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A Nest Of Spies: Being The Fourth In The Series Of Fantomas Detective Tales Paperback – April 26, 2008
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About the Author
Born in France September 15, 1885 Died on August 25, 1969 Genre: Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Marcel Allain (1885-1970) was a French writer mostly remembered today for his co-creation with Pierre Souvestre of the fictional arch-villain and master criminal Fantômas. The son of a Parisian bourgeois family, Allain studied law before becoming a journalist. He then became the assistant of Souvestre, who was already a well-known figure in literary circles. In 1909, the two men published their first novel, Le Rour. Investigating Magistrate Germain Fuselier, later to become a recurring character in the Fantômas series, appears in the novel. Then, in February 1911, Allain and Souvestre embarked upon the Fantômas book series at the request of publisher Arthème Fayard, who wanted to create a new monthly pulp magazine. The success was immediate and lasting. After Souvestre’s death in February 1914, Allain continued the Fantômas saga alone, then launched several other series, such as Tigris, Fatala, Miss Téria and Férocias, but none garnered the same popularity as Fantômas --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
One true believer is Inspector Juve, a police detective tasked with solving a string of murders and thefts that may or may not have been committed by this mysterious villain. Inspector Juve has kept track of Fantômas’s exploits over the years, but never before has he gotten so close to capturing this elusive killer. Juve is the closest thing the novel has to a protagonist, but the authors jump around to different members of the ensemble cast in each chapter. In a typical murder mystery, the author provides his audience with clues, challenging the astute reader to figure out the puzzle. Allain and Souvestre, on the other hand, frustratingly conceal the clues from you as well. Because the reader doesn’t spend a lot of time with Juve, he’s always showing up armed with knowledge the reader couldn’t possibly have foreseen. A typical chapter in the book opens with a pair or more of unfamiliar characters. They engage in a protracted dialogue in which very little is revealed, then at the end of the chapter you find out one or two of them were so-and-so in disguise. There are three or four masters of disguise in the book—some good, some bad. Another oft-used tactic is to refer to a character simply as “a man” and then after 20 minutes of reading you find out that man was Juve or some other previously introduced character. Games such as these get annoying after a while, and the plot defies belief more times than is pardonable. It’s so easy to fool someone with a disguise in this book, you’d think they were wearing the laser-cut latex masks from Mission Impossible.
Despite all the confusion and obfuscation, the story ends up pretty much just how you would expect. When Juve points out the guilty party, it’s no shock. You’d think that after all the twists and turns Allain and Souvestre would want to wrap it up with a surprise ending, but no. Over the course of the book, the authors craft an intricate web of relationships between the disparate cast of characters, but the ultimate revelation of the guilty part is anticlimactic. The novel then ends with an incredibly convenient contrivance that leaves the door open for a sequel.
Given the international popularity of Fantômas, I expected more. Perhaps this sort of thing plays better on film, because I found the debut novel quite disappointing. It’s entertaining at first, but by the end I was glad to be done with it. Fantômas and I may cross paths again someday, but for now I think I’ll go back to Arsène Lupin.
Fantomas is the title character but through most of the book it's hard to discern whether he is an actual person or a mythological figure that Juve imagines to be lurking behind every crime. As the investigations proceed all the crimes start linking together with evidence from one crime pointing to the next and so on. Mercel Allain amd Pierre Souvestre weave a larger and larger web as the book progresses but the book builds slowly and I was not enthralled in the early goings. It builds to a trial near the end of the book where Juve tries to state his case that one man, in custody, has committed a series of crimes. The reader is privy to information not available to Juve so it appears that his circumstantial evidence can't possibly lead to his assumption and yet perhaps the writers have thrown us for a swerve. I'll admit that I experienced some *gasp* moments during the trial.
There are books that start out big but flame out as the story progresses but this one is quite the opposite. It took me awhile but once I got into it I was totally riveted right up to the last page. In some ways the book reminds me of the reveal at the end The Usual Suspects but it's actually much more open ended. We know that Kevin Spacey was Kaiser Soze but Fantomas remains an enigma throughout. Is he even real? As the last few chapters unfold events from all through the book start to take relevance but lots of questions carry on past the end of the book. Fantomas is a series with over 40 books and at the halfway point I chalked this book up as my first and last but now I'm really interested in reading the follow up.