The book: Literature is full of great detectives; less so with great criminals. The criminal masterminds that take center stage in novels are often either effeminate plotters or crooks-with-a-heart-of-gold types. Fantômas is the rare criminal genius with the brawn and cold-heartedness to carry out gruesome murders, yet the charm to seduce a princess as he robs her. Close on his heels is the detective Juve of the Paris police, a master of disguise with the intelligence to almost, but not quite, catch up with Fantômas.
In France, Fantômas stars in over 40 books by Allain and Souvestre; the authors’ system of working together on the plot, then dividing the writing of the chapters led to this astounding productivity. Fantômas’s criminal exploits and his pursuit by Juve make for an entertaining read, but the characters do not have the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes nor the humor of Arsene Lupin. Although the characters are not so deep, the plot twists so much that even when I thought I knew the identity of Fantômas, there were still several more surprises. Fantômas belongs in the middle ground between the pulps and the great classics of the crime genre.
Rating: 7 / 10
Reader: Allan Winterrowd has a strong American baritone that does not distract from the story. He varies his tone slightly for the various characters, without going so far as to perform voices. As far as I could tell, he pronounces the French place-names correctly, though I’m no expert in French. Winterrowd speaks in a steady pace that allows the listener to keep up. The recording itself is well-done and clear.
posted by Seth