The Silent Executioner

by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. Morrow, $15.95. This is the second local appearance of the French master criminal Fantômas. The Fantômas thrillers began in 1911 and flourished for years. Their charm, if they have any, lies in lightning-fast action, tissue-paper characterization, a total absence of plausibility, and the inability of the police to catch up with the elusive villain. These yarns have been described as works of surrealist art. They can also be viewed as Neanderthal forerunners of the Tin Tin, Boy Detective, cartoon books, which are just as fast, just as silly, and funny to boot.