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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Faces of God

by
Mallock


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Faces of God



Title: The Faces of God
Author: Mallock
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 347 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Faces of God - US
The Faces of God - UK
The Faces of God - Canada
Les visages de Dieu - Canada
The Faces of God - India
Les visages de Dieu - France
I volti di Dio - Italia
  • French title: Les visages de Dieu
  • Translated by Tina Kover
  • The first in Mallock's 'Chroniques barbares'-series

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Our Assessment:

B- : solid story-telling, but over-relies on the gruesome, and the payoff falls short

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Just to clear up (?) the name confusion: Les visages de Dieu, featuring a police Chief Superintendent named Amédée Mallock, was originally published under the author-name of Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol. It has since be reissued, as part of a series of 'Chroniques barbares' all featuring Mallock which, though not written in the first person, are being published under the author-pseudonym ... Mallock. Yeah, I don't get it either.
       'Chroniques barbares' sounds about right for the series -- or at least for this book, the crimes that Mallock (the character) investigates about as horrific as it gets. There's gruesome, protracted torture, wholesale evisceration and exsanguination (with one of the puzzles being: "What in the world could the Makeup Artist be doing with all that blood ?"), elaborately staged death-scenes -- and no evidence to be found.
       Originally the case isn't even Mallock's, but when the inspector assigned to the case can't get anywhere, they hand it off to the big gun at 36 Quai des Orfèvres (police headquarters in Paris), the man with his own team in the offices known as 'Fort Mallock'. Mallock is introduced looking worse for the wear, and he has suffered personal tragedy -- the loss of his son. He indulges -- drinking (including on the job, but that seems pretty common here), as well as some recreational drug use -- and he at least has a few friends to turn to. There's also a nurse, Amélie, who attends to his back pains and whom he wants to get to know better. At the office, he's the respected and apparently well-liked boss. He has a solid team around him -- a couple of issues here and there (one is having domestic problems), but basically competent and happy.
       The case they're handed is so horrific that careful tabs have been kept on all the information about it, so that nothing leaks to the press and public, and even Mallock has been kept completely out of the loop. There have been half a dozen "Baroque tableaus" of horror, and more that might fit the pattern -- and more and more, as it turns out that the killer or killers -- nicknamed 'the Makeup Artist' -- have been at this for a very, very long time and have amassed an incredible body count. Meticulous -- there's no evidence left behind that the killer doesn't want to be found, no DNA or anything -- the killer takes his time with his victims, dosing them with a cocktail of drugs (one of the few things that might lead back to identifying him (or her, or them)) and then doing very, very nasty things. The victims seem to have little in common, though they share one small trait -- and stray connections are found by Mallock's team.
       Even before the case is officially handed over to Mallock the next bodies are found. Right in that dreary time between Christmas and New Years. Mallock and his team do all the obvious things in trying to track down who might be responsible, but beyond traditional police-procedural Mallock takes a more mystical approach too -- he has a sense, a feel, and in drug-induced trances or just in plain sleep has some visions of the killer's doings. (This is kind of silly, but the book doesn't go entirely overboard with this, so it is endurable.)
       Naturally, eventually, the killer strikes very close to home and it becomes entirely more personal too. And the more Mallock and his team learn, the bigger the crime-spree seems to become; eventually the FBI show up and offer even more backstory about this über-serial killer. (When we learn Marilyn Monroe was one the killer's victims ... yeah, by that point the story has gone way, way overboard.) Still, points for coming up with a character who they suspect is: "an insane mystic modeled on Bloy" (as in Léon Bloy, who is also the author of the novel's epigraph) -- you don't see that every day.
       Much of The Faces of God is a decent police procedural, the day-to-day interactions and puzzle-solving quite well presented. Mallock and his team and acquaintances make for a reasonably interesting set of characters, even if aspects of Mallock weigh a bit too heavily; it's nice, at least, to see that office politics are not too divisive here (at least on the Fort Mallock-scale -- some superiors of course have their own agendas). The crimes are way too excessive -- The Silence of the Lambs/Hannibal squared or cubed -- and then the killer behind it far too successful (the extent of this crime-spree, both in body count and duration, is ridiculous). Worst, however, is that the payoff simply isn't there: the solution, and then the tying up of the loose ends, is simply anti-climactic. Fine for someone with a handful of murders under his belt, but given the excesses claimed here ....
       Much of the writing is decent, but there are also times when Mallock (the author) still seems to be trying to get his footing -- there's some (or too much ...): "The snow on the ground was in its death throes" and the like. The need to make everything the most and worst, to out-horror even the most horrific crime-writers, doesn't serve the book particularly well: the horror isn't spectacular or unique or novel enough to stand out from much familiar crime-fare, and instead it just feels like he's shoveling it on. Aside from that -- and it's reasonably easy to overlook: 'pure' horror of this sort isn't horrible any longer, juts boring -- The Faces of God is is, for most of the way, a solid thriller.

- M.A.Orthofer, 1 March 2015

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Links:

The Faces of God: Reviews: Mallock (Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol): Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Mallock (Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol) was born in 1951.

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© 2015 the complete review

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