Kimberly's Reviews > Syndrome E

Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez
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Jul 25, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites
Recommended to Kimberly by: goodreads giveaway
Recommended for: fans of thrillers, police procedurals and film buffs
Read from July 22 to 25, 2012

Actually 4 1/2 stars.

This review is based on reading an advance uncorrected proof of this book that I received through a giveaway here on Goodreads.

"With this taut U.S. debut, Thilliez explores the origins of violence through radical science in a breakneck and erotically charged thriller rich with shocking plot twists and profound questions about the nature of humanity." - from the book description on back cover.

That's a fair summary of this story that grabbed me from the get-go. Once I started this book I was loathe to put it down and I can honestly say that if my copy had been an e-book, I would have finished it in less than 24 hours.

The premise is incredibly scary because you realize while reading it, just how vulnerable we've let ourselves become by coming home at the end of a stressful day to relax in front of our television sets, allowing ourselves to be lulled into a state of numbness, allowing who knows what kind of subliminal images into our brains to influence how we spend our money (it's called neuromarketing and corporations are using it all the time to get us to buy their products). What's really scary is that these subliminal images could be used to influence other behaviors - think civil rights and liberties, or who we vote into political office.

The two main characters, Franck Sharko and Lucie Hennebelle- detectives that start out working on very different separate cases that quickly turn out to be linked - are intelligent, likable and flawed. Franck Sharko is a paranoid schizophrenic, and I find it hard to believe that any police force would employ him. Also, I'm not entirely buying the cause of his schizophrenia, but I'm not a psychiatrist... Since his hallucinations don't distract from the story too much, I decided to let it go. And who knows, maybe his mental illness actually helps him do his job as a detective/profiler better than someone who's not mentally ill. (This is not meant to be a jab at the mentally ill, so please hold your comments and e-mails.)

The author/translator did an excellent job with the story, especially describing the places that the characters find themselves. Sharko finds himself following a lead in Cairo, Egypt and I don't know who truly deserves the credit, but they so effectively described the area, that I can confidently cross it off my "Places to See Before I Die" list. The crowds, smells, sand and oppressive heat were palpable; and this section of the book almost comes off as a love letter to Cairo and all of it's beautiful dirtiness (or dirty beautiful-ness).

The short film that causes most of the trouble is also incredibly interesting as are the lessons that we learn about it and the techniques used to make it. The characters that educate the detectives come off as real people who do what they love and love what they do. Like a good teacher, they make the subject interesting. As does the professor they visit in Belgium to learn more about the film, subliminal images, neuromarketing and how they can be used to influence us.

The book is written in a way that as the story unfolds, you figure out what's going on at pretty much the same time as the detectives or maybe just a bit ahead of them. This makes it a bit predictable, but not in a bad way. I'd rather figure it out as I go along either with or even a bit before the characters, than have the mystery make no sense throughout the story(and sometimes even at the end). The ending is bit of a let down for me(and the reason I'm giving this book 4 1/2 stars instead of 5), only because of the predictability of the story and I honestly don't think that the author could have improved upon it by much.

I highly recommend that you rush to get this book when it comes out (the back of book says "on sale August 20, 2012) and get ready to settle in for an exciting, continent-crossing, thought-provoking extremely dark thriller!


p.s. - note to viking publishing and the editor of this book - great job! I found fewer typos in this advance uncorrected proof than I usually find in recently "corrected" published books (only 4 or 5 in the entire book).
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