Caryl Ferey is an author who deserves more attention than he’s receiving. A French author, he writes dark, violent books about colonized countries and their colonists’ relationships with the native population. The two that have reached the states, Zulu and Utu, prove him a true and important voice in the genre.
Zulu has sold over two hundred and fifty copies in a little over a year at MysteryPeople. Its hero is Ali Neuman, the head of a Capetown police unit of Zulu decent. Having watched his brother and father killed during apartheid and leading a mostly white group of men, he mirrors South Africa. Old wounds open when the bodies of two white women are found with Zulu tribal markings. The search for the killers and the source for a new drug on the streets have Ali and his men moving through the tiers of criminal society; the Tsotsi gangs that roam the city, the Sicilian Mafia flexing their influence, and Western and corporate interests out to exploit South Africa. What starts out as a dark police procedural moves into the territory of a dark political thriller.
In Utu, Ferey gives us a less heroic lead in Paul Osborne, a self loathing, drug and alcohol addicted, washed up ex-cop. He’s called back to duty in Auckland, New Zealand because of his expertise in Maori society. A mass grave of Maoris has been found, all with their femur’s missing (wait until you find out why). The only other cop familiar with the culture, Osborne’s freind and collegue, committed suicide during the investigation. This is just the first thirty pages. Paul is plunged into the dark side of his country, introduced to its demons and putting him face to face with his own.
Ferey’s books aren’t for the faint of heart. He uses depictions of graphic and many times rough sex to define his characters. Not only is his violence brutal, he has a chilling skill of conveying the sense of victimization. One particularly nasty scene in Zulu, featuring a hibachi and a severed limb, will never completely leave your mind.
Ferey uses these elements and a strong sense of character to look at the double edge of tribalism. It can be a place to find oneself, a place Osborne doesn’t have and one that sometimes battles with Neuman’s role as a police officer. It also creates a social chasm both men have to negotiate. Mainly he looks at how certain powers exploit people so that one half of a society can destroy the other for them.
Ferey’s work is epic noir in both scope and style. He delivers a large tableau where societal and personal corruption meet. His heroes tend to take on a suicidal approach to achieve any power over evil. Caryl Ferey starts at noir and ends the trip close to apocalyptic. For those willing to get on board, it is an insightful emotional, and all together exhilarating ride.