AUGUSTE LE BRETON – Rififi in New York. Stein & Day, hardcover, 1968. Avon V2346, paperback, 1970. Originally published in French: Du rififi à New York, Presses de la Cité: Un mystère (P) n° 642, 1962.

   Following my previous thoughts about Ellery Queen, it occurred to me that we read a mystery like Ten Days’ Wonder for the pleasure of seeing the clues coalesce, of watching threads come together into a meaningful whole. By the same token, I think we read a “caper” novel like Auguste le Breton’s Rififi in New York for the thrill of seeing things unravel.

   Right at the start you should know Rififi is not a character; “rififi” is Fremch underworld slang for nasty business. So when Le Breton writes of Rififi in New York, it’s like Elliott Paul writing of Hugger Mugger in the Louvre: a state of affairs, not a fictional being.

   Le Breton wrote the original novel on which the classic 1955 French jewel-heist was based, and he seems to have gone from then just re-doing the same story with different characters.

   As such, in New York is quite nice, really: tense, well-built, fast-moving and pleasantly predictable. We get an odd assortment of non-professionals taking on a seemingly impregnable jewel vault, trouble and personal conflict, set-backs and betrayals … everything you read a caper novel for, dealt out with a sure hand and a sharp eye.

   There’s not much by Auguste le Breton available in English, but I’d recommend picking up anything you can find.