Paula's Reviews > Total Khéops

Total Khéops by Jean-Claude Izzo
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May 11, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, french, best-reads-of-2010
Read from May 04 to 11, 2010

I really liked this novel, although at times, I found the obligatory narrative devices of crime fiction a bit tedious: for example, at the end of each chapter, there's always a hook, not so much to push the plot along, but to prolong it. What interested me most were the twists and turns of Fabio Montale’s mind, his musings on music, literature, socio-politics and above all, the city of Marseilles. My memories of that city in the late sixties and seventies drew me to the book in the first place. One of my first encounters with Marseilles was a midnight meal at the Old Port. I had just returned from a hitch-hiking trip to Spain and Portugal and had ordered my first bouillabaisse. As I and my friend were eating, a sailor ran in the door from the street; he was pursued across the dining room, through the kitchen and out the back door by another man, brandishing a long knife. My Marseille was the city of Fabio Montale’s youth, not the partially “gentrified” city of the 40ish, cynical yet still romantic, almost idealistic cop that he’s become. In the 1990s, Marseille is still a city of both big and little crime, a city of drugs, prostitution and every kind of extortion and corruption. The inhabitants of Marseille (honest citizens and gangsters alike) have roots in Italy, Spain, North-Africa, the Antilles, Vietnam, Portugal, and even France. I particularly enjoyed moments when Fabio waxes lyrical while musing about food, drink and fishing (at one point, he lists the provenance of all the different olive oils used in specific dishes by one cook in a particular bistro); such writing reminds me of novelist and poet Jim Harrison’s food columns in Brick magazine. As is de rigueur in neo-noir novels, there are plenty of distinctive, and usually gorgeous, women. Fabio knows quite a few: Honorine, his widowed neighbor and surrogate mother (always leaving something delectable for Fabio to eat); Babette, the intrepid journalist on the trail of organized crime, his former lover and current soul-sister; Leila, his young North-African lover-manqué; Marie-Lou, the beautiful prostitute who deserves a better life; and finally, Lole, the woman from his youth that he is heading towards. Lots of murder, mayhem and some really bad bad guys as would be expected in a novel titled (in English translation)Total Chaos.
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