New climb in the bestseller charts for the author of ultra-black super thrillers, with narrative rivers of blood and cruelty, which only the mastery of the Ile de France writer can make his readers, indeed, passionate followers, endure.
Jean-Christophe Grange has been in Italian bookstores since October, with The marble maskpublished in the translation of Doriana Comerlati and Giuseppe Maugeri by Garzanti (2022, series “Modern Narrators”).
It is the publishing house that holds the rights to Grangé for Italy, from the fateful The rivers of purplepublished in 1999 and second in the personal bibliography, after The flight of the storks of 1994 (in Italy in 2010).
Starting with the blockbuster thriller and up to The altar of fear (2020), the Milanese brand has published the fifteen previous titles by the sixty-two-year-old journalist and screenwriter, as well as a very good storyteller from Boulogne-Ballancourt, south-west of central Paris.
In a meager biography, on the flap of the cover where the surname Grange stands out as usual with characters much larger than the title of the novel, the Garzanti editorial staff merely underlines that he is the author of novels that have expanded the boundaries of the traditional thriller.
After his debut in the nineties, he came to fame thanks to the film The rivers of purpleby Mathieu Kassovitz, based on the novel of the same name, starring Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel and the first of several adaptations of his works for cinema and television.
After all, it suffices to add that he studied at the Sorbonne (degree and master’s degree in literature) and worked as a reporter for important newspapers, in France and beyond (also Sunday Times, National Geographic). The first novel was appreciated more by critics than by the public, success came with the second, a masterpiece, awarded almost ten years later with the Grinzane Cinema 2007best book from which a film was made.
The new book The marble mask was released in France with the title Les promisesthe dreamers, we’ll see why.
Meanwhile, it takes place in the Berlin of the late thirties, devoted to Führeruncompromising in discriminating against the inferior Jewish race and invaded by the symbols of Nazism: flags, banners with the runes of the SS, eagles and swastikas.
The first protagonist we know is Simon Kraus, one of the most capable psychiatrist of his generation, who prefers to introduce himself as a psychoanalyst and opens the studio only to women. A handsome man, very handsome, also very short, but terribly short. His diversity has pushed him since adolescence to sharpen his wit, to distinguish himself from his peers who stretched out, while he remained to look at them from below. In a small body, a beautiful head led him to shine professionally, though not morally. He stays, without even paying the rent, in the apartment granted by one of the clients, Leni Lorenz, wife of a banker who manages the Aryanization of assets stolen from Jews. They also made love in the confiscated furniture store, where she accompanied him to choose the furniture. The Berlin lady keeps it. Little, beautiful Simon is a bit of his cocotte, but he doesn’t care.
Not only is he a gigolo, he blackmails his patients and even takes them to bed, in spite of any professional ethics. Greta Fielitz is one of the most attractive women in the capital, the wife of a Saxon aristocrat. She had turned to him for some symptoms of depression and he slowly pushed her to reveal her recurring dreams of her, anti-Nazi nightmares in which she pours a latent hostility towards the regime. With dr. Kraus, who secretly records all sessions with her patients on her records, the young woman had let it slip that her husband, a Prussian aristocrat close to the party, despised Hitler, “the Bohemian corporal”. Simon had threatened to contact the Gestapo, leaving Greta with the dilemma: confess to the count that she was consulting a psychoanalyst or pay. He had chosen the second option.
The second we know is instead a giant, with a swastika on his arm and an identification plate of the Gestapo, the political police. Grim, ruthless, brutal man, with a growth trauma related to his father, severely gassed in the First World War and committed to a mental institution. Good-looking colossus, but with a defect in the muscle of his right eye which forces the upper eyelid to half open, Captain Franz Breewen informs Kraus of the misfortune that has occurred to one of the patients. Margarete was murdered. Slaughtered, eviscerated. The killer sadistically removed the entire pelvic region, including the reproductive organs, and took off his shoes. One would say a psychopath who likes to play with the shoes and the entrails of the victims, because there are two, before the twenty-eight year old there was Susanne, killed and abandoned in the same painful conditions. Other patient.
Simon spends the night listening to the recordings of the women who had dreamed of the Marble Man. Susanne Bohnstengel: “Stiff as a rock, he looks like an angel of death straight out of a grave”.
Margarete Pohl: “he has a dark green marble face furrowed by black and white veins, a mask that hides his face, leaving his mouth free”. Also Leni Lorenz: “tonight, he returned. Behind a desk, he was stamping one sheet after another, raising his arm well above his head. Each time, the table shook”.
Why all those dreams so similar? Kraus’ science could be said to be very useful for the investigations ofhauptsturmführer Brewer.