Reprint of the Year: The Gravedigger’s Bread

If everything has gone according to plan the chances are you have seen several of these Reprint of the Year posts appearing on your blog feeds today so by now you are probably aware of what it’s all about. For those who stumble on my post first however I should say that Kate at CrossExaminingCrime came up with the idea of creating a Reprint of the Year award. This is a chance to highlight some of the classic and less well-known titles making their way back into print.

I was one of several bloggers asked to contribute two nominations for your consideration. The only requirements were that the books must have been republished in 2018 and that they must not be released for the first time. Later this month you will have the opportunity to make your own nominations and on the 22nd of December voting will open with the winner being announced a week later.

While I am happy to report that I have read and enjoyed a number of vintage reprints this year I was a little daunted by the task of narrowing my options down to just two titles. The books would have to be great reads of course but I felt that my nominations needed to have something extra that set them apart and makes them feel a little special.

I am an enormous fan of the design of the Pushkin Vertigo range. Sometimes when a publisher develops a house style for their covers the titles lose some of their individuality but that cannot be said for these reprints. Each title features a piece of black and white photography and a striking, vivid background color that make these books stand out on the shelves while the matte covers look attractive and modern.

GravediggersThe title I am selecting from this range to be my first nomination is Frédéric Dard’s The Gravedigger’s Bread (my original review can be found here). Originally published in 1956, this is an inverted mystery story about a young man who arrives in a provincial town to find work and is offered a position as a salesman at a funeral parlor. While he doesn’t care for the work, he is attracted to his employer’s wife and stays to get close to her.

The story soon takes a murderous turn as the young man murders the funeral director and tries to cover up his crime. The remainder of the book is incredibly tense as we try to work out how he might be caught. Though it is quite economically plotted, Dard provides several surprises along the way and the book builds to a powerful and satisfying conclusion.

So, why does The Gravedigger’s Bread deserve your vote? If you haven’t tried the Pushkin Vertigo range, this is a great place to start. It is a fast, engaging read that stayed with me long after I put it down. This book is a striking French thriller that challenges the reader to predict how the situation will be resolved. It features bold and sometimes quite provocative characterizations and I think noir fans will appreciate its tone and sense of style.

Next Saturday I will be making my second nomination so be sure to check back then to see what I suggest. In the meantime, why not check out some of my reviews of other Pushkin Vertigo reprints and be sure to check out what Bev, Brad, Curtis, Daniel, JJ, John, Kate, Moira and the Puzzle Doctor select for their first nominations!

11 thoughts on “Reprint of the Year: The Gravedigger’s Bread

  1. I enjoyed reading your post. Cover quality was not a point I had considered but in today’s reading market I can see how it is very important, especially in the assumptions it generates for the reader. As I’ve said on Bev’s blog I can see this reprint awards scheme being deadly for my TBR pile, as I keep reading these posts and going, “oh that’s sounds quite good. I’ll have to remember to get a copy!”. It’s been a while since I have read any titles from the Pushkin Vertigo range so this one could be my next foray into the imprint.

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    1. Thanks. I don’t think it is a top consideration but I do appreciate publishers who go out of their way to make a reprint feel special whether by packaging or providing an introduction, etc. That it is a great read is the icing on the Christmas Cake (The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa from the same publisher is also excellent).

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    1. I am sure that it would! The book has shades of The Postman Always Rings Twice but the funeral home setting is striking and there are some scenes that I think could prompt some really interesting visuals.

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  2. Thanks for this peek at an author I was absolutely unfamiliar with. As Kate has mentioned elsewhere, I think these reprint posts are going to be bad (or good, depending on your point of view) for my TBR piles.

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  3. I am surprised hearing this one being so good. In October I read another of his (bird in a cage) about a disappearing corpse and whilst not a bad read, it didn’t have anything remarkable about it.

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    1. This is the first Dard I had read so I am not sure how the two books compare. The book is not the most original work I read this year – one of the things I comment on in my review is that some of the images mirror those in a Cain novel with a similar premise. I found the funeral home setting to be interesting though, found the protagonist compelling in a very grubby, seedy sort of way and felt that there were several significant moments in the plot that Dard sets up well to allow the reader to build anticipation of where the story is headed. There is one sequence in particular that lodges in my memory as being very effectively written and I really appreciated the way Dard resolves the story.

      It won’t be for everyone but it delivered exactly what I wanted from a book of this type and has stuck with me very well so that while six months have passed since I read it, I still recall much of the plot and the imagery from the novel.

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