“One episode simply melts away as the next takes over” (The New York Times) in this deliciously sinister turn-of-the-century tale of a French evil genius run rampant. Three appalling crimes leave all of Paris aghast: the Marquise de Langruen is hacked to death, the Princess Sonia is robbed, and Lord Beltham is found dead, stuffed into a trunk. Inspector Juve knows that all the clues point to one suspect: the master of disguise, Fantômas. Juve cleverly pursues him in speeding trains, down dark alleys, through glittering Parisian salons, obsessed with bringing the demon mastermind to justice. As thrilling to read now as it was when first published in 1915, Fantômas “is not a puzzle but an intoxicant” (The Village Voice).
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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.