cover image The Gravediggers’ Bread

The Gravediggers’ Bread

Frédéric Dard, trans. from the French by Melanie Florence. Pushkin Vertigo, $13.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-78227-201-4

At the start of this sad, drab noir originally published in 1956 from Dard (Bird in a Cage), 30-year-old Blaise Delange, a frustrated job seeker, is waiting to use a phone booth in a provincial French town’s post office. The occupant, an attractive blonde woman, finally leaves. After Blaise makes his three-minute call, he notices a wallet lying at his feet. Inside the wallet is a photo of the woman who used the phone before him, Germaine Castain, and her address. Blaise returns it to Germaine, who’s married to the town’s elderly undertaker, Achille Castain. Blaise makes a good impression on Achille, who offers him a job, which he takes to be near Germaine. Achille beats his wife, but she refuses to leave him. Meanwhile, Germaine has a secret lover, and at one point has Blaise take a message to him. A murder soon follows, and the miscreants escape to Paris, where justice predictably catches up with them. The plot may be familiar, but noir fans will enjoy the ride. (Aug.)