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"Years after his first appearance, Fantômas is still scary." — The Washington Post
"A brilliant criminal … a great romp." — San Francisco Chronicle
A noblewoman is hacked to death in her chateau, a Russian princess is boldly robbed in a posh hotel, and a lord's lifeless body is found stuffed inside a trunk. Everyone recognizes the deeds of Fantômas, a master of disguise whose daring and diabolical crimes paralyze Parisians with terror. One man has sworn to bring the phantom killer to justice: Inspector Juve, who ventures from dark alleys to brilliant salons in his relentless pursuit of the evil genius.
The first in a series of wildly popular French thrillers, Fantômas created a sensation in pre-WWI Europe. The original pulp fiction, its appeal transcended every level of society. Cocteau, Colette, and Picasso were avid readers, and subsequent generations of artists, writers, and musicians have drawn inspiration from this enduringly stylish and suspenseful novel.
In the mode reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and his ineradicable nemesis, the virtually immortal Professor Moriarty, Inspector Juve dedicates himself to the relentless pursuit of that evil genius Fantomas. He is, as they say in petrified Paris, "Nothing. . . Everything. . . Nobody. . . Somebody.'' And what does he do? He ``spreads terror,'' diabolically, craftily beyond all imagining: slashes throats of kindly old ladies; stuffs strangled British socialites into trunks; boldly robs Russian princesses in their hotel rooms; pushes witnesses off speeding trains to their deaths. Can Juve prevail against that hellish power? Men masquerade as women; suicides return from the dead; ladies wail ``What am I to do?'' and faint from surprise and shock. Juve finally hunts Fantomas down. But a surprise awaits, leaving the charmed reader of this French bestseller hoping to see more of the weird pair. Ashbery's introduction not seen by PW.