“THE Mad and the Bad”, Jean-Patrick Manchette’s 1972 crime thriller, starts without preamble: “The man whom Thompson was supposed to kill—a pederast guilty of seducing the son of a businessman—entered his bedroom. As he closed the door behind him, he had time to recoil at the sight of Thompson standing against the wall beside the hinges. Then Thompson stabbed him in the heart with a rigid hacksaw blade mounted on a large cylindrical hilt with a circular sheet-metal guard.”
Translated into English for the first time by Donald Nicholson-Smith, “The Mad and the Bad” (originally, “Ô Dingos, Ô Châteaux!”) is French noir fiction at its finest. Having inherited his brother’s fortune, a powerful businessman sets a gang of hired thugs on his orphaned nephew and the boy’s nanny, a young woman fresh from a mental institution. They intend to stage a double murder suggesting that the unstable nanny has killed the boy and herself, but when it unravels mid-staging, a vicious hunt for the pair ensues across the French countryside.