The book opens with Paul Gévigne asking Roger Flavières to watch over his wife and protect her from herself. Gévigne's wife, Madeleine, is acting strangely and he is afraid she will disappear or hurt herself. Gévigne, a wealthy shipbuilder, and Flavières, a lawyer, were once in school together, which explains why Gévigne makes this strange request and why Flavières gives in against his better judgment.
Flavières does start following Madeleine, watching her behavior. Eventually he sees her try to commit suicide by jumping into a river. He saves her and then becomes obsessed with her, continuing to see her and developing a relationship.
All of this takes place in France shortly before the German occupation of France during World War II. The book is a story of obsession and deceit. The plot has many twists and turns after this point and I don't want to reveal any more. If you have seen the movie you can guess some of the plot points... but not all. And if you haven't I don't want to spoil either the book or the movie.
I am very glad I decided to read this book. It was unusual to read a book after I have watched a movie so many times. But having already seen the movie did not spoil the experience because of the variations in the setting and the mood. A book almost always provides more depth into what is going on with the characters than a film. However, Hitchcock changed the characters and their involvement with each other to present the movie he wanted, so that the movie and book seem very different even though they tell the same basic story. Both are very very good.
Hitchcock's film based on this book is set in San Francisco and he uses that setting with great effect. San Francisco was chosen for the setting early in the screen writing process. The development of the screenplay and the decision on locations to film are discussed at the Alfred Hitchcock Wiki.
The San Francisco locations for scenes in this film are featured in Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal. There are over 90 pages devoted to this film, including many historical and contemporary photos. It is a treasure trove of information for those who love this film and the city of San Francisco.
Per the back of my paperback edition, "Boileau-Narcejac is the nom-de-plume of Pierre Boileau (1906-89) and Thomas Narcejac (1908-98), one of France's most successful writing duos." Pushkin Vertigo has published another title by these authors: She Who Was No More.
Other reviews at:
Col's Criminal Library
the crime segments
His Futile Preoccupations
Tipping My Fedora
A Crime is Afoot
Vintage Pop Fictions
Publisher: Pushkin Vertigo, 2015 (orig. pub. 1954)
Length: 189 pages
Format: Trade paperback
Translated by: Geoffrey Sainsbury
Setting: France, World War II
Source: I purchased this book.