I have a confession to make… as excited as I was for this book I wasn’t sure if it could live up to its strapline: ‘written with the pace and controlled violence of the very best Tarantino film.’ Well guess what? I was wrong!
Three Drops of Blood and a Cloud of Cocaine really is something else. The writing is terse and witty, the pacing immaculate and the books’ atmosphere extraordinary. The plot purports to be based around the murder (and the solving of the murder) of Jim Henderson, who is found dead and mutilated in his pick-up truck. But the real heart of narrative is its descent into the minds of Paul McCarthy, local sheriff and a family man, and Franck, a private detective from New York.
Franck is a deeply complex and at times unfathomably motivated character who, for me, resembles American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. As a protagonist he makes this book utterly compelling, playful and quite, quite frightening – he frequently quotes philosophy or literature (mostly Joséphin Péladan) and has a penchant for puns, mind games, metafictional reflection and the darkest of dark humour.
Mankind may be ugly, and pitiful, but there’s no denying that there’s something comical about it!
He is an unusual hero, even for the crime genre, but more often than not I found myself more interested in what Franck might do next than who the murderer was – he is the undoubted star of the novel.
However I do have a soft spot too for Sheriff McCarthy, the more traditional (in all senses) lawman. Whilst not a sensational character, like Franck, he is surprisingly profound at times; he takes both his job and his family life seriously but struggles to reconcile them and there’s real torment in his thoughts and actions:
He is especially apprehensive of these silent hours when the abysses of insanity and alcoholism begin to open up yet again beneath his feet. They devoured his parents. He knows they threaten him as well. My life, he sometimes tells himself, is basically a struggle against my own leaning toward disorder, my own heredity. The drug dealing, the organized crime, are secondary. The neatly trimmed hedge, the mailbox, and the shiny floor are a valid defense, but there are times when this approach no longer seems adequate.
Quentin Mouron is a writer who is assiduously self-aware. As well as Franck’s reading habits and artistic sensibilities, Mouron treats the reader to a healthy smattering of Dostoevsky, Georg Lukács, Maurice Blanchot and Witold Grombrowicz. His own evident knowledge of crime literature enables him to expertly manipulate the genre conventions, to great effect.
Franck is as cognisant as his author and delights in shocking whatever company he finds himself in with his opinions and knowledge. During a dinner party discussion about the murder, he scandalises his new acquaintance by asking:
“It’s wrong to kill your neighbor?”
“Do you find that ridiculous?”
“No, I find it charming. It’s just that I think there are certain people you can kill.”
Now, I obviously can’t talk about the ending – although I really want to! – but, just when you think things have wrapped up rather nicely, it comes clanging down upon you and is every bit as trippy and hilarious as it is mind-blowing. All I can say (except what I just said) is that, after that exit, I really hope Franck returns for a sequel…