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Utu by Caryl Ferey
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Utu means “revenge” in the Maori language and revenge is certainly at the crux of this police procedural by French novelist Caryl Férey. When disgraced New Zealand detective Paul Osborne—self medicating on booze and drugs in Sydney, Australia—learns that Jack Fitzgerald, his only friend in the Auckland force, has committed suicide in the middle of an investigation involving the Maori community, he agrees to return home to pick up where his friend left off. A specialist in Maori culture, Osborne does not believe that Fitzgerald killed himself and once established in Auckland sets out to prove it, doing whatever it takes. Osborne has fixations other than Fitzgerald and getting high, one of which is Hana, a Maori girl he grew up next door to whom he savagely betrayed when she failed to return his affections and whom, as the investigation proceeds, he fears has been drawn into a militant Maori sect. The story is complex and involves official corruption, mass graves, drug use, sado-masochistic sex, grisly Maori ritual killing, and a great deal of brutality, mostly on the part of Osborne. This is a problem because Férey wants us to sympathize with Osborne on his quest to prove Fitzgerald’s death was no suicide, to save Hana, and to get to the bottom of a mystery that as we turn the pages claims an astounding number of lives. And yet he makes his hero not just a compulsive boozer and drug addict but also something of a sociopath who hurts others unrepentantly and uses them to achieve questionable ends without giving much thought to what happens to them. This, along with the unremitting violence that fills page after page of this long narrative, finally has a deadening effect on the reader, who might very well continue turning pages, but not because of any twinges of compassion for a protagonist whose bad behaviour in the end has made him loathsome. ( )
  icolford | Jun 5, 2014 |
Billed by the publishers as part of their "World Noir" category of books, I found myself drawn into the dark, gritty, unflinching story. Osbourne (our cop and leading character) is anything but likeable. He is rude, obnoxious and travels with an overnight bag filled with drug paraphernalia - speed, opium, grass, cocaine, acid, PCP, amphetamines, morphine, ecstasy and even some heroin - not clothing and toiletries like a 'normal' human being. Osbourne also suffers from periods of blackouts - probably caused by the ongoing chemical cocktail he subjects his body to - which makes discovering what is going on even trickier, when Osbourne comes to in settings that would disconcert if not totally freak out most people. The story is somewhat sparse on scenery descriptions, but more than makes up for it by carrying and maintaining an overpowering feeling of negative emotions. Dark, troubling emotions. Nasty emotions. The plot is well managed and I really appreciated how Osbourne would, from time to time, tally all of the evidence like a checklist, to see what was missing or what didn't add up. That helped me as much as it helped him! The reason I read this one was for the Maori angle of the story. The explanations of Maori culture, and the reason behind the choice of "Utu", a Maori term for revenge, as the title gives this otherwise run of the mill Noir crime story a different angle for me to appreciate the story from. Some of the Maori language used through out the story left me a little confused (not all was translated for the reader) but that wasn't a hindrance to following the story.

I should probably mention that according to LT, UTU is book two in the Jack Fitzgerald series, book one being Haka. I have not been able to find Haka translated into the English language anywhere, but I think it is safe to say that the two books are probably only connected by the New Zealand Noir crime setting and reference to the character Jack Fitzgerald.... kind of hard to have a two book series if your main character is dead before book two even starts.

Overall, a solid read that I flew through, considering the page count, and will be on the lookout for more English translations of Férey's works. ( )
  lkernagh | Jul 24, 2013 |
Dark, dirty, despairing. Somehow that's not going to stop me from making a run at -Zulu- next. ( )
  kylenapoli | Mar 14, 2012 |
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