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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

She Who Was No More

by
Boileau-Narcejac


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase She Who Was No More



Title: She Who Was No More
Author: Boileau-Narcejac
Genre: Novel
Written: 1952 (Eng. 1954)
Length: 190 pages
Original in: French
Availability: She Who Was No More - US
She Who Was No More - UK
She Who Was No More - Canada
Celle qui n'était plus - Canada
She Who Was No More - India
Celle qui n'était plus - France
Tote sollten schweigen - Deutschland
I diabolici - Italia
Las diabolicas - España
  • Writtem by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac
  • French title: Celle qui n'était plus
  • Translated by Geoffrey Sainsbury
  • Originally published in the UK as The Woman who Was and in the US as The Woman who Was No More (really), and later also published as The Fiends
  • Celle qui n'était plus has been filmed twice, as Les diaboliques (1955), directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, and starring Simone Signoret, and as Diaboliques (1996), directed by Phillip Noyce, and starring Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani

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Our Assessment:

B : simple, enjoyably dark

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Most of She Who Was No More centers on Fernand Ravinel, a traveling salesman married to Mireille. When Mireille had been ill a few years earlier the doctor who treated her -- "more like a friend than a patient" -- was Lucienne, but back then Lucienne had also set her sights on Ravinel -- and snared him:

What had brought them together was not mutual attraction, but something residing in the deeper and darker recesses of the spirit. Was money the one thing that really mattered to her ? No, it wasn't money, not for its own sake, at all events. It was the power that went with it, the prestige, the right to command. She had to reign, it was an imperious necessity. And of course he had come under her sway at once.
       A few years earlier Ravinel had gotten a life insurance policy, in case of his death, and the way he explained it to Mireille had convinced her it might be a good idea for her to have one too. So in case either died, the other would get a nice payday. For the first two years of the contract there was, however, no payout for suicide, and, well ... "you never knew what verdict might be brought in at an inquest" ..... So Lucienne and Ravinel have patiently waited two years, but now are ready to put their plan in action -- Lucienne's plan, of course:
She had as practical a mind as ay businessman. Her brain was like a calculating machine, and a highly perfected one at that. Every project was neatly pigeonholed; mistakes were all but impossible.
       Lucienne and Ravinel lure Mireille to her death, in a clever-sounding plan that should allow them to both kill her and to establish alibis. There's a waiting period -- between the dirty deed and then disposing of the body: "You've got to be seen, and by plenty of witnesses", Lucienne reminds Ravinel -- but that seems to go quite well. As then does the moving of the body, the brilliant twist in Lucienne's plan that cements their alibis.
       The final step is then, of course, the discovery of the body, Mireille found to have tragically died -- whether by accident or suicide doesn't even matter --, allowing Ravinel to play to devastated, grieving husband -- and eventually to pick up the insurance payout. This is the part that does not seem to work out as planned: bafflingly, Mireille's body is not to be found. More unsettlingly then, for Ravinel, everything seems to suggest Mireille is, in fact, still alive -- despite Ravinel's certainty that she can't be, having taken part in her murder and then, a few days later, in the disposal of the corpse.
       Ravinel senses something is very wrong -- "Yes, there was a trap somewhere" -- but he can't quite put his fingers on it. Which is a shame ... for him.
       It's hard to imagine readers won't realize, from quite early on, where this is headed. Boileau-Narcejac do a decent job in setting it out, but quite a lot is telegraphed, and the characters, in particular, drawn too obviously; Ravinel's fumbling (re)actions, in particular, seem overly broad (though admittedly, the situation he finds himself would probably rattle anyone).
       One of the earliest works Boileau-Narcejac wrote together, parts of the presentation are still pretty raw -- but there are many that are done quite well, not least most everything about the clinically prepared Lucienne. Written over half a century ago, there was probably more novelty to the shocking story back then -- but even now the final turns hold up, nice, and cold, and sharp.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 September 2015

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Links:

She Who Was No More: Reviews: Diabolique - the film versions: Other books by Boileau-Narcejac under review:
  • Vertigo (also published as: The Living and the Dead)
Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       French authors Pierre Boileau (1906-1989) and Thomas Narcejac (1908-1998) wrote many mysteries and thrillers together, as Boileau-Narcejac.

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© 2015 the complete review

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