THE HEART OF DARK­NESS

Four writ­ers of crime fic­tion that will thrill and chill.

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - CONTENTS - By SAB­RINA CHAM­P­ENOIS Pho­to­graph JUER­GEN TELLER

THE VI­TAL EN­ERGY OF JA­NIS OTSIEMI

(!Édi­tions Ji­gal!) —Li­bre­ville, the cap­i­tal of Gabon, where Ja­nis Otsiemi, 38, bases his nov­els, has it all: nepo­tism, an­cient be­liefs, and a gap­ing so­cial di­vide that is to­tally un­jus­ti­fied in a coun­try that has con­sid­er­able raw ma­te­rial re­serves. Wheel­ing and deal­ing is rife, not to men­tion AIDS. And yet, Otsiemi’s writ­ing has a fresh vi­tal­ity, full of proverbs and lo­cal ex­pres­sions. Take the ti­tle of one of his books, “The mouth that eats doesn’t talk”, or the “sec­ond bureau” used to de­scribe women kept by mar­ried men, or “a La­coste” for a crocodile recipe. His colour­ful poetic, baroque style pro­vides a head–on con­trast with the sys­tem he denounces. His lat­est novel, Le Chas­seur de lucioles (#lit­er­ally “The Fire­fly Hunter”#) fo­cuses on the mur­der of a num­ber of pros­ti­tutes. “The ru­mour that a mad­man was killing women in mo­tels to take their cli­toris and of­fer them to politi­cians as fetish ob­jects, spread through the city like wild­fire.” The reader is to­tally im­mersed in the Li­bre­ville un­der­world, where the heat is on, both phys­i­cally and metaphor­i­cally. At the end of the day though, the over­rid­ing en­ergy puts up a sur­pris­ing re­sis­tance in the face of ill–for­tune.

ROGER SMITH CAP­TURES SOUTH AFRICA’S

DARK SIDE

(!New Pulp Press!) A white South African born in Jo­han­nes­burg and now based in Cape Town, Roger Smith is a film di­rec­tor and pro­ducer, who ini­tially worked in doc­u­men­tary films. It shows in his books, which are ex­tremely visual and fast–paced. They are all ex­tremely vi­o­lent, phys­i­cally and morally. And the South Africa that emerges is a boil­ing mix­ture of neu­roses, post–Apartheid so­ci­ety run through with racism, cor­rup­tion, and de­gen­er­acy!… Take his fourth novel Cap­ture. In a chic, white sub­urb of Cape Town, a young girl drowns, although her par­ents are nearby. The fa­ther is stoned and the mother is cop­u­lat­ing with her lover in the kitchen. A black man, Ver­non, an ex cop, could have in­ter­vened. But Ver­non is toxic, rot­ten. He chooses to push the cou­ple fur­ther un­der, with the help of the beau­ti­ful Dawn, a for­mer junkie, a sin­gle mother and go–go dancer — hence the sul­try night scenes, and rut­ting Afrikan­ers. An adren­a­line rush and a sti­fling feel­ing of op­pres­sion guar­an­teed.

JOHN BUR­DETT, A BRIT IN

BANGKOK

(!Corgi Books!) John Bur­dett is a Bri­tish cit­i­zen, and for­mer business lawyer, who has been based in Bangkok since 1996, although he also has a house in France near Ca­hors. His hero, In­spec­tor Son­chai Jitpleecheep, knows the low life of Thai so­ci­ety like the back of his hand, and with good rea­son: his mother now runs a “bar” and has been known to en­ter­tain a few farangs (!Western­ers!) in her time. Son­chai has never met his fa­ther, an African–Amer­i­can GI. The over­all set–up — pros­ti­tu­tion, drugs, or­gan trafficking, etc. — could pro­duce some very murky, sor­did, run–of–the–mill thrillers. Par­tic­u­larly as Son­chai Jitpleecheep works in Dis­trict 8, where the ten­sion is higher than any­where else in the cap­i­tal. But Bur­dett has a fab­u­lous weapon, which he wields with calm dex­ter­ity: a sense of hu­mour. Ide­ally it’s sar­cas­tic, some­times sur­re­al­is­tic. The reader de­lights in Son­chai’s ex­is­ten­tial — and of­ten dope–fu­elled — ques­tions on life, death, good and evil. (!He reg­u­larly ad­dresses the reader di­rectly, for ex­am­ple: “Al­low me to rec­om­mend the hum­ble bud, to help with med­i­ta­tion, but also with po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions. It’s not very ef­fec­tive when it comes to de­tail, but it gives a fan­tas­tic over­all pic­ture.” There should be a spe­cial men­tion for two of his col­leagues, his boss, Colonel Vikorn, and his deputy Lek. The for­mer thinks he is Don Cor­leone, but be­haves like Mr Bean, and is one of the big­gest mafiosi in the re­gion. The lat­ter is a slen­der trans­gen­der, who is ex­tremely re­li­able. Bur­dett’s thrillers are ex­otic and philo­soph­i­cal.

NESBØ, THE NOR­WE­GIAN MASTER

(!Vin­tage Books!) Ah! Norway, the so­cial–demo­cratic mir­a­cle, the ex­em­plary Scan­di­na­vian wel­fare state, a cosy, egal­i­tar­ian coun­try with abun­dant oil re­serves!… In 2011, the Utoya mas­sacre per­pe­trated by the ex­trem­ist An­ders Behring Breivik made a def­i­nite dent in Norway’s pic­ture–per­fect im­age. But then, for sev­eral years now, Scan­di­navia’s darker side has come to the fore in a raft of Nordic crime nov­els by writ­ers such as Swe­den’s Stieg Lars­son (!Mil­len­nium!) and Ice­land’s Ar­nal­dur In­dri­da­son (!Jar City!). In Norway, Jo Nesbø, a for­mer eco­nomic jour­nal­ist, and singer–song­writer with the Di Derre group, is still the reign­ing king of crime fic­tion. Dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and wan­der­ings of his de­tec­tive Harry Hole, an an­ti­so­cial al­co­holic, but a good cop, a du­bi­ous, dan­ger­ous side of Oslo emerges. The city is un­easy with its past — Nesbø was writ­ing about far–right move­ments be­fore Utoya — and driven mainly by money. The set­ting is per­fect for all kinds of trafficking, drugs in­cluded, and has been since the 1970s. In his two lat­est nov­els, drugs go un­der the de­li­cious name of Fi­o­line: “A syn­thetic drug. It has less ef­fect on breath­ing than heroin, so even though it de­stroys lives, there are fewer over­doses. It’s ex­tremely ad­dic­tive. Ev­ery­one who tries it comes back for more.” The Rus­sian mafia, known for its de­light­ful meth­ods, holds the mar­ket in its grip and in­un­dates Oslo with it, es­pe­cially at night. The lo­cal po­lice also has its fin­ger in the pie. One of its mem­bers pays the price, meet­ing an end wor­thy of The Si­lence of the Lambs.

VH

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