cover image Ivory Pearl

Ivory Pearl

Jean-Patrick Manchette, trans. from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-68137-210-5

First published in France in 1996, this unfinished novel from Manchette (1942–1995) was supposed to be the start of his magnum opus, a series following famed war photographer Ivory Pearl from 1945, when she is a refugee child in postwar Berlin, through geopolitical hot spots of the next 40 years. The opening chapter in particular is as sharp and brutal as anything Manchette wrote, including his masterpiece, The Prone Gunman. The obsessive details (“a semi-automatic Sauer Model 38 chambered in .380 ACP and fitted with a silencer”) might make even Ian Fleming feel uninformed. Though the spy-versus-spy scenario circles the globe, most of the plot concerns Ivory taking a sabbatical in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra range in 1956, as Castro emerges on the revolutionary stage. There she meets the bullet-scarred Victor Maurer and a seven-year-old girl who may be the missing niece of an international arms trafficker. Then a helicopter carrying an elite hit squad arrives. The included author notes suggest how it all might have ended. Noir fans won’t want to miss this one. (May)