Monday, April 25, 2011

Crime Fiction: Fatale by J.P. Manchette (NYRB)

From the back of the ARC: Whether you call her a coldhearted grifter or the soul of modern capitalism, for which nothing on heaven or earth has any value except its value in cash, there's no question that Aimee is a killer and a more than professional one. Now she's set her eyes on a backwater burg - where, while posing as an innocent (albeit drop-dead gorgeous) newcomer to town, she means to make a killing. But then something snaps: the master manipulator falls prey to a pure and wayward passion.

Review: The back of my ARC describes Manchette's crime novels as being "indictment[s] of post-war complacency," and Fatale definitely fits that bill. Aimee, the central character, is introduced as a cold-hearted mercenary who cares only about money: at the beginning, she's just killed several men out hunting and is glorying in the cash she's received for the murders. Yet as the story progresses, the reader sees little glimpses that her heart is not entirely made of solid stone. Don't be confused by the "pure and wayward passion" that the blurb mentions, however - there's no romantic interest in the story. Manchette packs a lot of events into one short book (my ARC is less than 100 pages), but his story is well developed. His near-obsessive dedication to little details can be a bit irritating at first, but, as with most crime novels, the little details are just as important as the plotline. I found the ending slightly disappointing (I didn't think it was as gripping and OMG surprising as the conclusions to most crime/mystery novels), but it fits Manchette's style and his purpose in writing the book. This is the first NYRB book I've read (about half of their catalog is on my wishlist), and it didn't let me down. While Fatale was much different from the mysteries I usually read, it was just as good in its own way and an interesting (I would use enjoyable, but it IS rather dark fiction) read.

Maturity Factor: Profanity (including the f-word a couple times), adult situations, and gore.

My ARC of Fatale was received through LibraryThing's Member Giveaways program. Originally published in French in 1977, the NYRB edition goes on sale April 26, 2011.

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