicrous and sensational, but that's clearly not what Manchette was striving for. Fatale is almost a schematic of how the upper bourgeoisie acts and reacts to threats and temptations. Aimee is partly an avenging angel and partly a victim of bourgeois culture. She, like a good capitalist, sees society purely in terms of its utility to her: what parts of it can be used to her profit, what parts can be eliminated because they hinder her. In short, Aimee's motivating philosophy would seem to be exploit others before they exploit you.

Fatale is definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's bleak and cruel, and the tone of the writing is dry and sometimes startlingly matter-of-fact. Machette wrote a handful of other novels but not many of them seem to be available in English.

Read more of my reviews at JettisonCocoon dot com.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review, August 2, 2012
This review is from: Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Jean-Patrick Manchette's novel, Three to Kill, was so good, I ordered Fatale. The tone of Fatale is remarkably different than Three to Kill, and outside length, there aren't many similarities. Nonetheless Fatale was, for me, a five star novel.

It's hard to discuss a book like Fatale without instantly loading the review with spoilers. I won't give anything paramount away, thus the review won't be very informative. The opening chapter is a murder, where the descriptive details of the scenery, outfits, and ages of a hunting band, are as in depth as the actual murder that takes place. Yet, despite any serious description, or psychological portfolio, it's implicitly clear that the murder was not whimsical, but deliberately calculated with some long-running motive. For a crime noir, this is the catalyst and momentum for majority of the story. Little suspense, nor action, will follow suit, but the constant question of `what the hell happened back in chapter 1' will you keep you reading as if the novel is an edge of your seat thriller.

Several weeks later we find the murderer moving into a bourgeoisie caste society, where the well to do have barred themselves away from everyone else, and spend all their time partying, dining, gambling, and gossiping, while their invested capital collects staggering interest. The old maxim that money doesn't buy happiness is readily apparent, but what is more apparent is the constant Hegelian contradictions of bourgeoisie life, and capital investment. The towns raving mad man - a poser Marxist and Hegelian - shows up to these party's spouting mad rants (or philosophic truths...?), about the sheer contradictory nature of this well-to-do society, and its rotten essence underlining the appearance of wealth. These contradictions start to manifest themselves in material ways, which quickly lead to an excess of black mail, murder, adultery, and all that juicy stuff that is usually found in a noir. The murderer from chapter 1 plays an intricate role in how these crimes are manifested, and responded to, but to elucidate this point would ruin any surprises to be found within the novel.

There's one more Manchette novel translated into English - The Prone Gunman - that I plan to order. Hopefully it's on par with the other two.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Surreal Noir, September 8, 2014
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This review is from: Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Let's face it, I bought this book for its cover and its slim size. I have seldom been disappointed by NYRB books, and thought this would make a tart little sorbet between more substantial courses. Besides, I was curious about this "genre-redefining French crime novelist" who died in 1995 at the age of 53, and the inclusion of an afterword by no less than Jean Echenoz, who has done a bit of genre redefining himself, promised at least a pedigree.

It is a short work, only 91 pages, and of little substance, but I was not disappointed. It begins with a bang, when a rich hunter in Eastern France is shot at close range by a beautiful woman, who then changes her appearance and boards a luxury night sleeper to the other end of the country, headed for the fictional port city of Bléville. Now calling herself Aimée Joubert, she insinuates herself among the movers and shakers in the place, uncovers the rivalries and shady dealings, and ends with an astonishing high body count for such a short book.

Manchette was apparently a practitioner of the "néo-polar": that is to say, a crime thriller with a politically radical agenda. And Aimée is decidedly an anti-establishment killer. The name of the city, which translates roughly to Bread Town, indicates that it will be a gathering place for the rich people who are her usual prey. But it carries an almost playful air of satire, utterly different from the social realism of French "policiers" in the manner of, say, Simenon. Killer though she is, we come to like Aimée, and though the town's oligarchy are mired in corruption and we certainly do not admire many of them, they seem more like caricatures than class oppressors. Indeed, when the first death occurred in this new setting, I almost took it as a piece of surreal absurdity.

Perhaps I was influenced by the endorsement from Jean Echenoz, whose JE M'EN VAIS has also its fair share of black absurdity. Also like Echenoz, Manchette revels in precise details of dress, measurements, and accessories, whether describing Aimée descending from the train ("boots in fawn leather with very high heels, a brown tweed skirt, a beige silk blouse, and a fawn suede car coat"), or her orgiastic celebration of her ill-gotten gains on the train the night before: "And here in this luxury compartment of this luxury train her nostrils were assailed at once by the luxurious scent of the champagne and the foul odor of the filthy banknotes and the foul odor of the choucroute, which smelt like piss and sperm." [The racy translation is by Donald Nicholson-Smith.] Not your everyday crime novel, by any means, but often surprising, and consistently entertaining.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh, I get it. It's French., March 27, 2013
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Without dwelling on the length of this book, let us agree to call it a novella. As such, it should have the same compactness of a short story or intensity. If you are troubled by the ending of this book or its format, think about Luis Bunuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Jean-Pierre Melville's films, La Femme Nikita etc.

Typical of many French works, this is heavy on atmospherics which delghtfully disguise theory. Remember this is a French work and they are the race that gave us Descartes and Sartre. Briefly this is a tale of a female hit woman who improbably finds employment by insinuating herself among the bourgeoisie, observing them, and subtly suggesting to them that she may know someone who can help them. And away we go.

However anyone who wishes to learn to write well should pay particular attention to the first several page of the book and the final scene which takes place between our anti-hero Aimee Joubert and the entire ruling elite of the town. It is some of the best fast-paced action sequences which you will come upon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writer, July 27, 2013
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This guy is a very good story teller. His short novels are especially descriptive of the interesting characters he writes about and very funny at times. I wish he had written more books for translation into English, I would be a big fan.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A One Dimensional Noir, April 3, 2012
By 
las cosas (Ajijic-San Francisco) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
Our lead character has quite the hatred for men. And she isn't very picky. Any man, apparently, is as handy as another when it is time to kill again. True, it is better if they are rich and can be blackmailed before she kills them, but as time goes on she learns to be less picky. And after all, men are men, one pretty much like the next. It all started with her husband. "Just a normal guy. Six Ricards a day. He slapped me about. Normal." That one she kills in rage. But she learned. It was a business. A lucrative business, at which she excelled. Though towards the end, oh yes, this is noir, and it always has an end, she started to trust, which was foolish. And illogical, and highly annoying to a reader trying to figure out this dame, and this poor excuse of a plot.

At the end she regained her, lets call it flair. A whole posse is after her and she gets them all, each with a different method, including heavy equipment she manages to maneuver expertly. In the dark. And by the end she doesn't care about anything. "Do you really imagine I'm interested in your crimes & misdemeanors?" Nope. She just doesn't care. And neither does the reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not his best., January 26, 2014
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I loved both "3 to Kill" and "The Prone Gunman." Brilliant, gripping books that livened up my holidays. This book is a dissapointment by comparison. Started off great, but then soon got off track with a far fetched and tedious cast of characters. I have 30 or more pages to read, but frankly I'm not that eager to pick the book up again.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific French Noir, July 24, 2011
By 
Lee Goldberg (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) (Paperback)
I devoured Jean-Patrick Manchette's FATALE, a deliciously nasty bit of noir about a female killing machine. Better than Three To Kill, almost as good as The Prone Gunman (City Lights Noir).
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Fatale (New York Review Books Classics)
Fatale (New York Review Books Classics) by Jean-Patrick Manchette (Paperback - April 26, 2011)
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