Sardonicism prevents the litany of depravity and atrocity becoming unpalatable. “He was dealing with someone who had already had his balls cut off, so was rather hard to intimidate.” There is tenderness, and anger at political corruption too: “Certain strata are too high for Justice to risk any rock-climbing.” This impressive debut is slick, sick and not for the faint-hearted. The first 30 pages contain what must be one of the most shocking scenes ever committed to paper.
It’s no surprise that Norek renders this area so pungently — he lives here and, as an ex-cop, he has personal engagement with the criminal side of the city, something he has already channelled into the gritty French TV series Spiral. Norek’s hard-bitten flic, Capitaine Coste, is autobiographical and something of a failed romantic in the face of a hostile world. With bodies that sit upright on the mortuary slab, spontaneous human combustion and manifestations of vampirism, this is not conventional crime. Reading this full-throttle piece is both a troubling and an exhilarating experience.