Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Doll's Insomniac Criminal Reading: Maria Angelica Bosco and Frederic Dard

Pushkin Press have been releasing retro-crime in their Vertigo imprint. Some of the books are new translations of crime classics and some are retro-set as in Martin Holmen's "Clinch".

My first read was "Death Going Down" by Argentinean crime writer Maria Angelica Bosco. My fault was not to notice her billing as the "Argentinian Agatha Christie". I am not an Agatha Christie fan it has to be said.

In postwar Buenos Aires or to be more precise, an apartment block in postwar Buenos Aires... the police set out to find the killer (or was it suicide?) of a beautiful blonde whose body is found in the lift, late one night. (Hence the title - ahem.) A tight cast of expatriate residents, some with shady pasts, provide the gene pool of suspects for the diligent police. The novel reads well in its translation by Lucy Greaves and cannot help but feel authentic and atmospheric as it was written postwar and published in 1954.

I blame my current sleeping pattern for the failure of this book with me - that and my aversion to strict whodunit form - which meant that I just could not get a grip on this set of suspects (the residents of the top floor of the murderous apartment block) whose names swiveled around in my brain as I limped along at a couple of pages per night. But if you are a period whodunit fan you could well love it.

I moved on to top French 1950s crime master Frederic Dard. Another slim book from the Pushkin Vertigo label but this one I devoured in one sitting. "C'est merveilleux, n'est-ce pas?" Another way to ruin your sleeping pattern. But it was worth it.
Below is my Goodreads review. I shall try for more Dard without a doubt.

Crush (Pushkin Vertigo)Crush by Frédéric Dard
Translated from the French by Daniel Seton
Published Pushkin Press in their Vertigo imprint, paperback, October 2016.

A grim industrial new town in 1950s France. Seventeen year old Louise becomes fascinated by a wealthy American couple, the Roolands, whom she spots on her daily walk home from her factory job. In fact it is the car that catches her eye first; a beautiful Dodge, leather seats and chrome. The couple sit on their swing seat in front of their house, casually eating and drinking in a way that no French family would. One day Louise marches up to them and asks for a job as their maid. Nonplussed they explain that they don't need one but eventually they change their minds. Louise insists on becoming a live-in maid and begins to inhabit her dream. As the darker details of their lives emerge nothing warns any of them of what is to come.

Dard narrates this story through the voice of the passionate young Louise, desperate to escape her own poverty and troubled family and to join this apparent haven of comfort and wealth. A wonderfully concise yet gripping thriller, Dard not only lays out a psychological portrait of a troubled marriage but the collision path between such a marriage and Louise's own obsessive needs. It is a collision which leads us to wonder about the possibility of murder and a murderer. Don't blink at the end or you may miss a surprise kick.

I read this book (translated into English by Daniel Seton) in one sitting. Great stuff.

View my Goodreads books

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