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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Three Crimes

Georges Simenon

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To purchase Three Crimes

Title: Three Crimes
Author: Georges Simenon
Genre: Novel
Written: 1938 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Three Crimes - US
Three Crimes - UK
Three Crimes - Canada
Les trois crimes de mes amis - Canada
Three Crimes - India
Les trois crimes de mes amis - France
Die Verbrechen meiner Freunde - Deutschland
  • French title: Les trois crimes de mes amis
  • Translated and with an Introduction by David Carter

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Our Assessment:

B : great story, but Simenon doesn't always seem sure of how to deal with it

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Spectator . 14/7/2007 Patrick Marnham

  From the Reviews:
  • "Three Crimes is a flawed book, written in a jerky, awkward manner and studded with vacuous rhetorical questions, quite untypical of the authorís usual style. The cumbersome prose may be explained by the fact that Simenon was unused to writing autobiography, or by the fact that he was still trying to make sense of the news that two of his youthful friends had been convicted of murder. But when the book is placed in the chronology of Simenonís professional life it raises intriguing questions." - Patrick Marnham, The Spectator

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Three Crimes is, ostensibly, a novel, but it is based on fact and reads much like an autobiographical account. The subject matter is certainly sensational: two men Simenon knew from his youth went on to commit heinous crimes, with both men very much like characters out of novels -- like characters out of Simenon-novels, in fact.
       Simenon writes from some two decades after he was in closer contact with the men, from a point where he knows what became of them and what they did (much, especially about the crimes, well-documented in the court records). The book is an attempt to understand how they came to this -- though among the difficulties he has is his realization that:

     It is impossible to relate truths in an orderly and clear way: they will always appear less plausible than a novel.
       What interests Simenon aren't just the brutal crimes:
     Three crimes ! It's easily said. But before them ?
       The question is of particular interest because Simenon was a part of that before, at least for a while, and he wonders at what led from their shared experience to the abyss.
       Simenon begins by describing his youth and the circles he moved in in his later teens, providing an interesting picture of Belgium under the German occupation. It makes for a fascinating comparison with the occupation of World War II, both in France and Belgium, which one reads about far more often; surprisingly much seems very much the same.
       Simenon and his friends did go in for dissolute excesses, and Three Crimes makes for an interesting if choppy and rushed record of Simenon's formative years. And, of course, it's particularly amusing to read how he wonders:
     Are there still young people existing somewhere nowadays, who wildly pursue stimulation, as we used to then, stimulation of anything, of the body, of the senses, of the mind, by all imaginable means and even tricks
       One of the characters who would go on to be responsible for some of the 'three crimes' is loathsome from the first, a man older than Simenon and his friends whom they first know as a second-hand bookseller. Danse takes advantage of girls during the occupation (at a time when Simenon is still so innocent that he doesn't really understand what the bookseller is responsible for) and who manages to evade responsibility and blame for his actions (these and others) for years, generally able to turn with the wind and ingratiate himself to those in power (in sometimes hilarious ways).
       Simenon gets more involved with the other criminal figure, Deblauwe, when a Romanian man offers them some money to start a magazine, called Nanesse. There Simenon gets to practise churning out an enormous amount of writing ("I could start literally manufacturing money !" is how he sees it), but the magazine turns out to be a not-so-well-disguised small blackmail-business and Simenon pretty much gives up on it. He's not completely out of the orbit of Danse and Deblauwe immediately, but obviously their lives have gone separate ways -- though how separate only becomes clear much later.
       Three Crimes reads almost like an autobiographical sketch, Simenon in a hurry to record what he remembers in the proper order, but fleshing only parts of it out. One is also struck by how much difficulty he still seems to be having digesting the news of what became of these two men, and how that reflects on his own life and choices.
       In his Introduction even translator David Carter admits that: "Three Crimes cannot be rated as one of Simenon's most accomplished works", but it is of some interest, and does tell a wild story (and is certainly of biographical interest). Not your usual Simenon -- despite the real criminals resembling many of his fictional ones -- but a curious complementary work that should certainly be of interest to Simenon-fans.

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Reviews: Georges Simenon: Other books by Georges Simenon under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Belgian author Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote hundreds of books, and is especially famous for his detective-fiction.

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© 2007-2023 the complete review

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