Friday, March 14, 2014
Review of Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo (Europa Editions, 2005, first pub 1995)
Total Chaos is the instalment in Izzo’s Marseilles Trilogy featuring Fabio Montale. First published in 1995 it is said to be the originator of ‘Mediterranean noir.’ The strength of the story is its very strong sense of place and time, with Izzo placing the reader in the complex social geography of the Marseilles and its mix of immigrants, stalling economy, racial and class tension, corruption, and its sights, sounds, smells and taste (especially food); it's a city he clearly loves despite its tensions and problems. The characterisation is well realised, with a fairly large cast of players. The story itself, however, is a little too complex, entwining two separate plotlines, relying on a couple of plot devices to do so, and overall it feels a little too contrived and with too many cliches in terms of the characters and plot. As a result, I was never quite captured or captivated by the story. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting enough noir read, with a very strong sense of place.