Polar – Maxime Chattam: race against monsters


“Qwhen you fight against monsters, you have to be careful not to become a monster yourself. aphorized Nietzsche. A lesson to remember for the cop Ludivine who is tracking Charon. This is how we baptize the killer responsible for a first mass grave of 17 women murdered in the 1980s, the sex lined with a decapitated bird’s head… If your heart is already on the edge, skip your way. Chattam, the 46-year-old Valdoisien and almost as many novels, returns to his favorite theme: the factory of evil. By a vertical descent into its lair, and its history. The police investigation must go back in time, while in the present it is a question of saving Chloé, a young mother from the hands of the psychopath who, like Edmund Kemper or Hannibal Lecter (that’s the name of the dog), ” objectifies women” and is excited by their fear before crushing them. Deviance with a capital D.

The Constancy of the Predator,by Maxime Chattam (Albin Michel, 448 p., €22.90).

The extract that kills:

The mangroves stood out in front of the rising moon, intertwining shadows quivering in the warm early evening breeze.
A piece of carob rolled from cheek to cheek in Ludivine’s mouth, making her salivate.
A well-deserved vacation, far from the furious metropolis, a necessary break before the big change for Ludivine Vancker. Yet even at rest, an investigator remained an investigator, and her obsessions continued to haunt her slowly, as if to better simmer a cathartic revelation.
The young woman stared at the mangrove tree in front of her terrace on stilts, fascinated by the trellis of roots that raised the tree above the black water, like an army of spidery legs in the night.
A plant monster, she thought. Impassive, watching its prey, ready to close its claws at the slightest movement.
When it comes to monsters, Ludivine knew a lot. In all their forms. From the most abominable to those whose smile could deaden mistrust, the worst. She had dissected them, explored them from every angle, so numerous, testimonies of the savage wounds that most had suffered during their childhood. We are not born monsters, we become one. Cruelty is the virus of humanity, highly contagious, especially on tender psyches under construction. It breaks to better establish itself, causing irreversible damage. It destroys and replaces, like a computer program, without qualms, without hesitation, implacable. Obviously, inhuman treatment corrupts the essence of the victim, scratches the fragile shell of all soft matter, cures it, cleanses it, and replaces the void with what it is itself: inhumanity. Monsters are born in childhood.
On this, however, Ludivine had a doubt. Were there not some examples of absolute perverts who hadn’t necessarily had a hellish childhood? Weren’t there some of these demons who, from an early age, had behaved tendentiously, even downright deviant? Yes. Ludivine had even come across some. As if Evil had been born with them, implanted in their fibres, spreading with each muscle, each bone, each part of the growing cortex… They were rare, but they existed, to the point of opening another hypothesis. After all, cruelty had to emerge from somewhere for it to begin to spread.
Ludivine was still watching for the roots of the mangrove tree and the black abysses hidden at the bottom. Did the world harbor a share of primordial vices? Vestiges of a primal abnormality, or simply of something fundamentally wrong whose scents continued to permeate men with more or less influence?
She stood up and spat the piece of carob into the mirror of darkness below. No sooner had the fruit hit the surface than a shape shot out of the water and swallowed it before disappearing, leaving only a timid ephemeral wave.
This is what we are.
Ludivine observed the vegetation all around her luxurious room of planks and thatch which shone in the darkness.
Nature stridulated, undulated, cackled. She continued her course, without worrying about the young woman, or what would become of her, except for the day when she would turn into potential food, when death would seize her. Ludivine doubted. Would she be up to her next mutation? All her years in the Paris research section of the gendarmerie, working on non-standard cases, building unwavering ties with the teams, was she ready to give it up?
She shook her head gently, a lucid smirk on her face.
That’s not what I’m leaving the problem. It’s knowing if I’m ready for what’s to come, if it’s such a good idea…
She who wondered so much about the nature of the evil was going to dive into the heart of the reactor, as close as possible to the monsters. In monsters.
The Department of Behavioral Sciences, the DSC – the profilers, as the press dubbed its members.
She was transferred there, with the encouragement of the general who, moreover, directed the judicial pole of the national gendarmerie; it was not yet official, but his exploits in the SR of Paris had given him some indiscretions. Effective job start in a few months, time to finalize the paperwork and say goodbye to his family.
The real problem was Nietzsche. And his famous reflection on the porosity of the mind in the face of destruction: “He who fights monsters must be careful not to become a monster himself. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you. Ludivine knew her by heart. She had experienced this, she had even undergone it. Deep trauma. Recent for some. To the point that she had closed herself off, protected herself by cutting herself off from her emotions, to the point of wanting to become a war machine, expert in hand-to-hand combat, shooting, enduring in running marathons, insensitive to her injuries, to the life bubbling below. The armor had cracked, little by little, and she had had the emotional intelligence to accept her flaws, to the point of nurturing them, of fully embracing them to bring back to her the woman she really was, with her doubts, her fears – if not her terrors – everything that made her a human being.
Now that she knew her weaknesses, her still gaping crevices, was she capable of confronting the ultimate predators, so eager to detect them, to rush into them?
I have the strength to protect myself precisely because I know my limits. And because I have frequented some closely. Closely.
It was the least we could say. But she got over it. And damn it, they weren’t all potential Hannibal Lecters either! We had to stop mythologizing them, most of them were just losers, sick people with limited IQ…
However, there were some much more dangerous, and Ludivine knew it. She had rubbed shoulders with that genre. Precisely, I know what awaits me, I am ready to answer it.
Behind her, the bay window slid open and Ludivine turned to make out a slender, sporty figure.
– Aren’t you coming to bed? asked Marc in a soft voice.
Ludivine liked his intonations. The bass of his throat, its modulations within a single sentence, like a single, almost imperceptible accent. A day will come when I’ll get annoyed with it, or I’ll want to tell him to speak normally every time he opens his mouth, she thought harshly. Wasn’t that the obvious predictive dynamic of love? Everything that seduces us one day ends up repelling us the next…
She was immediately angry with herself for being cynical, she had no right to start screwing everything up under the pretext of an alleged lucidity. Love is tolerance, she repeated to herself in these moments; if she couldn’t experience the second, then she would never fully experience the first. Love is above all to manage to convince yourself a little each day that it is possible, to succeed in not letting yourself be plagued by bad thoughts as I have just done.
“I’m coming,” she blurted out.
Marc slipped away behind the curtain and Ludivine returned to the nocturnal cacophony of nature that surrounded her.
A last burst of candor before the lights go out.
The problem wasn’t in her fear of the injuries she might take from confronting the most devious serial killers in the country, no, it was smoky to believe that. No more than in her fear of becoming the Ludivine in armor again, without feelings. If that had still been her mode of protection, she would have already fallen back into her sarcophagus, after what she had endured last winter, but she had passed it. She took care of herself, alert, and in a way, Marc was a balm on her traumas.
No, what tormented her to the point of preventing her from sleeping was the reason why she wanted this job. Why so ardently desire to plunge into the heads of monsters? What did that say about herself? What fascination could there be in that? What was she trying to understand by wanting to dissect the twists and turns of the worst perverts on a daily basis? Because Ludivine had used all her reputation to go to the DSC. She had insisted on her ambition to go during her management interview, she had lobbied the Office of Personnel Officers to get what she wanted. And against all odds, it had worked.
Suddenly, all the chanting of insects and batrachians fell silent, as abruptly as with a switch. Silence enveloped Ludivine, who was still standing on the edge of the terrace. A long, silent form was now floating a few meters away, and the young woman was certain of it: there had been nothing a moment earlier, the thing had just risen to the surface and was peering at it from its black water. . Ludivine couldn’t make out his eyes, yet she felt them resting on her skin, capturing the palpitations of blood just below.
You want me to jump, right?
Ludivine noticed her bare feet just on the ledge. How high was it? Two meters ? Barely.
The resort staff had strongly insisted: “Above all, do not go near the water, never, under any circumstances, it is as magnificent as it is dangerous. Even to go to breakfast or go back to the room from the main building, you had to call an attendant who led the way. Marc had joked, skeptical, it was for the folklore of the place, according to him.
But the thing that floated in front of Ludivine and probed her was not folklore, not with its eighty teeth and a jaw pressure exceeding one thousand five hundred kilos per square centimeter, when only one hundred and fifty are enough to break a human bone.
Ludivine took a half step forward, until a third of her feet were above the void. She felt the wood under her arch, almost warm, then the caress of cooler air under her toes.
The thing remained motionless. You wait to know what drives me. Am I one of those who can offer myself to death when the latter presents itself?
The two beings stared at each other, one in the chiaroscuro of its promontory, the other almost invisible, deceptively calm, ready to burst out at the slightest weakness.
Ludivine stepped back.
– Sorry my friend, not tonight.
The thing was still staring at her, she could feel it. Ludivine smiled at the irony of the situation. She saluted the beast below.
– Thank you for this evidence, she whispered to him.
Silence.
Then the water fell back on the long thing which sank into the depths. A second later it was as if she had never existed.


Polar – Maxime Chattam: race against monsters