(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Pierre Magnan’s reputation as a writer of detective fiction is based predominantly on the literary qualities of his crime novels rather than the ingenuity of his plots or the machismo or the eccentricity of his protagonists. He is above all a Provençal author, in the tradition of Henri Bosco, Marcel Pagnol, and particularly his friend and mentor, Jean Giono. Magnan turned to detective fiction only to support himself at a time when he was unemployed and unable to sell his more traditional regionalist novels. He set out to create a synthesis between his historical-regional fiction and the more lucrative detective novel. Because Magnan’s Laviolette novels incorporate features of all the subgenres of crime fiction, it makes it difficult to assign his work to any single subgenre.

The law enforcement positions of Laviolette and Chabrand and the use of scientific police apparatus (though often maligned) makes the novels police procedurals. However, the superior acumen and the eccentricity of both Laviolette and Chabrand suggest the orthodox detective novel. In addition, the abundant descriptions of sex and violence, combined with Oedipal motifs; the frequent empathy with the perpetrators of the crimes; and the subliminal leftist political messages evoke the French roman noir and film noir of the post-World War II years. Laviolette thus is a earthier, darker, and less domesticated Inspector Maigret figure.

Magnan’s national and international...

(The entire section is 402 words.)