Why would a vicious, nihilistic and crooked detective hang around to investigate the apparently motiveless though sadistic murder of a petty criminal? Why would the murderer, having slit his victim’s throat, switch to a different scalpel-like blade to slice the man’s eyeballs and remove his tongue? Enter a cocaine-imbibing sociopathic and bewilderingly successful detective named Franck to plunge into the case uninvited, partly for the hell of it and partly to outrage and alarm the local citizens.

For the most part this is a fast-paced and amusing read. It does include too many pensive pages on the psychology of demonic crime (yes, it was originally written in French) but it whips along at a giddy rate until it crashed into a suitably cocaine-fuelled denouement in which the author seems as stoned as his protagonist, having forgotten that despite all the metafictional musing and French ratiocination a detective’s only object, psychologically or physically, is to match the right murder to the right killer. That’s what Mouron’s weary cop McCarthy says. And that’s what crime readers want.

Three Drops of Blood and a Cloud of Cocaine

Quentin Mouron (translated from the French by W Donald Wilson)

Bitter Lemon paperback, £8.99, 978-1-908524-83-6

Russell James

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