Wednesday, July 05, 2006

book review- the empire of the wolves, jean-cristophe grange'

Despite the title, the Empire of the Wolves is not gothic horror, and let God be praised. No, what it is, in fact, is the best police thriller I have read in many, many years. It is extraordinarily good.
Does it have everything going for it? It does. Drugs, murder, procedure, espionage, torture, corruption, double crosses, narrow escapes, gunplay, the whole croissant.
-Oh yes, it's French.

No, now, wait.

Most French-to-English fiction suffers from having been too literally translated to communicate properly, I know. There is none of that here. It certainly reads 'French' but you are spared the indecipherable pop culture references and the awkward idioms like 'He is short like a kneeling apple', in the middle of an otherwise smooth read. Ian Monk as translator gets the coveted 'Golden Blowjob' award for this one.

No, I am not playing with you. It's a 1. French 2. cop thriller that's 3. so good even the translator gets props.

This is the part where I should tell you something about the story. I would like to. It is a smoking hot story. But this is the type of read where discovery is part of the thrill, and there is no way that I want to ruin any of the pleasure or fun of reading it for anybody. I am not trying to be cute; I know, its annoying when people do that. Still, this novel is structured in such a way that my detailing the ingredients would take the starch right out of it.

The plot is straightforward; a victim on the run from a double cross gone bad. The main characters follow standard types...The embittered old timer/hired gun called in to show the youngster the ropes, the honest cop confronting temptation and battling his own nature, the idealist turned rebel. We go from prissy Parisian chocolate shop to the Turkish ghetto, horrific crime scenes, doctors offices, torture chambers, middle class living rooms, a columbarium, a cheap disco, a high desert archaeological site, and nothing breaks the logic or throws you out of the movie. Nothing.

More twists than Orson Welles' upper bowel.

Simply as a reading experience it was worth the time. The guy is a master technician and can make the flow of narrative do amazing things without breaking pace. His dialogue is genuine. He plays with character drawing in a way that I can't remember seeing before on the genre fiction level and it works flawlessly; the author remains invisible. But as a brass tacks cop thriller? It wiped me out. What a ride! A thriller that is genuinely thrilling! You become so enmeshed in the tale that putting this book down for a moment is jarring.

No, this ain't Clive Cussler. Not for a minute.

Go read it NOW.


  1. FN sounds a beast kinda book , I have just been reading George Macdonalf Frasers The Pirates , which I found hilarious...very silly but very funny

  2. beast: i'm gonna look for that. I just picked up and put down The Weight of Water which was in fact pretty sodden. I'll take silly any day of the week over self-conscious 'proze, dahling.'

  3. To hell with the French. Are you a sympathiser?


  4. ... you are spared the indecipherable pop culture references and the awkward idioms like 'He is short like a kneeling apple'...

    Beautiful line, simple and what a punch it packs! And man do you have me laughing (and even more so because I speak French).

  5. great! another FN recommendation to add to the list! I'll check it out (just as soon as I've worked my way through the rest of your suggestions!)

  6. wcsn: give me some more fight points and i may deign to answer, hair boy.
    MizB: am i right or what? you're reading some hard boiled fiction and one of the evil baddies says something like 'None of your stinking onions!" and it just throws off the whole mood.
    hendrix: *blushes* i guess that could take awhile, huh.

  7. Ooooh, I like the sound of that - it's going on my list, right now.

  8. You've sold me. I'm a thriller addict, as well as an SF junkie. I can recommend a book that seems to have flown below the radar. It's called Watch Me. Author A J Holt. Internet, serial killer, very smart ex-FBI guy/hacker on the case, lots of locations, tremendous plotting and a genuinely worrying idea: a serial killers chat room. There was a second with the same detective, called Catch Me, but I haven't caught up with it yet.

  9. Well thanks for not only the good read recommendation, but some vacation ideas as well.

    By the way, are those awards televised?

  10. I wonder what its like being a French must be vile!!!!
    To prove my point

    Ladies and Gentlemen I give you

    Celine Dion

  11. wyndham: it really is worth the time. after having had your will to live sucked by that last one, empire of the wolves ought to be like snorting speed off the arm of a big titted transvestite!
    davethef: that goes on my list!
    ...and sf? sf? *drooling and twitching* give me titles! titles i say! new titles! good titles! TITLES!!!!!

    g: i used to spend my holidays in columbariums quite frequently. honest. and yes, this is televised, over at piggy and tazzy's place. see my linx!
    beast: hey, youse. my elle is a fc. not that she needs my backup; shes a freakin' wolverine on meth. and remember: Neil Young is Canadian. thats all they had to do to earn my undying respect and admiration.
    consider yourself spanked. and no you dont get seconds you dirty potty boy. go vaccuum.

  12. Anonymous1:29 AM

    thanx for another recommendation. I'll take this and Dantes Inferno to my Island... when I eventually get off this one!

    I give you Alanis Morrisette, but now I'm not sure whether that's pro or anti fc..

    *scratches head*

  13. Ok so I am not allowed to be rude about Canadians or the French or any combination of the two....anyone got any strong feelings about belgians ???

  14. they have tasty waffles, but that is all.

  15. hardhouse: that island is gonna get crowded. maybe you could make a little hut out of books and cds and throw a tarp over.
    beast:the belgies are free game; do what you will. i darn the belgies! i darn them to heck!
    neur: that is correct. dingdingdingding!

  16. Anonymous5:14 AM

    Where did you find it? Interesting read » » »