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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Tough Justice

San Antonio

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To purchase Tough Justice

Title: Tough Justice
Author: San Antonio
Genre: Novel
Written: 1955 (Eng. 1967)
Length: 141 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Tough Justice - US
Tough Justice - UK
Tough Justice - Canada
Messieurs les hommes - Canada
Messieurs les hommes - France
Sanà fra i duri - Italia
  • French title: Messieurs les hommes
  • Translated by Cyril Buhler
  • Volume 16 in the series

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Our Assessment:

B : brisk and pretty basic, with a few nice touches -- if not quite as much of the language-acrobatics as usual

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 16/3/1969 Allen J. Hubin

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The complete review's Review:

       Tough Justice is a two-part novel in which San Antonio mostly goes it all alone -- no trusty (or comic) sidekicks helping him (or getting in the way) this time. The set-up practically demands it: the Detective Superintendent of the Special Branch goes deep undercover, and the story begins with an extended account of his winning over the trust of the criminals the police is concerned with.
       It's an entertaining bit, as San Antonio -- going by the name of Bernard Tonacci -- pretends to be a pimp from Clermont-Ferrand now looking to get in on bigger things in Paris. He knows where to find his mark, Paul-le-Pourri ("Paul-of-the-Pot-Holed-Countenance or Scab-Faced Paul if you insist"), and manages to instigate a fight that lands them both in jail. There, he breaks them out in a carefully orchestrated show that includes him seeming to kill a policeman, which certainly should help convince Paul just on which side San Antonio is on. The ruse works and Paul takes him on the lamb with him -- to safety in the house of his stunning niece, Sofia -- "the best-known nymphomaniac in town". Predictably, San Antonio and Sofia hit (and get) it off.
       Paul is a suspicious character, and San Antonio has to play a role -- including pretending not to be familiar with Paris -- but he seems to do a good-enough job. Paul calls his higher ups, and it's agreed than San Antonio can take part in the next big job they have lined up. Not that they'd go so far as to tell him what it involves, or why it's being undertaken (or, indeed, what his cut will come to). But this is what San Antonio was hoping for, to get in on the action -- and, of course, he's not after these bit players: "It's not the underlings we're after, it's the Big Boss".
       San Antonio plays his part -- driving the car, in what turns out to be a pretty well-conceived kidnapping -- but draws unwanted attention to himself (and the car) in his undercover role, and complicates the gang's next moves. When he asks about his cut, they remind him -- all too clearly --: "Stop worrying, Bernard, you'll get what's coming to you" -- and that is certainly their plan .....
       Things come to a head -- in no small part because San Antonio finds he's been the rube more than Paul and his gang -- but at least when it all shakes out he can retrieve the kidnap-victim. Or thinks he can. But like in some locked-room mystery, the room where the man was being held turns out to be empty. San Antonio has been duped several times over .....
       San Antonio had his marching orders, from his big Boss:

     "Well, you go on playing the game to the bitter end."
     "To the bitter end ?" I echo limply.
       And so he keeps on investigating, trying to hunt down both the kidnap victim -- an important foreign scientist -- and the people behind it all. He gets some nice surprises regarding that, in one of the books nicer twists -- and also finds that whoever is behind this is willing to go to great extremes to make sure the trail goes cold. As San Antonio tries to get information, he finds any useful informer is quickly and permanently dealt with before he can learn anything; his own escapes continue also to be by the narrowest of margins. And all this also means that Sofia is potentially in danger .....
       San Antonio's thrillers are mainly about the wordplay and the language, but this one -- at least in translation -- doesn't go nearly as far as most. Translator Cyril Buhler once again gets in the spirit of things -- including with what are surely his own additions ("With a temperature of 28 degrees Centigrade inside the hut (work it out for yourselves in Fahrenheit or give up trying to look as if you wanted to join the Common Market)") -- but, with a few exceptions, it falls a bit short of the usual San Antonian excess (which is what San Antonio is all about). On the other hand, it's a more solid thriller, plot-wise, than some of what he gets up to, even if it takes its time in getting there. A few nice twists -- especially San Antonio finding himself, like the reader, surprised that things aren't quite what they seemed -- help make for a solid if unexceptional quick read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 August 2019

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Tough Justice: Reviews: Frédéric Dard: Other books by Frédéric Dard under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Frédéric Dard (1921-2000) is best known for his 'San-Antonio' novels.

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