Manchette, Jean-Patrick - 'Three to Kill' (translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith)
The plot of Jean-Patrick Manchette's novel THREE TO KILL is uncomplicated. Georges Gerfaut a middle manager in a company in Paris stops to help an injured motorist, who he then takes to hospital. Three days later while on holiday with his family two complete strangers try to kill him, twice. He goes on the run, leaving his wife and children, and as we learn in the opening pages kills at least two people during a year long odyssey.
Manchette, who died of lung cancer in 1995 at the young age of 53, performs miracles within this simple story. His style is very matter of fact, stark and almost cool like the jazz his hero or anti-hero Gerfaut devours at every opportunity. Yet in this short novel there is no lack of atmosphere, excitement, characters or descriptive writing, it is just the total lack of unnecessary material that makes the story seem so lean and mean.
Manchette once remarked that "The crime novel is the great moral literature of our time" and in this superb example of French noir he proved his point. He sends us the message that an ordinary man once pushed outside the thin veneer of our supposedly safe society is capable of extreme violence, and that evil once confronted becomes vulnerable.
It is a pity that this novel written in 1976 is one of only two Manchette books available in English; THE PRONE GUNMAN is the other.
THREE TO KILL is a taut superbly written noir thriller and I highly recommend it as a most enjoyable read.
Norman Price, England