Saturday, May 12, 2007

The conclusion of the Marseilles Trilogy

Solea, the third volume of the Marseilles Trilogy by Jean-Claude Izzo, continues the melancholy, violence, love, and beauty of the first two volumes but adds Sciascia-like documentary material that grounds Izzo's portrait of the Mafia in actual contemporary history. Fabio Montale, the cop and then former cop who is the center of the series, is pursued by death throughout the novel. Babette, a former girlfriend has been investigating the mafia, and she has acquired some documents that the Mafia wants back--and they're killing Fabio's friends one by one until he finds Babette and hands her over. The plot is simple, but the narrative is complex, with overlapping reminiscences of Fabio's friends dead and alive. And at the center of everything is the city of Marseilles, its light, its changing streets, its mix of ethnicities, and the sea. The trilogy is a powerfull evocation of the city and of a tragedy that only becomes clear in the third volume, with Babette's revelations of the extent of the mafia's penetration into "straight" society and politics. Fabio's melancholy becomes despair, and all those around him are sucked into it. Izzo's language is sinuous and emotional. The novel is rich and rewarding, and its impact is beyond that of most crime fiction.

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