The French writing duo Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac are among my favourite writers of Eurocrime, and they are responsible for my latest contribution to Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books for Friday. Faces in the Dark was first published in Britain in 1955, in a translation by Geoffrey Sainsbury.
The premise is, as usual with these authors, macabre and gripping. Richard Hermantier is a wealthy businessman who has been blinded and disfigured by an exploding grenade. He lives now in a dark, unsettling world – yet, in an ironic touch, his company manufactures lamps. What is to become of him? At least he has a loving wife, a diligent business associate, a feckless yet amiable brother, as well as some devoted servants. So why does he begin to feel afraid?
The tension mounts steadily, and although some of the plot developments are foreseeable, the ending is not. With Boileau and Narcejac, you can never be sure whether the protagonists of their stand-alones will survive – or meet a terrible fate. Hermantier’s darkness is conveyed with menace, and there is one especially grim and memorable scene in a graveyard. This is a short but suspenseful book, not quite at the same high level as some of their work, but still very readable.
Boileau and Narcejac were such vivid writers that their work was often filmed – as with Vertigo and Les Diaboliques. My paperback copy of this book is a film tie-in. The movie Faces in the Dark had a good cast, including John Gregson, Mai Zetterling and Michael Denison. However, I have never come across it. Has anyone?