The King of Fools

Though the late, astonishingly prolific author and playwright Frédéric Dard wrote hundreds of novels, stories and plays, he isn't well known in the English-speaking world. But some of his classic noir titles are finally being translated from French into English, and are sure to appeal to fans of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon.

The King of Fools opens in the Cȏte d'Azur, where the blasé Jean-Marie Valaise is vacationing alone, having broken up with his longtime girlfriend, Denise. Jean-Marie becomes entranced with an Englishwoman named Marjorie after an accidental meeting, and begins to obsess about her, even after Marjorie departs for England. The reappearance of a repentant Denise distracts Jean-Marie for a few days, but when Marjorie writes him that she'll be heading to Edinburgh, he leaves on a whim to find her.

Dard's beautiful sense of place--contrasting the sunny south of France and the dark rain of Edinburgh--reflects Jean-Marie's shifting mood. It plummets from elation and love into bewilderment and fear as circumstances in Edinburgh come to a dramatic head. With blood on his hands, Jean-Marie is trapped in a nightmare in this unfamiliar city, leaving the reader hanging on Dard's every word, to see how it will resolve.

A slim novel with laconic prose and a stunning plot, The King of Fools will keep many a mystery lover up too late--and waiting eagerly for the next novel of Dard's to be translated into English. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans

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