Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

Total Chaos by JEAN-Claude Izzo

Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo

French crime fiction

Translator – Howard Curtis

Original title – Total Khéops

Source – Review Copy

Early on, in this blog I reviewed on of Izzo’s   stand alone novel by Jean-claude Izzo ,A sun for the dying that wasn’t a crime novel ,I really fell for Izzo prose style ,he was very good at atmosphere .So when the offer to review the Marseilles trilogy came from Europa editions , as part of their new imprint World Noir ,I couldn’t say no .Jean-Claude Izzo was born and died in the  City of Marseilles ,He was initially sent to technical school in Marseille as he was an immigrant ,but then took a job in the book  shop got involved in a movement for peace  involved in the catholic church  called Pax Christi   ,then he did his military duty  in 1964 in France and Africa during this time he started to write for a military paper and published his first novel in 1970.This book was published in 1995 Europa have published five of his books in English .He died sadly in 2000

The gun .A present from Manu , for his twentieth birthday .Even then , Manu had been a bit crazy .He’d never parted with it ,but never used it either .You don’t kill someone like that .Even when you were threatened .That had happened to him a few times , in different places .There was always another solution .That was what he thought .And he was still alive .But today he needed it .To Kill a man

Manu was always the wayward on in the group of friends .

Well Total chaos follows three old friends Ugo ,Manu and Fabio ,these three all grew up on the streets of Marseilles close almost you could say blood brothers , but as they grew there lives took different paths Ugo and Manu were drawn to that dark underbelly that the city is well-known for and joined a gang ,on the other hand Fabio went into the police and is now a detective .Then Manu is killed ,Ugo who has been living away from the city comes back to find out who killed his friend and does and in that classic gangster way like in the bible for  it’s a body for a body  in Ugo’s view ,but he is captured by the police in what seems to be a bit of a set up , then steps in Fabio ,like his friends he is an immigrant child of this dark city  . Fabio is drawn by a promise the three boys made to watch out for one another no matter what feet he treads on or what rules he may break ,this draws him into the dark heart of the city he lives in as he finds who wanted  his friends dead !

The aroma of coffee woke me .That was something that hadn’t happened in years .Since long before Rosas getting her out of bed in the morning was no easy matter .Seeing her get up to make coffee was little short of a miracle .Carmen maybe ?

Izzo is so good at setting the scenes in the book places and smells .

Well I thought I try this book  before I get to the latest big French Crime Novel Alex ,because Izzo is considered the father of the modern French Noir novel .This book lives up too that our hero Fabio is a flawed man .We have a women Lole she is maybe the classic femme from a classic noir film two of the men have been involved with her .Then we have the city itself and in this book it is a character ,Izzo is the master of setting the city comes alive as a place of dark corners seedy cafe and bars ,inhabited by a cast of what seem like extras from every gangster movie you’ve ever seen .You come out of  the other side  of the book wanting to know  where the story goes in the next two books ,but also feel like smoking a packet  Gitanes,having a glass of wine in one of the seedy bars in the background .

Have you Read Izzo ?

Do you have a favourite Noir novel ?

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Guy Savage
    Aug 24, 2013 @ 17:06:36

    I’ve read the trilogy and really liked it. There’s an excellent film version of the trilogy: Fabio Montale starring Alain Delon.
    Can’t say that I have one favourite noir novel but Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze is right up there.


  2. MarinaSofia
    Aug 24, 2013 @ 18:06:11

    I loved the trilogy – if anything, I would say the second book is even better. Really sad. I’d like to get hold of the film as well.
    I am fond of French and Italian noir. I’ve recently read Massimo Carlotto. Also, Pascal Garnier’s ‘The Panda Theory’ and ‘How’s the Pain?’ are small (short) masterpieces.


  3. phildange
    Aug 24, 2013 @ 18:11:17

    Maybe you should try several books by a woman called Fred Vargas . I say several because the oldest are a bit different . Her main hero is a police commissaire, a dreamer called Adamsberg . Very peculiar and very French, in a way most foreigners don’t know .


    • winstonsdad
      Aug 24, 2013 @ 18:14:57

      Gav of gavreads is a fan of her books I will try and find the early ones at my library thanks


      • Guy Savage
        Aug 26, 2013 @ 00:28:54

        I second the Adamsberg books by Fred Vargas. I liked the first one and just read the latest: The Ghost Riders of Ordebec which was excellent. Adamsberg is a very quirky character and the novels are lighter and amusing.

  4. phildange
    Aug 24, 2013 @ 18:56:56

    Err… i wasn’t clear : the latest are my favourites . Everything with Adamsberg, and before that, everything with those she calls the 3 Evangelists .


    • Emma
      Aug 26, 2013 @ 20:33:47

      I’ll second the recommendation : Fred Vargas is fantastic. The Three Evangelists are excellent and Adamsberg is quite a unique character.


  5. Brian Joseph
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 02:57:25

    I would not mind having a glass of wine in one of those seedy bars…

    Though stories of childhood friends ending up on both sides of the law is familiar, this really sounds like fun. It is also good to hear that the characters are complex.


  6. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 09:48:27

    I imagine them starting out with a glass of pastis, at least that’s the tradition that continues today. Marseilles is a fascinating city, both on the outside and its seedy underbelly. I can’t wait to add this trilogy to my TBR, essential reading for an almost local, me thinks!


  7. gaskella
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 10:34:58

    Ooh! I have vol 2 on my shelf – can’t wait. It seems that French crime is taking over from Italian, which took over from Scandi, this year.


  8. Caroline
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 14:14:10

    I still haven’t read Izzo yet but your review tells me I should as soon as possible.
    I’ve just ordered Alex as well. Hope you’ll like it.


  9. Emma
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 20:35:36

    I’ve never read him but I should.
    In addition to Fred Vargas, I’d recommend Jean-Patrick Manchette.

    PS: fun and bordering on noir: The Fairy Gunmother by Daniel Pennac.


  10. Tony
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 12:23:35

    Not a big fan of noir/crime, but glad you enjoyed this one 🙂


  11. Max Cairnduff
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 10:58:57

    I’ve read this and loved it. I plan to reread it as I haven’t read the two sequels and want to, but I think it would work best if I didn’t separate them out too much in time. Like you I was very impressed with his ability to evoke places and smells and suchlike.

    As for my favourite noir – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Horace McCoy. The espresso of noir fiction, hell the ristretto of noir fiction.

    I’d second Emma’s recommendation of Jean-Patrick Manchette by the way.


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August 2013


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