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Fantômas (Fantômas #1)

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  779 ratings  ·  78 reviews
A noblewoman is hacked to death in her chateau, a Russian princess is boldly robbed at a posh hotel, and a lord's lifeless body is found stuffed into a trunk. Everyone recognizes the deeds of Fantômas, a master of disguise whose daring and diabolical crimes paralyze Parisians with terror. One man has sworn to bring the phantom killer to justice: Inspector Juve, who venture...more
Paperback, 297 pages
Published March 31st 2006 by Dover Publications (first published January 1st 1911)
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Noran Miss Pumkin
I am torn about my rating of the book. Time does not pass evenly, and not still clear about the motives for the murders. Some just robbed, others killed. The trial came and went, without the wife being called. It is a different crime novel for sure. The criminal is quite brilliant, which earns the fourth star. Him vs Sherlock wound a fascinating read!
Here's the problem with this book: I never really got any idea why Fantomas was doing all this shit. I mean, he gets up into these elaborate disguises so he can kill one person or another, but why does he want that person dead? Not really explained. And he also makes some pretty stupid mistakes for being such a genius mastermind. Shit Moriarty would never have put up with.

I'm just saying, if you're writing a book about a criminal genius, the criminal should do genius things. Not just really conv...more
Sep 23, 2008 Scott rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Scott by: 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die
Shelves: crime, 1910s
Fantômas (Fr. original 1911; Eng. trans. 1915) – a comic strip without the pictures – is fiction so pulpy that not only can you see the chunks of wood, you can count the rings, and when you turn the page you have to be careful not to get a sliver in your finger. And just who is Fantômas? "Fantômas is a being against whom it is idle to use ordinary weapons; because he has been able to conceal his identity and elude all pursuit for years; because his daring is boundless and his power immeasurable;...more
What a remarkable book. "Fantaomas" made me understand what type of world we live in. The sexual, the terrorist, and the chaos - it's way too beautiful.

Also I wrote a much longer essay on 'Fantomas' on my blog. Read it at

And I have to add that I have a serious collection of Fantomas books in English. One book smell of piss - which is perfect of course!
Fantômas was enjoyable enough, though a little too gruesome for me in a few parts. Since this is one of those books written in the early 1900s, it is easy to think it will be milder/nicer than current novels when, in fact, that is not necessarily the case. (I always think stuff like that until I remember humans have been bloodthirsty throughout history, such as past times when people would attend public executions as a fun family outing.) This was the first of what was apparently a wildly popula...more
Still, one of the greatest!

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Take the influence of Sherlock Holmes and other serial characters pre-1911...

Decide to make the main character an unknowable arch-villain, the "Genius of Crime", malevolent and unstoppable, ravaging the world with his outrageous acts... (ocean liners will be dynamited purely to kill one man! severed hands will be left on a roulette wheel! innocents murdered! millions stolen!). Give him a vast criminal gang to rival Fu Manchu's Si-Fan...

Make him such a mast...more
Relative of Moriarty, father of Dr. Mabuse, the son of the Devil himself: Fantômas! This delicious crime serial isn't so well-known nowadays, but it was incredibly influential in forming the Master Criminal archetype. Fantômas, a mortal man with incredible cunning and strength, truly seems supernatural in his ability to be anywhere, anytime, committing sensational crimes and escaping capture again and again. His counterpart and nemesis, Inspector Juve, is nearly as clever and determined, creatin...more
I don't know where this book has been all my life, but I loved it. Now very eager to read all the others--and happily enough there are 43 to the series to keep me occupied. I can see why it is the ultimate classic pulp novel and a major influence on the surrealists.

The more I read, the more I was stunned that this book was written almost a hundred years ago, since it has such a modern timeless feel to it. Sure, parts of it are a little dated--some of the dialogue, reliance on trains, etc, but t...more
The arch-criminal Fantômas made his first appearance in print in 1911. Fantômas, written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, was followed by no less than 42 sequels.

There had been very successful literary criminal heroes before this, most notably Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin in France and E. W. Hornung’s Raffles in Britain. They were gentlemen thieves, and always remained gentlemen. They avoided unnecessary violence and they had their own sense of fair play. Fantômas belonged to a very diff...more
Douglas Penick
Fantomas is a very weird book. It's one of the Prof. Moriarity, Dr. Mabuse, etc. fantasies of a single master criminal at the heart of pre-WWI darkness. The master criminal, in this case, is brilliantly clever in the execution of his crimes but singularly devoid of motive. His pursuer, Detective Inspector Juve, is brilliantly deductive but amazingly indifferent to real facts. These two adopt many disguises enabling them to pass through all levels of society. Other characters also exist in persis...more
Another case of a book I would probably not have picked up if it had not been on the 1001 list. It is quite unusual for the villain is the title of the book, and although Fantomas is hinted at and talked about for the first half of the book, you don't find out who he is or if he is real until the second half. He is in fact a clever man and always manages to stay on step ahead of the detective (Jurve), although I could see the end coming. My only negative comment (and its not really a bad one) wo...more
You have got to love the French! One of their most popular literary characters is a complete psycho.
He kills in cold blood, manipulates everyone around him, sleeps with another man's wife then kills the man when he objects and spreads terror where ever he goes.
Yet, Fantomas is fascinating and you find yourself worrying when he's cornered or in danger. His relationship with his mistress has a bit more depth than the usual victorian/turn of the century romance.

Another nice thing is the detective...more
Kit Fox
I bought this mostly because of the cover. And how can you say no to classic pulp fiction? You just can't. But, like, the titular Fantômas barely showed up at all. Sure, people talked about him/it a lot, but that's it—and where I come from, shizz like that's wiggity whack.
Many thanks to the 1001 book list because I would have never read this book had it not been on the list and missed out on a gem.

Fantomas is a master criminal, ruthless and brilliantly clever,able to take on any disguise seemingly at will, a real fictional anti-hero long before they became popular. Juve is a quirky but brilliant detective who has made it his life's work to catch this criminal, seeing links in seemingly unconnected crimes where no one else can spot them. But even at the very end o...more
David Stephens
"What did you say?"
"I said: Fantộmas."
"And what does that mean?"
"Nothing. . . . Everything!"
"But what is it?"
"Nobody. . . . And yet, yes, it is somebody!"
"And what does the somebody do?"
"Spreads terror!"

And, thus, the story of Fantộmas begins, expressing quite well the cheesy and over the top tone of the entire novel. First released in 1911 and popular enough to merit thirty-one sequels, Fantộmas follows the vicious murders and cunning robberies of the eponymous arch villain. What enj...more
James Hardison
Fantômas was the first novel in a series written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre published in serial form in 1911. (31 books together and Allain wrote 11 more after Souvestre's death.) Episodic and a little lacking in character developement, it's still wonderful French pulp fiction. This first book "Fantomas" catapulted the criminal genius to instant popularity, as well as all but creating the modern criminal novel. Fantômas is everywhere. He is a master killer, a criminal genius, capable...more
Elijah Kinch Spector
Marked this is "Read" but I did not finish it. The introduction outlines, more than once, that the authors of Fantômas were hacks, but I've enjoyed a lot of pulpy stuff by hacks who had a few good ideas, so I thought I could get down with this. Unfortunately, hacky writing is at its best when it's fast-paced, but this was extremely slow and after a day I was very much not looking forward to reading it. Ah well, the rare time when the movie is better than the book, and so are all the stories it i...more
This was a pulp hit in Paris at the time of publication, and led to a series of 30-40 subsequent books. It was popular among the Surrealists and other hip types of the day, but it comes across as a pretty ordinary sub-par mystery, though with an exceptionally amoral villain. It's reminiscent of Law & Order in the way the plot jumps wildly between tangentially related events that sort of tie together at the end.
Melodramatic B-movie thriller of a novel. Fantomas, near-legendary criminal mastermind who makes even virtuous widows turn to putty in his hands and for whom even his arch nemesis Detective Juve declares, "Nothing is impossible". The setting is cosmopolitan Paris before the First World War - a real melting pot of glamour, sophistication and the remnants of a severely stratified society. This is top rank pulp fiction, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Dick Barton with a sense of gruesome theatr...more
Chilly SavageMelon
The film version is far more exciting. I wanted more from Fantomas' perspective, and here there is very little. Maybe there is more in future volumes. I'm not sure if it's the period, or the hack writing. But it is the original of what became a great and enduring concept. I'm not sorry I read it, but can't recommend it as stellar.
Rob Atkinson
Great fun to read, this is one of the first great works of 'pulp fiction' and one of the best known and zaniest examples of the over-the-top, melodramatic French serial novel form known as the feuilleton. Published in 1911, this work centers on the contest between Inspector Juve of the Paris Surete, and the mad, mysterious villain known as "Fantomas", his ever elusive prey. Juve is clever and dedicated, and something of a rogue himself; a master of disguise and the latest tools of forensic inves...more
Kyria Joyner
Written in 1915, so dialogue takes some getting used to. It is most interesting from a historical perspective as one of the early mystery/police procedural genre.
Anna Bond
Oddly nihilistic French detective fiction that made me feel bad for days afterward. Highly recommended.
A fairly enjoyable and quick read. An early piece of detective fiction which seems to fall between the work of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie...influenced by the former and possibly influencing the latter. Detective Juve is a far more rounded character than Sherlock Holmes and is very reminiscent of Christie's Hercule Poirot. At times the narrative becomes a little "beyond belief," but Allain and Souvestre do seem to be concerned with providing rational explanations for the deductions of...more
This early 20th C. detective novel is a real treat for fans of the genre. Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre have created a fascinating tale featuring the exploits of Fantomas, a notorious French criminal, and M. Juve, the inspector who is always on his tail.

Fantomas is a master of disguise and thus very difficult to track. However, Juve is convinced that he is behind two murders and a robbery that are featured in this book. With clues that are left for the reader, but not connected, he is able...more
Kyle Pennekamp
I feel like I was a long time coming to reading this book. Back in my freshman year of film school, in my History of Cinema class, I read about Louis Feuillade's career of making 5-hour, silent, insanely popular crime serials. FANTOMAS was his first. It was always described with words like "insane" and "twisted" and "hypnotic" and "intoxicating." But I could never find a copy. A year or so ago, KINO finally put out the entire set of them, all 5 movies. But Netflix didn't have it. I thought about...more
Wow - Fantomas, is kind of Arsene Lupin's psychotic cousin. This is hack work of the highest order. NO pretence was made to art whatsoever, the books were written fast and furiously, according to Wikipedia:

"The books and movies that came out in quick succession anticipate current production methods of Hollywood, in two respects:[1] First, the authors distributed the writing among themselves; their "working method was to draw up the general plot between them and then go off and write alternate ch...more
Darran Mclaughlin
This wasn't very good. It's a very mediocre crime thriller/detective novel. The only reason I read it is because it took the Parisian avant garde by storm. Blais Cendars has a quote on the front claiming this novel is 'the modern Aeneid'. This is a flaw that intellectuals have. They like to celebrate high culture and low trash culture, whilst they feel obliged to hate middle brow culture, and this can lead to all kinds of ridiculousness. This is an example of the kind of condescending attitude t...more
Through the efforts of Black Coat Press I have discovered some late 19th, early 20th century pulp and science fiction works. Fantomas is one of my favorites. An evolution from the rogue fiction that brought us Raffles and Arsene Lupin, Fantomas is a thief with no disinclination to kill, in fact he seems to enjoy it.

The story focuses more on Juve, an inspector from the Surete, who is obsessed with Fantomas; and on Charles Rambert, a young man who becomes suspected as being the killer. Fantomas is...more
Here is an example of one of the random ways in which I end up reading a book. I heard the name Fantômas in the film 'District 13' (Banlieue Trieze), which is a great favourite of mine. A character in that jokingly calls himself Fantômas. I inferred that the character is a sort of French Moriarty, and was thus curious. After reading the novel, Fantômas clearly is a French Moriarty, although his nemesis Juve isn't so much of a Sherlock Holmes. He reminded me more of Javert in Les Mis. Actually, t...more
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Marcel Allain (1885-1970) was a French writer mostly remembered today for his co-creation with Pierre Souvestre of the fictional arch-villain and master criminal Fantômas.
The son of a Parisian bourgeois family, Allain studied law before becoming a journalist. He then became the assistant of Souvestre, who was already a well-known figure in literary circles. In 1909, the two men published their fir...more
More about Marcel Allain...
Fantômas: The Corpse Who Kills The Silent Executioner (Being the Second in the Series of Fantomas Adventures) A Nest Of Spies: Being The Fourth In The Series Of Fantomas Detective Tales A Royal Prisoner: Being the Fifth in the Series of Fantômas Detective Tales The Daughter of Fantômas

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“What can I be thinking of? Just imagine my not having presented myself to you even yet! But as a matter of fact I do not want to tell you my name
out loud; it is a romantic one, utterly inappropriate to the typically modern environment in which we now stand. Ah,
if we were only on the steep side of some mountain with the moon like a great lamp above us, or by the shore of
some wild ocean, there would be some glamour in proclaiming my identity in the silence of the night, or in the midst of lightning and thunder as a hurricane swept the seas! But here in a third-floor suite of the Royal Palace
Hotel, surrounded by telephones and electric lights, and standing by a window overlooking the Champs Elysees-> it would be positively anachronistic!" He took a card out of his pocket and drew near the little writing desk. "Allow me, Princess, to slip my card into this drawer, left open on purpose, it would seem," and while the princess uttered a little cry she could not repress, he did just that. "And now, Princess," he went on, compelling her to retreat before him as he moved to the door of the anteroom opening on to the corridor, "you are too well bred, I am sure, not to wish to conduct your visitor to the door of your suite." His tone altered abruptly, and in a deep imperious voice that made the princess quake he ordered her: "And now, not a word, not a cry, not a movement until I am outside, or I will kill you!”
“As she slowly came to, the princess, fascinated, gazed at the card, and this time her haggard eyes grew wide with astonishment. For upon the card, which until now had appeared immaculately white, letters were gradually becoming visible, and the princess read:

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