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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "We pulled for you when the wind was against us, 11 Jan 2011
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Chourmo (Folio Policier) (Mass Market Paperback)
and the sails were low. Will you never let us go?" Rudyard Kipling, "Song of the Galley-Slaves"

The title of Jean-Claude Izzo's "Chourmo" is taken from an old Provencal word describing the rowers in Roman galleys. Izzo writes that "In Marseilles, you weren't just from one neighborhood, one project. You were chourmo. In the same galley, rowing! Trying to get out. Together." But the melancholy subtext here is that either by design or fortune (good or bad) all the rowing in the world never gets the characters that inhabit Izzo's world very far from Marseilles. This is not really surprising when you consider that Marseilles never really let Jean-Claude Izzo get away. Izzo was bon in Marseilles in 1945. He died, at age 54, in Marseilles. Chourmo is Volume II in what is known as Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy. Total Chaos (Marseilles Trilogy) is Volume I; Solea (Marseilles Trilogy) is Volume III.

"Chourmo" reintroduces us to Fabio Montale, Montale, now retired from the force, is content to listen to his music and work on his cottage overlooking the bay he swam in as a child. But his cousin Gelou, asks him to find her son who snuck out of the house one night to see a girl and who has not returned. Montale next sees an old friend gunned down in a low-income housing project. The rest of the story is devoted to resolving how these two seemingly parallel story lines play out. Along the way we are exposed to the many social forces that shape the nature of crime and punishment in Marseilles. Izzo, looking through the eyes of Montale, takes us into a world of corrupt police and politicians, organized crime, and an immigrant population struggling for acceptance in a world in which they are less than welcome.

As has been noted in other reviews the parallel plot lines and the many secondary characters introduced by Izzo diminish some of the force of the story line. In that sense Volume II was not quite as effective as Volume I in terms of sharpness and clarity. However, Izzo's powerful portrayal of Montale and of Marseilles itself more than made up for any flaws in the storytelling. Montale is powerfully drawn and by Volume II I was `sold' on his character. In the best series the reader can get into the head of the main character and Izzo makes it hard for any reader not to get sucked into viewing the world through Montale's eyes. And Marseilles as portrayed by Izzo is a special place. At the end of the day I think a reader's feeling about Chourmo (and the other books in the trilogy) will depend on whether or not they like the idea of a city playing a central role in a story. It worked for me. Izzo does a remarkably good job of giving the reader a sense of place. You can almost feel the dark streets and smell the aromas of the cafes in the harbor as you read the book.

Chourmo is a good story and the enjoyment of reading it was heightened by Izzo's ability to make the "idea" of Marseilles so central to the story.
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Chourmo (Folio Policier)
Chourmo (Folio Policier) by Jean-Claude Izzo (Mass Market Paperback - 8 Mar 2001)
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