A mysterious film, purchased in an estate sale by a cineast collector, is at the center of Syndrome E, an icy, brutal best seller from French Author Franck Thilliez. When the collector watches the mysterious movie, he is struck blind by what he sees. The frightening, violent world this film unlocks makes up the heart of Thilliez’s first novel translated into English.
Franck Sharko, the recurring character at the center of Thilliez’s novels, is a classic noir detective, possibly more haunted than most. He suffers from a form of schizophrenia, yet is allowed to continue working due to his brilliance and effective methods. He gets results and so is allowed to continue working while under treatment. It takes a little time, as an American, to accept this premise. Even where our own damaged detectives, like Tony Shaloub’s mild mannered Mr. Monk, are allowed to investigate crime, it’s as a fringe element, not an actual part of the force.
What allows Sharko to continue working is, in part his treatments. The science described here is bleeding edge, which is appropriate, considering the level of violence also described. I did find myself wishing either I read French, or Thilliez had written in English, as the translation stumbles occasionally. Also, this is the fourth book to feature Franck Sharko, and while I didn’t feel I was missing backstory important to the mystery, there were moments when felt I was missing something. Neither the translation or that feeling were major stumbling blocks, but I do think they kept me from losing myself completely in the story. What he is excellent at on the other hand is building tension, and equally ruthless in describing violence. If The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was too violent for you, this is one you might want to avoid.
I understand this has been optioned as a movie (really, what crime thriller these days isn’t?). Whether it works better as a movie than it did as a book will be interesting to see. What is more interesting is that this eels to be the opening gambit in an attempt to find the next Steig Larsson. Whether Franck Sharko will capture imaginations like Lisbeth Salander remains to be seen, but I do hope more of Thilliez’s books are translated. <a href=”http://Syndrome E may have left me cold, but I could tell there’s something intriguing there. This wasn’t ultimately the thriller I was hoping for, but I was intrigued by his writing, and curious to see what else Franck Thilliez can do.