cover image The Mad and the Bad

The Mad and the Bad

Jean-Patrick Manchette, trans. from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-59017-720-4

First published in 1972, this taut crime thriller from French neo-noir master Manchette (Fatale) is suffused with the dissipated left-wing malaise of post-’68 France. Wealthy Parisian architect Michel Hartog springs Julie Ballanger from a New Age mental hospital and hires her to look after his nephew, Peter, a boy of six or seven whose parents died in a plane crash. Meanwhile, Thompson, a vicious hit man with a queasy stomach, eats choucroute after a particularly grisly job. A mysterious client recruits Thompson to kidnap Julie and Peter and kill them, making their deaths look like the work of the mentally unstable nanny. But Julie and Peter escape, and are pursued across France by Thompson and his thugs. Will Julie discover who hired Thompson in time to turn the tables, or will nanny flambeau be on the dessert menu? Manchette (1942–1995) unobtrusively weaves his social criticism into the well-paced plot. (July)