A review of this — 5 years ago
The introduction is largely positive about the popular appeal and long-lasting influence of the Fantômas stories on French and European fiction, film, and culture, including the fascination of many artists in the Surrealist movement. At the same time, the writer is adamant about didrsbcing himself from the actual novel, repeatedly pointing out the authors’ pulp origins, denigrating the quality of the writing, and sneering st the coincidences that the plot hinges on.
But, at least in this newly tuned-up translation, the book is a shining example of a pulp mystery — shocking murders occur, scandalizing society and devastating families. Our hero, Inspector Juve, appears and disappears, trying to understand the pattern of events and draw together the seemingly independent threads to knot together a net to capture the evil mastermind that only he seems to truly believe in — Fantômas!
As we’d expect from the first in what came to be along series of books, films, and other realizations, all is not what it seems, and seeming triumphs may not be all that we might hope for.
The novel’s Fantômas is really quite tame compared with the reputation the character builds over the ensuing tales. Evil, yes, but some of his motivations are quite pedestrian (illicit love, greed). Still, the crimes he seems to have committed in pursuit of these goals show the beginnings of truly dangerous psychopath.
If you like pulp fiction, reading Fantômas is a must. Knowing a bit about the character’s cultural influences might make the task appealing even if the prose were not an enjoyable read, but for me, at least, I enjoyed every minute I spent on the book, and would gladly read more if the translations were available.