Friday 23 October 2009

Forgotten Book - Faces in the Dark

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?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I've not seen the movie or read the book, but it sounds really interesting. With a stand-alone you can really create that tension and have the reader wonder if the protagonist will survive to the end of the book! Very cool. Naturally, we can't kill our sleuths in series.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for the interesting review. I haven't read Faces in the Dark, but from your review, it sounds like a fascinating book. It takes skill to leave the reader in doubt as to whether the protagonist is going to survive. Thanks for sharing : )

pattinase (abbott) said...

Am always amazed at two people writing a fiction book and no, I have never heard on the movie.

Minnie said...

Agreed! B&N are reliably terrifying,maintaining the cliffhanging tension to the very end.
The English film version sounds well worth seeing. Someone, somewhere MUST have a copy of it - would the BFI/NFT on the South Bank be able to advise?

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. When I get a few moments, Minnie, I will see if I can find out more about the film.