REVIEW: The Wicked Go To Hell by Frederic Dard

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Read this book for: quick read, espionage novel, paranoid thriller, suspense. classic crime novels

Quick Review: A short but extremely tense read that is almost impossible to put down once you start!


Frank and Hal are new prisoners in one of France’s toughest prisons. Neither trusts the other, but they plot a daring escape together. The catch: one is an enemy spy, and one is a police officer sent in to trap him. But which is which?

THE WICKED GO TO HELL is a new translation of a 1956 French novel by Frederic Dard, a prolific and well-known twentieth century French writer, published as part of Pushkin Vertigo’s “Originals” series of translated crime fiction from around the world. It’s absolutely a worthy addition to any list of classic global thrillers!

The central concept of THE WICKED GO TO HELL is fairly simple – a police officer is placed into an extremely tough jail as the cellmate of a suspected enemy spy, and tasked with gaining his trust through an escape, then finding out what he knows. Frank and Hal are placed into the cells together, although the prison staff are not aware that one is an undercover officer (and the officer has no support from the prison). The part that makes it interesting is that as the reader, you have no idea which one is the spy and which one is the officer.

Most of the enjoyment of the novel comes from the reader trying to figure out who is who as they both accuse each other of being a cop, which leads them into fights. This tension and unwillingness for either of them to fully trust the other extends through the whole novel, and makes it impossible to put down. And it is very hard to guess which might be the spy!

While the overall plot is fairly simple – the prison escape and the attempt to remain undetected – the simple plot allows the range of increasingly crazed and paranoid reactions from Frank and Hal to really come to the forefront. It is incredibly tense, and twisted, and actually succeeds in making you as a reader feel a bit paranoid and anxious.

I can’t go into more detail without spoiling parts of the story, but this very short novel is definitely worth the read. In fact, it’s probably good that it is short, because you will probably read it in one sitting! I was absolutely unable to put it down. If you like real tension in your thrillers, I completely recommend getting a copy of THE WICKED GO TO HELL!

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