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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Bred to Kill

Franck Thilliez

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To purchase Bred to Kill

Title: Bred to Kill
Author: Franck Thilliez
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 372 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Bred to Kill - US
Bred to Kill - UK
Bred to Kill - Canada
Gataca - Canada
Bred to Kill - India
Gataca - France
Monster - Deutschland
Gataca - España
  • French title: Gataca
  • Translated by Mark Polizzotti

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Our Assessment:

B : far-fetched stuff, but suspenseful

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly A 3/11/2014 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Aside from the occasional genetics lecture that slows the action, this shines as a thought-provoking, brilliant piece of speculative fiction. Thilliez plumbs humanity’s dark side without relying on familiar conventions of plot and character." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Franck Thilliez's Syndrome E concluded with a gut-wrenching cliffhanger, and Bred to Kill opens with the gut being completely wrenched. Things do not turn out well. In August of 2009, the two damaged detectives Lucie Henebelle and Franck Sharko were on the cusp of perhaps getting their worlds a bit in order, and starting a promising relationship -- only to find the world again shattered.
       A Prologue quickly ties up the major point where Syndrome E left readers hanging, and then the novel proper begins a year later. Lucie and Sharko haven't been in touch, both utterly devastated by what happened. Lucie, in particular, has fallen apart, quitting her police job and now working in a call-center. But Sharko, too, has uprooted his life, quitting his position as a chief inspector in the Behavioral Analysis section of the Violent Crimes Unit in order to go back to working in homicide, accepting the demotion to "simple police lieutenant" it took to make the move.
       Two violent deaths bring Lucie and Sharko back together: the imprisoned murderer Carnot, who: "ripped open an artery in his throat with his bare hands", and graduate student Eva Louts, found dead in a chimpanzee cage in a primate research center. Both deaths seem straightforward -- if unusual -- but it soon becomes clear that the chimpanzee wasn't the one to kill Louts. And there's a connection between the two: Louts visited Carnot shortly before her death.
       Lucie quickly realizes:

I'm still a cop deep down. You can't deny your true nature, no matter how hard you try.
       Which is pretty much the theme of the book, which deals a great deal with DNA and character traits -- including left-handedness, lactose intolerance, and something much, much worse.
       In looking into the deaths of Louts and Carnot from different ends, Lucie and Franck are thrown together again -- and, as Lucie, reminds him soon enough:
     "We're the same, you and I," added Lucie. "We have to follow things through to the end, no matter what the cost."
       The trail leads to a mysteriously missing Cro-Magnon corpse (complete with the entire record of its DNA profile) that had only recently been discovered, and to a scientist specializing in obstetrics and genetics. A possibly mad scientist who: "even lives on Rue Darwin. You can't make this shit up", as one of the investigators notes. But, of course, Thilliez can -- and as for the scientist: the past tense applies, since first Lucie and then Sharko find him also brutally murdered.
       The scientist did leave a clue behind, hidden in a book of his whose title, The Key and the Lock, truly applies -- "seven different genetic fingerprints". Scary fingerprints.
       Soon Sharko is a rogue cop too, taken off the case -- but, of course, he doesn't let that stop him:
The official investigation is headed off in one direction, but the two of us are convinced the answers lie elsewhere.
       Sharko and Lucie don't always communicate as fully or as quickly as they should, causing a few problems, but on the whole they make quick headway (and manage an even quicker personal ... rapprochement), figuring out the genetic nightmare behind all this. Retracing Louts' footsteps leads them even to the deepest jungles of Brazil -- though other problems arise, briefly separating them, with each going to follow a different lead (which actually works out for the best). The loose ends are neatly tied up. Just as significantly, as Lucie notes:
     We've been through the same suffering, Franck, and we've both kept running, each on our own. But today we're running together. That's the most important thing.
       At the root of the many deaths is a nasty killer gene, and some nasty scientific experimentation. It's rather far-fetched (pretty preposterous, if looked at bit by bit) -- as are quite a few of the pieces of the puzzle along the way -- but Thilliez sustains sufficient suspense throughout: Bred to Kill is an effectively gripping thriller.
       Thilliez also offers one neat surprise twist that works very well, as it is only revealed far into the novel exactly how hard a time Lucie has had in dealing with her personal tragedy. And Thilliez also sets the stage for his sequel, with Sharko having clearly been set up for a crime which he did not commit -- a trap that misfires, but which obviously isn't the end of that story, as someone is clearly out to frame./get him.
       Thilliez paces Bred to Kill very well, and even the far-fetched science isn't so far over the top as to really annoy. It doesn't stand up to closer scrutiny, but Thilliez's thriller is packed with enough quick-moving action and emotional resonance that readers aren't too likely to pause for much of that sort of scrutiny anyway.
       A good, dark, fast read -- and a considerable improvement over Syndrome E.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 Janaury 2015

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Bred to Kill: Reviews: Franck Thilliez: Other books by Franck Thilliez under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Popular French author Franck Thilliez was born in 1973.

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