Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bird in a Cage - Frédéric Dard

Translated from the French by David Bellos.

"Deadly deceit in '60's Paris, from the undisputed master of French noir".... That's not a description I'm inclined to resist, and given that 'Bird in a Cage' is only a modest 120 odd pages there was no problem with finding the time to read it either. 

Briefly, Albert has returned home to a Parisian suburb after an absence of some years. Whilst he was away his mother has died, so their apartment is empty, damp, unwelcoming. It's Christmas Eve and outside everyone is celebrating, so Albert goes out too. Over dinner he sees an attractive woman with her child (no husband) who he follows to a cinema. After the film he helps her carry her now sleeping child home, and from there everything unravels.

'Bird in a Cage' has a vague, but definite, sense of existential dread right from the start. Something about Albert is being left unsaid, and there's a mystery about the woman he's picked up too, but he's powerless to resist her - or perhaps just in no mood to resist her. 

Obviously there's a murder, but I don't want to give anything away here (well, I do, but I'm trying very hard not to). Suffice it to say that Albert's out of his depth here, and his past is ever ready to catch up with him. The plot is reasonably simple, but so ingenious that until the details were revealed I hadn't worked it out - and the ending... The ending is perfect, inevitable, and has a certain poetic justice - or is it no justice at all.

That's something the reader will have to decide for themselves. It's a brilliant book, and though Frédéric Dard may have been 'one of the best known and loved French crime writers of the twentieth century' he's new to me, so this was a real discovery and treat all rolled into one. 

The (very) good news is that Pushkin Vertigo will also be publishing 'The Wicked Go To Hell', 'Crush', and 'The Executioner Cries', all of which I will be reading with enthusiasm. 'Bird in a Cage' really got under my skin - I can't recommend it highly enough. 


  1. This book sounds like one I would enjoy and you were clever to intrigue us without giving away any key plot points.

  2. I thought it was very good indeed, and though tempting to give spoilers - because there's a lot to discuss - I'd hate to ruin it for anyone.