French Crime Fiction

This page is an index of all of the works currently reviewed on the blog that are written by French authors. Please note that while these books are all by French authors, not all of them take place in France.


Noël Calef


A man decides to commit murder to erase his debt to a moneylender only to find himself trapped in an elevator as he tries to return to the scene of the crime to remove evidence that will incriminate him.

A rather entertaining crime story, laced with ironic developments and a strong sense of tension.

Read my review here


Frédéric Dard

Bird in a Cage

At Christmas a man returns to the home of his recently deceased mother and in his grief ends up walking the streets of Paris. A chance encounter with a woman who reminds him of a lost love sends him down a dark and suspenseful path…

In terms of the Dard works I have read to date, I think that this was ultimately one of the most satisfying although I will caveat that by noting that I found other stories easier to engage with initially because of my discomfort with Albert as a protagonist

Read the review here


A seventeen year old girl, desperate to escape the drudgery of her small town life, meets and becomes obsessed with a wealthy and glamorous American couple.

Crush is a really interesting work thematically and I appreciated that its characters are more complex and nuanced than they may initially appear. Louise is a superb protagonist and I think Dard does a good job of managing to tell a story in which I found myself feeling rather sad for everyone involved. That takes some skill, particularly given a few of the plot developments here, but I believe Dard pulls it off brilliantly.

Read the review here

The Executioner Weeps

A man falls in love with a woman with amnesia he finds lying in the road in the middle of the night.

The reader may well deduce some aspects of the woman’s past based on the early clues but too much is revealed to the reader right before the solution is given to be able to effectively play armchair detective. I think that fits Dard’s focus on the emotional component of this story and was broadly in line with my expectations but were someone to read this primarily for the mystery I think they would be underwhelmed. For Dard the mystery is a device to instigate uncertainty and drama rather than the point of his tale.

Read the review here

The Gravedigger’s Bread

A story which has echoes of Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice as a young man arrives in a small town in search of a job and ends up staying to be near to a married woman.

Dard creates some striking moments in this story and shows an admirable economy in his plotting. The 160 pages seem to whizz by and each plot twist is superbly executed, even if you pick up on clues as to where this story is going.

Read the review here
Read my reprint of the year (2018) nomination here

The King of Fools

A Frenchman follows an English woman he meets on holiday to Scotland where he finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation.

Thematically though I found this book to be incredibly strong, packing quite a punch. I always enjoy when a book is able to surprise me with the ideas and issues it raises and this book certainly manages to do that.

Read the review here


Alexis Gensoul and Charles Grenier

A group of friends meet and one bets he can commit an impossible crime at the moment of another’s choosing. Soon after he performs a ritual a man is found shot dead in a locked and bolted room.

While it is short, it has so many fantastic ideas at work that I felt thoroughly satisfied with my experience reading it.

Read the review here


Paul Halter

The Invisible Circle

At a home on an island off the coast of Cornwall, a man gives his friends Arthurian names, tells them he will be murdered within an hour and locks himself in a room. An hour later he is found stabbed to death with a sword they had previously seen firmly lodged in a stone.

The Invisible Circle is not my favorite Halter novel but I think it is one of the most enjoyable. The pacing is brisk and each chapter seems to end with a fresh revelation that spins the case off in a new direction or makes the scenario seem even more dramatic.

Read the review here

The Lord of Misrule (Owen Burns #1)

A series of strange murders take place that are credited to The Lord of Misrule, a legendary killer who began murdering heirs of the Mansfield family centuries earlier.

The chilling seasonal elements work nicely but the solution feels rather contrived.

Read the review here

The Phantom Passage (Owen Burns #4)

An American diplomat tells Burns about how he stumbled upon an alleyway where he had a strange experience yet when he returned it had vanished.

The Phantom Passage is, for much of its duration, a truly inventive and bewildering read.

Read the review here

Death Invites You (Dr Twist #2)

A famous author is discovered in a locked room, bolted from the inside, sitting in front of a freshly prepared meal with his face and hands down on a hot pan that has badly burned them.

The investigation unfolds at a sharp pace with small revelations spread out throughout the novel and I was surprised when I realized that at the end of a sitting I was already two-thirds of the way through.

Read the review here

The Madman’s Room (Dr Twist #4)

A wealthy businessman opens a sealed room in his family’s ancestral home and dies soon afterwards.

…I think The Madman’s Room is a really striking and effective work. At the midpoint of the novel I had no idea how Halter was going to pull all of these elements together so I was really impressed by just how clean and tidy the explanations were.

Read the review here

The Tiger’s Head (Dr Twist #5)

In this novel a murder takes place in a locked room, apparently committed by a genie, thefts occur in a small village and a serial killer is murdering and dismembering young women.

There is some very clever plotting and narrative sleight of hand at play here and while I think it plays its strongest surprise a little too early (and is mechanically fairly straightforward), I found the solution to be significantly more satisfying than I expected…

Read my review here

The Seventh Hypothesis (Dr Twist #6)

A policeman has a strange encounter with a man dressed as a plague doctor and shortly afterwards finds a body.

The solution to the story is cleverly constructed and quite audacious. Each of the explanations makes sense as logical and consistent with the evidence and I thought some of the ways clues were utilized were quite novel.

Read the review here

The Demon of Dartmoor (Dr Twist #7)

An atmospheric impossible crime story set in a historic home on Dartmoor. Here a man appears to be thrown from a window yet no one was near him at the time.

Twist’s reasoning is solid both psychologically and mechanically and I love that Halter is able to tuck a second, well-constructed crime around his main one and make it rich and satisfying in just a handful of pages.

Read the review here

The Man Who Loved Clouds (Dr Twist #14)

This novel concerns a young woman reputed to have fairy powers including the ability to predict the future and to disappear into thin air.

In addition to resolving the puzzle elements of the plot, the ending also manages to include a whopping great revelation that I think is executed superbly.

Read the review here

Michel Herbert and Eugène Wyl

The Forbidden House

The new owner of Marchenoire Manor receives notes threatening his life if he does not abandon the property but refuses to leave. In spite of setting precautions he is murdered and his killer who was observed entering the house seems to vanish into thin air.

This highly engaging impossible crime story offers an intriguing scenario, a memorable victim and a clever solution.

Read my review here


Noël Vindry

The Double Alibi

A man is seen in three places at the same time including the scenes of two thefts.

The puzzle, while not impossible, is clever and stimulating and I did enjoy the way everything is brought together at the end.

Read my review here

The Howling Beast

A fugitive tries to explain how he came to be accused of a double-murder that no one but he could have committed.

The Howling Beast is a superb read that offers a cunningly constructed puzzle that is absolutely worth your time to unpick.

Read my review here

Through the Walls

Pierre insists that strangers have been able to get inside his locked home several times, searching the same drawers on each occasion. Fearing for his life, he persuades a friend to stay with him who is cynical until he sees an attempt made on Pierre’s life…

Some very effective early chapters set up an intriguing situation but the subsequent investigative portions feel a little flat in contrast.

Read my review here