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Friday, 15 January 2016

‘Syndrome E’ by Franck Thilliez

Translated by Mark Polizzotti
Published by Penguin Books,
8 October 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-14750-971-0

A film that turns the person who watches it blind … detective Lucie Henebelle doesn’t believe it at first, until she finds herself drawn into a horrifyingly violent world.

This high-stakes French thriller stars two very different cops, both flawed but sympathetic. Lucie is young, fit and finds the thrill of the chase compulsive, to the extent of neglecting her twin daughters. Even though one is in hospital, she’d determined to go where it takes to catch this killer. Inspector Sharko, now a profiler, has seen too much in his career, including the death of his wife and child, and is now schizophrenic, haunted by the vision of a young girl called Eugenie. He sees in Lucie the young cop he once was, and wants to protect her; the growing relationship between them is beautifully handled. The film itself almost becomes a character: gradually, from Lucie’s first disturbing watching, the images under the image are deciphered, and she sets off on a quest to track down the maker and, particularly, the little girl who stars in it. At the same time, Sharko is dealing with five corpses whose brains and eyes have been removed - this novel included some pretty gruesome images. The story is fast-moving, told in short chapters, and I found the neurological background and information about subliminal images fascinating. France, Egypt and Montreal were vividly described, and the novel’s dreadful background story was so convincingly, horrifyingly disturbing that by the end of it, I wanted to log straight onto wiki to see if it was real (it was). Reader warning: having rounded his story off satisfyingly, the author suddenly ends with a cliff-hanger.

A fast-moving, unsettling thriller with interesting central characters and a compelling plot. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Franck Thilliez is the author of numerous bestselling novels in his native France. Syndrome E is the first of his novels to be published in the United States. He lives outside of Lille.

Mark Polizzotti is the translator of more than thirty books from the French. His articles and reviews have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the Nation. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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