Friday 21 November 2008

Forgotten Book - Woman of Straw

My latest entry in Patti Abbott's series of Forgotten Books is Woman of Straw, a novel by an author who is also, as far as I can tell, well and truly forgotten. She is the French novelist, Catherine Arley, a talented exponent of psychologically suspenseful Eurocrime.

Translated by Mervyn Savill, this French suspense novel was published by the Collins Crime Club in 1957. It is to my mind much more effective than Arley’s interesting but ultimately unsatisfactory Dead Man’s Bay. Like so much of the work produced by Arley’s brilliant contemporaries Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the story has a definite filmic quality; it comes as no surprise to learn that in 1964, the novel was turned into a movie, with a starry cast including Sean Connery, Gina Lollobrigida and Ralph Richardson. Reputedly, the film earned Connery – who had just completed the first two Bond movies – his first million dollar pay check. The screenplay seems to have differed greatly from the source material, but reviews suggest it is worth watching, although at the time of writing I have not been able to track it down.

I can, however, recommend Arley’s book. The premise is intriguing: Hildegarde Meisner responds to an advertisement placed by a millionaire seeking a female companion with a view to marriage and soon finds herself conspiring to become the rich man’s wife – and heiress, should he die. Hildegarde is a woman on the make, but nevertheless she attracts the reader’s sympathy as she finds herself enmeshed in an ingenious criminal scheme, with wheelchair-bound Carl Richmond at its heart. The mystery is gripping and its resolution dark.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I will look this one up. I hadn't been keen on translations until recently when I read "The Shadow Of The Wind" and "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly" .