Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez – translated from the French by Mark Poliotti

The detective in Syndrome E is a paranoid schizophrenic. While solving cases he is constantly accompanied by his hallucinations of his deceased six-year-old daughter. She is not giving him hints to help solve the case but acting like a six-year-old: crying out for attention; becoming sick at the sight of bloody crime scenes; complaining that she wants her father to play with her, feed her candied walnuts, take her home.

The detective, Frank Sharko, both wants her to leave him alone and to stay with him. He’s not ready yet to give up the little girl he lost along with her mother years ago.

Lucie Henebelle, the second detective, it’s common for this type of crime thriller to have an unlikely team of detectives, is a single mother off twin girls–one away at camp, the other in the hospital recovering from a long illness.

Together they face a gruesome series of crimes involving multiple victims on three continents; a mysterious lost film that contains scenes which cause literal, if temporary, blindness in some viewers; and a decades long conspiracy to locate and control the parts of the brain which enable violent actions.

All this sounds like a good time to you, or it probably sounds a little silly. I thought it was both. There was a lot of disbelief that needed to be suspended for my taste, but what the heck, I was entertained enough to play along. I had a good time, too.

Syndrome E is a fast-paced book, designed to be a page-turner which it was as far as I’m concerned. After my Bassett hounds, Foucault and Hugo, woke me up at midnight Sunday night, I decided I may as well go ahead and finish the last 100 pages which I did before one in the morning when I went back to bed.

I even had enough fun that I would read another book featuring Franck Sharko if he hadn’t been cured of his schizophrenia by the end of the book. Being followed by an active hallucination was the thing that really made him interesting for me. Many crime fiction readers rightly complain about the prevalence of the psychically damaged detective–they’re everywhere these days–but that was the one thing that really made Syndrome E a standout thriller as far as I’m concerned.

Cured, I don’t think Inspector Sharko would be all that interesting.