Three to Kill (1976) – The Infinite Gives the Sniffles

Georges Gerfaut is a man very much like you or I :  He works a mid-level office job that involves plenty of meetings and no manual labour.  He has a wife and kids who put up with his little foibles.  He loves West Coast Jazz.  He drinks a little bit too much.  Georges Gerfaut is a man very much like you or I.  In fact, he could very well be you or I.  Georges Gerfaut will soon kill three men.

One night, Gerfaut is driving home when he witnesses an accident.  Gerfaut is concerned enough to take one of the survivors to hospital but not so concerned that he bothers to leave his name.  Did he do the right thing?  His wife is unsure, Gerfaut is not.  Either way, two men approach Gerfaut while he is on holiday and attempt to strangle him.  Then shoot him.  Then blow him up.  Without a second thought, Gerfaut takes flight.  Leaving his wife and kids completely alone.  He must kill the men who tried to murder him.

Originally published in French under the title Le Petit Bleu De La Cote Ouest, Three to Kill is Jean-Patrick Manchette’s seventh novel.  Shamefully, it is also one of only two works by Manchette currently available in English.  At a little over 130 pages, Three To Kill is a lean and minimalist work of behaviourist hard-boiled crime fiction.  However, despite its relative brevity, Manchette’s novel is a work of considerable grace and challenging profundity as it seeks to answer the question of what Kurtz would have done with his life had Marlowe managed to bring him back to civilisation alive?

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