Pierre Magnan Essay - Critical Essays


Pierre Magnan turned to genre fiction out of financial necessity, not because he was a fan of detective fiction. However, as an admirer of the great Provençal writers of the previous generation and as a strong opponent of the postmodernist French nouveau roman, Magnan found that the detective novel, particularly the more conservative mystery novel, as published in France by the Le Masque editions, permitted him to write highly structured novels whose investigative plots necessitate the unraveling of past events, often connected to family feuds. Magnan’s preoccupation with “blood,” in the sense of family and heredity, informs most of his plots, and the solution for most of the crimes in his novels can be found in the past, sometimes as far back as one hundred years.

Le Sang des Atrides

Magnan’s basic approach is fully developed in the first novel of the Laviolette series, Le Sang des Atrides. There is a series of murders, all which have been committed with a pebble propelled by a slingshot. The early victims are young men, but the case complicates itself when an old woman is found dead. An unfinished letter left at the murder scene begins, “My dear little assassin . . . ,” and Laviolette deduces that a child must be the murderer and that the old woman was killed because she discovered the identity of the perpetrator. Readers should be able to guess the identity of the killer and the motive from the hint given in the title of the novel: The reference is to the House of Atreus, specifically to Orestes and Elektra, who plot to kill both their mother and her lover for having been unfaithful to their father and having murdered him. However, Magnan professes to have been fairly sure that most contemporary readers of detective fiction would not be familiar enough with the House of Atreus to easily solve the puzzle.

Death in the Truffle Wood

It is not surprising that Le Commissaire dans la truffière (1978; Death in the Truffle Wood, 2005) is one of the few Laviolette novels that have been translated into English, as it is his most original and most tightly constructed novel. One of the...

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