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The Gallic Mysteries

Mystery and Detective Fiction Set In France and Francophone Countries

Christine A. Corcos

An interesting area of research is in the comparison of French and American (or English) police procedurals. For information on the workings of the French police consult the following bibliography:

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Michael Bond's humorous Monsieur Pamplemousse novels involve the French gourmet and his dog Pommes Frites in all sorts of mysterious doings.

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse Aloft (1989).

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission (1984).

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse Omnibus (1998)(A&B Crime). Includes Monsieur Pamplemousse, Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission, and Monsieur Pamplemousse on the Spot.

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse Omnibus (1999). Includes Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Cure, Monsieur Pamplemousse Aloft, Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates, Monsieur Pamplemousse Rests His Case.

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse on Location (1992).

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse Rests His Case (1991).

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse Stands Firm (1993).

Michael Bond, Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Train (1993).

Other novels featuring French detectives include Juliet Hebden, Pel and the Perfect Partner (1994). Features police detective Evariste Clovis Desiré Pel.

Juliet Hebden, Pel and the Precious Parcel (1997)(Constable Crime).

Juliet Hebden, Pel Picks Up the Pieces (1993).

Agatha Christie's Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, who lives in London, solves some of his cases in France.

Agatha Christie, Death in the Air (1935).

Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings attend a tennis tournament outside Paris and are witnesses to a murder aboard one of those newfangled flying machines in this prewar mystery.

Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train (1928).

Hercule Poirot counsels a young woman who comes into a fortune and a murder.

Aaron J. Elkins' intriguing sleuth Gideon Oliver (played on tv by Avery Brooks) takes a trip to France in Old Bones: A Gideon Oliver Mystery (1987).

A classic mystery writer is Georges Simenon (actually Belgian-born), whose Inspector Maigret stories have come to symbolize French detective fiction. The University of Liege maintains a website devoted to Simenon. Many of the novels have been translated into English, and numerous film versions have been made. . Pierre Assouline, a well-known literary critic, has compiled a useful bibliography of Simenon's works. A very comprehensive Maigret website is also available and includes some information on Simenon's precursors.

Simenon, Georges, Maigret and the Burglar's Wife (1990). Translation of Maigret et la grande perche.

Simenon, Georges, Complete Maigret short stories (1976).

Simenon, Georges, Maigret and the Enigmatic Left (1963). Translation of Pietr-le-Letton.

Simenon, Georges, Maigret and the Headless Corpse (1968). Translation of Maigret et la corps sans tête.

Simenon, Georges, Maigret and the Hotel Majestic (1977). Translation of Les caves du Majestic.

Simenon, Georges, Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets (1963). Translation of Le Pendu de Saint-Pholien.

Simenon, Georges, Maigret and the Mad Killers (1980). Includes Maigret Hesitates, Maigret's Pickpocket, and Maigret and the Killer.

Simenon, Georges, Maigret and the Informer (1973). Translation of Maigret et l'indicateur.

Simenon, Georges, Maigret Right and Wrong, Comprising Maigret in Montmartre and Maigret's Mistake (1967)(A Fingerprint Book).

Simenon, Georges, A Maigret Trio: Maigret's Failure, Maigret in Society, Maigret and the Lazy Burglar (1973).

Find more Maigret mysteries in Trudee Young, Georges Simenon: A Checklist of his "Maigret" and Other Mystery Novels and Short Stories in French and in English Translations (1976)(The Scarecrow Author Bibliographies; 29).

Nicolas Freeling's French detective Henri Castang is not as well known as his Dutch sleuths but he's featured in

Nicolas Freeling, A City Solitary (1985)

Nicolas Freeling, Wolfnight (1982).

Other mysteries set in France include

Tony Aspler, Blood is Thicker Than Beaujolais: A Wine Lover's Mystery (1995).

Jean Duchateau, Meurtre à TF1: Cinq jours qui ebranlerent la Republique (1988).

Susan Kelly, The Ghosts of Albi (1998). A man investigates the disappearance of his daughter from an archaeological expedition.

Maurice Leblanc, The Exploits of Arsene Lupin (1976).

Vincent McConnor, The Paris Puzzle (1984).

Features Inspector Damiot of the Surété.

Vincent McConnor, The Provence Puzzle: An Inspector Damiot Mystery (1980).

Elliot Paul, Hugger-mugger in the Louvre; a Homer Evans Murder Mystery (1940).

Elliot Paul, Mayhem in B-Flat, a Homer Evans Murder Mystery (1940).

Elliot Paul, Murder on the Left Bank; a Homer Evans Mystery (1951)

Elliot Paul, The Mysterious Mickey Finn: An International Mystery (1942).

Newly published mysteries set in France include Cecile Lamalle's Appetite for Murder (1999);  Cara Black's Murder in the Marais (1999) concerning a hunt for Nazis and set in 1993; Charlotte Carter's Coq au Vin (1999);  

Set during the German occupation of France, J. Robert Janes' mysteries focus on those everyday crimes that take place even during the most turbulent times. The team of French policeman Jean Louis St-Cyr and German Gestapo officer Hermann Kohler takes on serials killers and more in such novels as Sandman (1998), Stonekiller (1997), Salamander (reprinted 1998), Mannequin (reprint 1998) and Mayhem (1999). Alan Furst's Dark Star (1992) and Red Gold (1999).

The younger set may prefer:

Betty Cavanna, Stamp Twice For Murder (1981). A teenager solves a mystery during a family vacation to France.

James Duffy, The Revolt of the Teddy Bears: A May Gray Mystery (1985). May Gray, a French poodle, investigates a mystery.

Carolyn Keene, The Picture of Guilt (1994)(Nancy Drew Files; Case 101). Nancy investigates the death of a woman painter.

Olga Litowinsky, The Pawloined Paper (1998)(The Adventures of Wishbone). That intrepid canine Wishbone imagines himself as Poe's famous French detective Arsene Lupin.

Evelyn White Minshull, Madame Pastry and Meow (1975). A girl and her cat investigate.

Charles M. Schulz, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, and Don't Come Back! (1980) and the video

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, and Don't Come Back (Paramount Home Video, 1980).

If you prefer your French influences via television, try these videos with a Gallic flair.

Boulevard des assassins (Videogram, 1984). Based on Max Gallo's An Intimate Affair. Stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Marie-France Pisier.

The Day of the Jackal (MCA/Universal Home Video, 1997). Members of the OAS hire a professional assassin to murder Charles de Gaulle, in this atmospheric thriller based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth.

The French detective (RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, 1983). Features Lino Ventura and Patrick Dewaere.

L'Horloger de Saint-Paul/A watchmaker of Lyon (OGM Corp., 1975). Based on Georges Simenon's L'Horlager d'Everton.

Tendre Poulet (Video France, 1994). Annie Girardot is a French detective chasing down a killer and Philippe Noiret is her hapless lover. The English title, Dear Detective, was later used as the title for a short-lived series featuring Brenda Vaccaro.

To Catch a Thief (Paramount Video, 1996).

Cary Grant is a retired jewel thief living on the French Riviera out to trap the burglar who is imitating his style. During his quest he falls in love with Grace Kelly as a wealthy would-be victim. This was Kelly's next to last picture before she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, whom she met during the filming of the movie.

Books about French detective fiction and its influence include

Mairie de Paris, Bibliothèque des littératures policières: Agence culturelle de Paris, Sherlock Holmes et la France: une étude en bleu, blanc, rouge (1996).

Jean Fabre, Enquête sur un enquêteur: Maigret: Un essai de sociocritique (1981)(Etudes socio-critiques).

François Guerif, Le cinema policier français (1981).

Jean-Claude Vareille, Filatures: Itineraire à travers les cycles de Lupin et Rouletabille (1980)(Bibliothéque de l'imaginaire).


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