cover image No Room at the Morgue

No Room at the Morgue

Jean-Patrick Manchette, trans. from the French by Alyson Waters. New York Review Books, $15.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-68137-418-5

Business is slow for Paris PI Eugène Tarpon, the narrator of this clever crime novel from Manchette (1942–1995) first published in 1973. “I sleep a lot. Or rather, I’m half awake a lot,” he admits. Tarpon also drinks a lot. Then late one night, Memphis Charles, a small-time actor, rings the bell of his tiny, five-flight walkup apartment. She has found her roommate, Griselda Zapata, with a slit throat, but doesn’t want to go to the police because she’s afraid she’ll be arrested for the murder. When Tarpon refuses to assist, Memphis knocks him out with his phone. The hard up Tarpon later accepts a large check from Griselda’s brother to find the killer. The private eye eventually reconnects with Memphis, and lies to the police about her whereabouts, as he follows leads deep into the porn industry. Manchette plays this story for ironic humor, which might distress the many fans who know him for the symphonic sessions of assassination and gunplay in such masterpieces as The Prone Gunman and The Mad and the Bad. But even a lesser Manchette remains essential reading. (Aug.)