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To Catch a Thief

   To Catch A Thief (Random House, 1952) utilizes the author’s familiarity with southern French geography to tell the story of John Robie, a retired American jewel thief living in the south of France. Robie’s unofficial amnesty—granted by the French government after his participation in the underground resistance during World War II—is threatened by the appearance of a copycat thief. Robie decides that the only way to guarantee his continued freedom is to catch the copycat himself. Along with this intriguing and exciting tale, which, happily for the reader, presents plot details and characters that are absent in the film adaptation, the story also captures the charm of living amidst the natural beauty of the French Riviera. Dodge paid homage not only to the spectacular villas, breathtaking vistas, and undulating coastline, but also to the de facto uniform of the French beach:

He drove [John and Francie] to Monte Carlo by way of the Middle Corniche. The road, high up on a cliff after they had left Nice behind, followed the curves of the coast, in and out and around above the sparkling lights of Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villefranche and Cap d’Ail below. The stars were bright, the night air pleasantly warm, the view magnificent. Francie thought it was all lovely beyond words.

A girl who came across the boulevard from the hotel and went down to the beach wearing a zebra-striped bathing suit that was startling even for Cannes made [the agent] hesitate, but the man who followed her gave him a cold look. The agent walked on.

   Dodge even successfully included a plot device of a bikini used as a disguise, under the premise that if a woman appears before a group of men in a “startling” bathing suit, a different woman can later appear wearing the same thing and no one will notice that her face is not that of the first.

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