Written by Frank Thilliez, translated by Mark Polizzotti — Almost a year to the day since the events chronicled in Thilliez’s earlier book Syndrome E, a terrible tragedy has driven a wedge between Franck Sharko and Lucie Henebelle’s fledgling romance. The two police detectives, both damaged in some way, began a tentative romance when thrown together investigating a suspicious movie related to a number of violent murders. Following the trauma of losing a child, Lucie left the force.
Franck, seemingly free of the psychosis that caused him to hallucinate during times of stress, has thrown himself back into work – the work that both fascinates and repulses him, guilt forcing him onto a path of self-destruction.
Events conspire to bring the pair together again. Franck has been investigating the death of a graduate student, Eva Louts, which has bizarre echoes of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue. The researcher was killed in one of the pens at a primate centre, and teeth marks on her corpse suggest her attacker was an ape. Forensic investigation quickly rules this out, but the mystery only deepens.
Franck discovers she was neglecting her PhD thesis in favour of her own secret research exploring a possible link between left-handedness and violent behaviour. Her studies took her to the dangerous prisons of Mexico, to the Alps where a melting glacier has revealed a prehistoric murder scene, and to the Amazon rain forest of Brazil. But she was also investigating closer to home, and when Franck finds she visited Gregory Carnot, the murderer of Lucie’s little girl, in his prison cell, he knows he’ll have to face his demons and interview Carnot too.
Franck doesn’t want to tell Lucie about this development, no matter how much he misses her. Not only is he scared of Lucie’s wrath, but he’s afraid of encouraging her obsession with crime. When Carnot commits suicide in his cell before Franck can interview him, he relents and brings Lucie into play. The pair begin an off-the-books investigation with Franck determined to keep Lucie on a short leash. They agree that he will look into the South American angle and Lucie will visit the Alps.
Ultimately the pair will follow the trail to a text book about DNA by an infamous French obstetrician and advocate of eugenics. The secrets hidden within, if deciphered properly, contain the code to an inhuman conspiracy spanning generations.
Syndrome E, the first Sharko and Henebelle thriller, was a writing tour de force; incredibly tense and action-packed, populated by complex characters who changed and revealed more of themselves as the story progressed. Thilliez discussed with authority sophisticated ideas about science and behaviour, especially in relation to the nature of violence.
In Bred to Kill, many of these strengths remain. The old argument about the role of nature versus nurture is perhaps more explicitly explored here, and again the research is of the highest standard. Some quite complicated biology is discussed, about evolution, DNA, retroviruses and the human genome. Yet, it is never dry, and presented clearly and without confusion for the layman. The psychological symptom of dissociation, where the traumatised mind denies what it cannot accept, again makes an appearance.
What’s missing is a sense of threat or menace towards its protagonists. In Syndrome E, the killers hunted the cops just as they were being hunted, and it made for a very exciting game of cat and mouse. The threats in this book – Lucie being caught for impersonating a police officer, while Franck is investigated by his old boss – don’t carry the same menace.
That aside, Bred to Kill is a gripping thriller mixing action, investigation and science. It’s well worth your time and money. It can be read on its own, but I suggest you read Syndrome E first to get full enjoyment.
Bred to Kill is released 14 January. Read our review of Syndrome E here.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars