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Fantômas (Fantômas #1)

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  1,369 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
“One episode simply melts away as the next takes over” (The New York Times) in this deliciously sinister turn-of-the-century tale of a French evil genius run rampant. Three appalling crimes leave all of Paris aghast: the Marquise de Langruen is hacked to death, the Princess Sonia is robbed, and Lord Beltham is found dead, stuffed into a trunk. Inspector Juve knows that all ...more
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1911)
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Oct 11, 2016 Algernon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

There are no ghosts here, despite the title. 'Just' a criminal mastermind terrorizing the faubourgs of Paris and the countryside chateaux, cca. 1910.

"What did you say?"
"I said: Fantomas."
"And what does that mean?"
"Nothing ... Everything!"
"But what is it?"
"Nobody ... And yet, yes, it is somebody!"
"And what does the somebody do?"
"Spread terror!"

The audience loves to be scared and often enough cheers for the smooth criminal who lives by his wits and challenges the rules of soci
Sep 26, 2014 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What began as an expected, plain, elementary Whodunit becomes quite a convolution in the end. Train-hopping, fake identities (including transvestites), bluffs, double bluffs, Bentillon dynamometers (rudimentary CSI), slit throats and gruesome violence, insane Victorians, specters, the beginnings of witness protection, schedules and time frames-- this is in that same category of classics like W. Collin's very cool "The Woman in White."

The hero/villain dynamics and the inherent sensationalism tha
sweet jane
Nov 12, 2015 sweet jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Έχει περάσει παραπάνω από ένας αιώνας από όταν οι πένες του Pierre Souvestre και του Marcel Allan ενώθηκαν για να δημιουργήσουν μια από τις πιο εμβληματικές λογοτεχνικές προσωπικότητες, τον Φαντομά. Το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο είναι το πρώτο από μια σειρά 32 τον αριθμό, αλλά δυστυχώς το μοναδικό που έχει μεταφραστεί στα Ελληνικά.

Σατανικός ως το μεδούλι, χωρίς ηθικές αναστολές και προικισμένος με το χάρισμα της μεταμόρφωσης, ο Φαντομάς είναι η ενσάρκωση του απόλυτου κακού. Κλέβει, σκοτώνει και δολοπλο
Nancy Oakes
What a fun book! Fantomas is one seriously evil genius, and his nemesis, Inspector Juve, is one determined policeman. Not only is this book fun, but it ends in a complete cliffhanger so I had to buy book two, The Exploits of Juve (Juve contre Fantômas), just to see what happens. I have this feeling that I'll end up with the entire set of Fantômas novels if the ending of book one is any indicator.

A series of heinous crimes leads Inspector Juve of France's Criminal Investigation Division to believ
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
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!
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is a work of French crime fiction from a century ago. Barely into it, I realized that Fantômas is the name the newspapers and detectives have given to the perpetrator of a number of gruesome crimes.
I am frightened, because Fantômas is a being against whom it is idle to use ordinary weapons; because he has been able to hide his identity and elude all pursuit for years; because his daring is boundless and his power unmeasureable; because he is everywhere and nowhere at once and, if he has ha
Jan 01, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france, mysteries
The famous illustration on the cover of this Penguin edition has been altered. What the arch-criminal Fantômas is grasping in his right hand is a bloody dagger which he is holding by the hilt, for which see the the original.

The eponymous character of Fantomas by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre is perhaps the greatest of the arch-villains in literature. His ruthlessness is greater than Professor Moriarty's, and his slipperiness ever so much more pronounced. Fantômas does not at any point come
Chuddchutney Buana
Am I really only the fourth person in the Goodreads universe to have rated this twisty, classic-literature-yet-feels-like-an-airport-read book?

Full of tension, comedy, and unpredictable turn (though at times it stepped into a ridiculous zone, but I don't mind, as long as it keeps me enthralled), with page-turner quality of a New York Times best-seller. A surprising treat indeed. More people should read this.
Sep 10, 2007 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
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
Sep 21, 2008 Scott rated it liked it  ·  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
Aug 26, 2011 Dfordoom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
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
Gary Inbinder
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Shakespeare, Hamlet

Substitute Inspector Juve for Horatio in the famous quote from Hamlet and you might catch the gist of Allain's classic Mystery/Thriller. Juve's "philosophy" of detection is evidence-based, depending on keen observation, surveillance, disguises, facts, forensics, deductive reasoning and skeptical analysis that challenges and scrutinizes each theory of a crime. In all these respects, he'
Douglas Penick
May 07, 2013 Douglas Penick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I have in my hands, or I did until I set it down to type this, a copy of a book called "Fantômas", I was given it one year as a Christmas present - I think - and have just now gotten around to reading it, why the gift giver chose this book to give me I no longer remember. On the front of my copy are three words: "Fantômas" "Marcel Allain". That's it, on the back of my copy it says nothing at all. I opened the book and found the contents page on the very first page, and on the second page the f ...more
David Stephens
Mar 22, 2013 David Stephens rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
"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
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
Jul 04, 2009 Colleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whodunnit
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
Very, very pulpy, and a bit sensational. Not quite as sensationalistic as, say, The Phantom of the Opera, but it's in that general vein. Understandably since it's the same genre from the same country in the same era.

But this is more focused on the crime and crime solving aspects with a Sherlock Holmes-ish detective and a Moriarty-ish villain. It even has some quotes reminiscent of the great Holmes.

... [H]uman intelligence should hesitate before no improbability, however improbable, provided tha
Nancy Brady
M. Juve', a detective, is hunting down the elusive criminal, Fantomas (there should be a diacritical mark, a caret over the O, but unsure how to do it, but I digress). He is responsible for murders, thefts, and other various criminal activities. From the murder of an English lord to a French aristocratic woman to thefts of jewels and money, there is no seeming connection between them EXCEPT to Juve' .

Who is Fantomas? Is he a phantom? Is he a figment of Juve's imagination? Or is he real? And what
Jan 06, 2012 Kingfan30 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books, guardian
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
the gift
this is why i find what books to read from various sources: no one would call this great literature, i know of it only vaguely because i remember hearing that the surrealists, dadaists, liked it, a friend gave me some dvds of the silents serials from 1915 and i decided to read this first, i decided as with any historical documents to read it first without the prep of introduction... i am so happily amazed that this pulp, these fantastic characters, this melodrama, is so engaging over a hundred y ...more
Jul 03, 2008 Travis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Ciaran Monaghan
May 23, 2017 Ciaran Monaghan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A master criminal, Fantômas, stalks the Parisian streets, pulling off unbelievable, audacious and gruesome crimes but leaving very little trace. His name is whispered with fear and amazement in all respectable French homes. Master detective, Juve, is the one to track him down and leaves no stone unturned in his search but is always one step behind right until the very end.

Don't expect a believable or realistic crime story from this but if you suspend your disbelief and get in to right mood then
Ivva Tadiashvili
Mar 06, 2017 Ivva Tadiashvili rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
თავიდან კითხვა რომ დავიწყე, ძალიან უინტერესო მომეჩვენა. არც ისტორია იყო კარგი და არც წერის სტილი, მაგრამ მერე უკვე შემითრია, ყოველი თავის დასრულებისას მინდოდა პარიზის ქუჩებში ამომეყო თავი და ფრანგ ბურჟუებთან წინა კვირის გაზეთში დაბეჭდილ ფანტომასის სერიაზე მეჭორავა.
Dec 12, 2011 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nate D
Jul 09, 2010 Nate D rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masked killers of great refinement
Recommended to Nate D by: surrealism's populist leanings
Turn-of-the-century french pulp stories about a mysterious killer praying upon the aristocracy, loved by the surrealists? I ought to be wild about this. And after a rather slow first half, I'm warming to it. The characters are still rather flat, and the prose perfunctory (perhaps inevitably for a series that produced some 20 volumes in three years -- seriously), but really you read this sort of thing for the plot and the plot is actually a lot of fun. What at first seemed a bunch of jumbled, irr ...more
May 16, 2013 Anna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime, french-lit
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 about Marcel Allain...

Other Books in the Series

Fantômas (1 - 10 of 19 books)
  • The Silent Executioner
  • The Corpse Who Kills (Fantômas #3)
  • 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 Long Arm of Fantômas
  • Le pendu de Londres
  • The Daughter of Fantômas
  • Le Fiacre de nuit
  • Fantômas: Mord in Monte Carlo (Fantômas, #10)
  • L'arrestation de 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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