Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Triumphs of Eugène Valmont: Mini-Review

The irony of The Triumphs of Eugène Valmont (1906) by Robert Barr is that the book begins with Valmont's biggest failure and proceeds to relate various other incidents where Valmont does not exactly shine. Assigned to protect the legendary diamond necklace once destined for Marie Antoinette, Valmont's job is to ensure its safety until it has been sold at auction and is delivered toits new rightful owner. He is easily misdirected and defeated by an amateur and dismissed from the French police force. He is not dismissed because he failed. He is not dismissed because he arrested the wrong man. He is dismissed because he made France the laughingstock of Europe. 

Other adventures include infiltrating an anarchist group and substituting a spectacular firework for a bomb (one of the few escapades that actually goes well); the discovery of an ingenious fraud that results in his paying the criminals five shillings a week; helping the wrong man escape prison; helping to commit a murder; and having the wool pulled over his eyes by a pair of young lovers.

Valmont is credited by various crime fiction authorities as "the first, most important humorous detective in English literature" (Steinbrummer & Penzler, Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection). While it is true that I can see some elements of the pompous yet bumbling Inspector Clouseau in Valmont, I can't say that the humor is all that striking. Valmont is incredibly long-winded and repetitive in his narrative. And the irony of his inflated sense of his abilities doesn't provide the sense of the comic that one might expect. 

Not one of my most enjoyable forays into early twentieth century mysteries. ★★

This counts for the "Town Scene" category on the Golden Scavenger Hunt.

All Challenges Fulfilled: Vintage Mystery Challenge, 100 Plus Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, My Kind of Mystery, Cloak & Dagger, Title Fight, Century of Books, Charity Challenge, Outdo Yourself, Triple Dog Dare, Mad Reviewer

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I think I'll pass then.