Zombie cop returns from the grave to hunt down the serial killer who gunned him down.
Belgian crime novelist Dhooge takes a seemingly straightforward concept for this genre-bender but applies an interesting surrealist patina to his detective story. The novel opens on the title character, homicide detective Raphael Styx, who is a man of many complaints, to say the least. In addition to his stressful job as a cop in Ostend, Belgium, he has a combative wife, an indifferent teenage son, and a failing hip that has him relying on painkillers and sedatives to get through the day. Styx is confronted with a series of baffling and gruesome murders of women who have been savagely mutilated and filled with sand by a serial killer dubbed “The Stuffer.” Styx believes the killer imagines himself an artist of some twisted vision. “The bastard’s trying to be the next Banksy,” he tells his boss. One night the killer confronts Styx, calling himself Léon Spilliaert after one of Ostend’s long-dead surrealist painters. “I thought you’d all forgotten about me and gone onto other playmates,” he taunts. “A true artist has to make himself heard from time to time. He’s got to get through to the stupid zombies who waste their lives staring at a computer screen. In this society we’ve created, he can’t afford to lock himself up in an ivory tower.” When he awakens after being shot in the chest three times, Styx is quite dead yet still motivated and determined to track The Stuffer down using his deductive powers along with the help of a young rival cop and the occasional intervention of other figures inspired by Ostend’s storied surrealist movement. The result is an atmospheric, noir-tinged tale about a stubborn cop who just won’t quit, even if he is dead.
A very strange police procedural that could be a fun diversion for readers whose appetites for certain genres overlap.