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      Quentin Mouron: Three Drops Of Blood And A Cloud Of Cocaine.       

Price: £8.99 Pages228 ISBN: 9781908524836

Bitter Lemon Press

         

Franck is a detective and a half glass empty man.  This hedonistic and jaded jeremiad wants a world where people are interesting, authentic, beautiful and original, something that will make his next precious breath worthwhile.  Inevitably, the human race disappoints him.  Franck being human needs his compensations.  The cloud of cocaine referred to in the book title is mainly around Franck.  This latest thriller from Bitter Lemon Press is top drawer.  The book is original and formidable.  Not everything in Three Drops Of Blood And A Cloud Of Cocaine is flawless.  Although it contains a fabulous surprise the scene in the art gallery is over-extended.  The final seduction between the responsible puritan and amoral pleasure seeker feels glib and unconvincing.  The rest of the book, though, is fabulous.  Fans of the horror genre expect at least two spine tingles from a story or film.  Crime fiction should provide two mouth-dropping plot twists.  Three Drops Of Blood And A Cloud Of Cocaine has them.

Ambitious crime fiction tends to rely on the thriller format when it tilts towards literary appeal.  Three Drops Of Blood And A Cloud Of Cocaine, though, is centred on the mysterious murder of old Jimmy Henderson. The book has an Ed McBain type puzzle.  To dazzle with invention and style in this format is no small achievement.  The clues that confuse represent both mundane ambition and inhibited perversity.  The plot resists familiar mechanisms, and the prose has plenty of style.  The translation by W. Donald Wilson is superb.  The book is a pleasure to read.  The humour is dark and essential to the confusion but is not overdone.  Gangster Le Carré mixes worlds and deserves to be bewildered. 

Franck meets a novelist called James Ellsor.  Crime fans will recognise the sly reference to a famous but overbearing author.

Franck is a fabulous character.  His self-centred hedonism he pursues with the purist dedication of a Zen Buddhist.  It is tempting to think of the book as a mix of dark Patricia Highsmith and a twisted Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Franck is as memorable as anti-heroes Tom Ripley and Anton Chigurh.  Not that Three Drops Of Blood And A Cloud Of Cocaine is a one-man show.   Like Cormack McCarthy, author Quentin Mouron has the ability to create a distinct character in a couple of sentences.  He mixes dilettantes, aesthetes, celebrities, down to earth policemen and low life criminals in a tale that surprises and pretends to wander.  Franck has contempt for everyone.  He also has a temper but then the man does have standards. Author Mouron is also good about things.  He persuades us that the world we inhabit is inherited rather than invented.  The opening description of the pick-up truck of victim Jimmy Henderson mixes precise detail and is first class.   

By Howard Jackson.