The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun, by Sebastien Japrisot, and translated by Helen Weaver, has languished in my to-be-read pile for a very long time indeed. I’m not quite sure why this is so, since I enjoyed his far-fetched but gripping thriller Trap for Cinderella some years back. Perhaps the cumbersome title put me off. Now I’ve finally read it, I must say I enjoyed it a good deal, with just a few reservations.
Dany is a blonde, beautiful and myopic woman of 26, who borrows her boss’s Thunderbird car on impulse and sets off for the sea. But a series of mystifying events disrupt her journey – people she meets tell her that she made the same trip the day before, when in fact she was in Paris. She is attacked, and left injured, and then discovers a body in the boot of the car. What on earth is going on?
This vivid premise really is terrific, and reminiscent of the work of Boileau and Narcejac, though Japrisot probably has more pretensions as a “literary” writer. The snag, inevitably, is that the unravelling of the truth is rather cumbersome. Japrisot, like a number of his contempories (Catherine Arley and Herbert Montheilet spring to mind) sometimes struggled for a credible resolution to the dazzling puzzles that he created. All the same, this book didn’t deserve to wait as long as it did to be read.
Dany and her boss work in advertising, and so for a time did Japrisot (his pen-name was an anagram of Jean-Baptiste Rossi, his real name). Advertising and PR has supplied a good many crime writers not only with settings but also with business experience. Dorothy L. Sayers, Julian Symons, David Williams, John Franklin Bardin, Leighton Gage, Elmore Leonard, David Goodis and Alan Furst are examples, and I’m sure there are plenty of others. I’m not sure if anyone has ever written about the connection between working in advertising and crime fiction; perhaps it’s a subject worthy of further exploration.