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THREE TO KILL by Jean-Patrick Manchette Kirkus Star


by Jean-Patrick Manchette & translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith

Pub Date: March 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-87286-395-6
Publisher: City Lights

A first appearance in English for the late Manchette (1942–95). Near the end of this sleek noir thriller, Georges Gerfaut sums up the plot thus far for an enigmatic beauty named Alphonsine, who may or may not help him: “Until last summer I was a middle manager in a company in Paris. I went on vacation and two men tried to kill me, twice, for reasons unknown to me. Two complete strangers. At which point I left my wife and children and, instead of informing the police, fled.” (The unanswered “Why?” pulses provocatively under the surface.)? Gerfaut goes on to recount several harrowing close calls over the previous months. He begins as an homme in a gray flannel suit, leading a comfortable but unexciting bourgeois life. The accoutrements of his Mercedes—steel-gray with brown interior—are described with clinical precision. Late one night, he plays Good Samaritan, picking up an injured man on the side of the highway and taking him to a hospital. The man, Mouzon, is bleeding heavily and can barely speak. Three days later comes the first of several attempts on Gerfaut’s life, ordered by creepy-elegant crime kingpin Alonso Emerich y Emerich, who loves only his bull mastiff Elizabeth, but her excessively, and carried out by the volatile hitmen Carlo and Bastien. They finish off Mouzon before devoting themselves completely to the pursuit of Gerfaut.

A social satire cum suspense equally interested in dissecting everyday banalities and manufacturing thrills. Writing with economy, deadpan irony, and an eye for the devastating detail, Manchette spins pulp fiction into literature.