"This is the Way it Began .......... The train was coming in from Marseille. To the man whose job it was to go through the corridors and check the empty compartments, it was 'the Phonceen - ten minutes to eight; after that, breakfast'. Before that, there had been 'the Annecy - twenty-five minutes to' on which he had found two raincoats, an umbrella, and a leak in the heating system. When he saw the Phoceen pull in on the other sice of the same platform, he was standing by a window, looking at the broken nut on one of the valves."
A beautiful young woman lies sprawled on her berth in the sleeping car of the night train from Marseille to Paris. She is not in the embrace of sleep, or even in the arms of one of her many lovers. She is dead.
The unpleasant task of finding her killer is handed to overworked, crime-weary police detective Pierre 'Grazzi' Grazziano, who would rather play hide-and-seek with his little son than cat and mouse with a diabolically cunning, savage murderer.
Sebastien Japrisot takes the reader on an express ride of riveting suspense that races through a Parisian landscape of lust, deception and death. With corpses turning up everywhere, the question becomes not only who is the killer, but who will be the next victim.
This book was first published in France in 1962 and in the UK two years following. This re-publication will delight readers who enjoy classic crime fiction as the characteristic format of the story will be recognised as familiar. It reminded me of novels by Simenon, Christie and their ilk.
It was adapted for film in France in 1965. I have not seen the film but I would imagine that it would lend itself to a cinematic adaptation extremely well.
I really enjoyed the atmospheric quality of this book and the author did a really good job of describing both place and character.
As well as the two detectives investigating this case, we learn much about the several victims and travellers in the titular railway sleeping car and the author has made even these more minor characters relatable. However, it is the detective, Grazziano, and his quirky assistant, Jean-Loup, who have been so expertly drawn.
I would read other books by the late Sebastien Japrisot as he was a good storyteller, and whats more, I did not figure out who had committed the murders, so the reveal was exciting for me. It's narrative twists and turns and each time I thought I had worked out who the murderer was there was another spin of the narration and I had to rethink. I so very much enjoy a book that can do that.
It is a short book with a big story within it's pages and I think anyone who enjoys a murder mystery will really enjoy reading this book.
ISBN: 978 1910477939
Publisher: Gallic BooksAbout the Author:
Famous in the Francophony, he was little known in the English-speaking world, though a number of his novels have been translated into English and have been made into films.
His first novel, Les mal partis was written at the age of 16 and published under his real name, Jean-Baptiste Rossi.