To some degree, it’s relatively arbitrary what section one might turn to first in this stimulating and provocative survey of one of the most protean national cinemas in the world, (personally, I happened to open the book at Jean-Pierre Melville and his stylish gangster film homages), as it will be quickly apparent that the author’s enthusiasm matches the breadth of his knowledge and acumen. From the days of such older masters as Henri-Georges Clouzot (though Les Diaboliques is curiously missing from a solid survey of the director’s work) through the Nouvelle Vague to the present day, this is a nigh-definitive (if often wayward) chronicle. Needless to say, you’ll spend a great deal of time arguing with Drazin’s quirky judgments, but that’s half the pleasure of a contentious volume such as this.

Barry Forshaw, whose books include The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction and British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, along with books on Italian Cinema, Film Noir and a biography of Stieg Larsson, also edits Crime Time.