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The Empire of the Wolves    by Jean-Christophe Grange order for
Empire of the Wolves
by Jean-Christophe Grange
Order:  USA  Can
Ecco, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

French author and independent international reporter, Jean-Christophe Grange, has written a unique mystery of complex intrigue - The Empire of the Wolves (translated from the French by Ian Monk).

Anna Heymes, wife of high-police official Laurent Heymes, undergoes medical tests. She experiences a loss of mental ability in recognizing photos of certain faces, specifically her husband. Neurologist Eric Ackerman diagnoses a lesion on Anna's brain, but she refuses his recommendation of a biopsy. Anna has told no one of the symptoms she is experiencing - amnesia, hallucinations, forgotten names, distortion of faces, and black and white dreams of horror. Anna suspects that people in her life have changed their appearance through plastic surgery. Upon close inspection of her own face in the mirror, Anna is shocked to see lines of facial scarring, and flees from her husband, determined to find out what is happening to her, and who she really is.

Detective Paul Nertreaux requests retired detective Jean-Louis Schiffer's assistance in the investigation of the vicious torture and murder of three Turkish women. Schiffer, a brilliant detective with a questionable past, points to a Mafia connection, involving the smuggling of Turkish immigrants. The victims, with look-alike faces, all worked as seamstresses in underground shops. Grange's storyline shifts back and forth between past and present to give readers the main characters' backgrounds. At times, this feels disruptive to the flow of the story. Just when the reader thinks he or she is on track, it diverts to new places and faces. But when one thinks the story is going nowhere, WHAM, the author rivets the attention once again.

The characters eventually merge on the streets of underground Paris and in the sordid periphery of Istanbul. Don't assume you've figured this one out. Its ending will astound and shock you! I recommend The Empire of the Wolves to those strong at heart.

2nd review by Mary Ann Smyth:

Anna Heymes slowly comes to the realization that she no longer recognizes her beloved husband's face. Tests fail to prove that a brain lesion is causing this and other anomalies and she runs away rather than submit to a brain biopsy. This is where the story line takes a distinct turn to fully test the credibility of the reader. Somehow this wild tale of Turkish terrorists, brainwashing, mutilations, killings, illegal aliens, and a Turkish godfather works.

This fourth novel by Jean-Christophe Grange has been translated from the French. Don't know if his others have been translated. Other than the occasional use of the word 'phalanges', the translation is excellent. The fast-paced action kept me hopping to keep up. The characters were fully engaged at all times. Anna's flight to recover her identity is cleverly crafted and ends in complete surprise. As a matter of fact, most of the action ends in complete surprise at almost every turn.

For a thriller guaranteed to keep you on the edge of the chair or with your bedside light on all night, read The Empire of the Wolves.

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