#RivetingReviews: Barry Forshaw reviews THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS by Sébastien Japrisot

The remarkable success Sébastien Japrisot achieved with his highly engaging crime novels in his native France (where he was called the country’s Graham Greene) has not really been repeated outside that country. But the fact that three of his best books, Rider on the Rain, Trap for Cinderella and The Sleeping Car Murders, have enjoyed elegant translations makes these novels even more cherishable. The comparisons made with the earlier work of Georges Simenon are not high-flown: as a storyteller, Japrisot has the same steely grasp.

Trap for Cinderella has a remarkable premise: the protagonist is detective, murderer, victim and witness all at once. Who is the scarred, amnesiac survivor of a beach house gutted by fire – perpetrator or target? But Rider on the Rain is one of the key Japrisot books. A deserted Riviera bathing resort is the scene for a brutal rape. When an enigmatic American meets the victim, Mellie, he seems to know the full story of that night – and the desperate young woman finds herself in a whirlpool of fear. The reader has to figure out if he is an ally or enemy. The book (with nary a wasted word) is vintage Japrisot. 

In Gallic’s newly issued The Sleeping Car Murders, very ably translated by Francis Price, the body of a young woman is discovered in the sleeping car on the night train from Marseille to Paris. On the trail of the killer is the jaded detective Pierre ‘Grazzi’ Grazziano. With its pacy plotting and vivid evocation of locales, this is a stellar example of why Japrisot is held in such high esteem. In the unlikely event you’ve read everything by Simenon, perhaps Sébastien Japrisot should be your next port of call…

Reviewed by Barry Forshaw

THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS 

Written by Sébastien Japrisot 

Translated from the French by Francis Price

Published by Gallic (1962; this edition 2020)


Barry Forshaw’s books include Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, the Keating Award-winning Brit Noir and Nordic Noir. Other work: Death in a Cold Climate, Sex and Film and the British Crime Writing encyclopedia (also a Keating Award winner). He edits Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk). 

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Category: French Book WeekJuly 2020 – French Book WeekReviews

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