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Solea: Fabio Montale's solemn last dance
on 11 January 2011
"Solea" is a fitting title for the third and final volume of Jean-Claude Izzo's "Marseilles Trilogy". Solea is a form of Flamenco music that tends to center around a melancholy self-examination of life, love and death. Readers who have already worked their way through Volumes I (Total Chaos (Marseilles Trilogy)) and II (Chourmo) of the Marseilles Trilogy know that food and music provide a powerful backdrop for the life of Fabio Montale, the `star' of the trilogy. So when Montale sits down and listens to Miles Davis perform Solea (from Davis' Sketches of Spain LP) at the beginning of the story I went online and listened to that performance and its haunting sounds stayed with me until I finished the book.
As Solea opens, Montale seems to have settled into his retirement from the Marseilles police force. He almost seems content, or at least as content as Montale is ever likely to be. But death has a way of finding a way to the door of those near to Montale and in short order Montale is tossed into crime and punishment Marseilles-style. It seems his former lover and long time friend Babette is on the run from organized crime. A reporter, she has dug up enough information about the mob and its dealings in Marseilles and throughout Europe, to warrant her being silenced. She has apparently managed to hide herself away and the mob decides to start killing Montale's friends until he agrees to find Babette, bring her back to Marseilles and turn over the incriminating data. The rest of the story takes us through Montale's search for Babette through a final confrontation with her stalkers.
The plot line itself may sound formulaic and even trite but in the hands of Jean-Claude Izzo it works remarkably well. By the time the reader gets to Solea (and I do think the books should be read in order to get the full value of the stories) he or she will have a pretty good feel for Montale and his friends and for the city of Marseilles. Montale, like his creator, is a creature of Marseilles. He was born and raised there and there seems no doubt that he will never leave it. As with the first two volumes the city comes alive; the sights, smells, and people of Marseille seem almost real from one page to the next. So yes, the story line does come across as a bit tried and true but its setting saves it. Izzo also has a habit of putting in a few extraneous characters that come in to and fade out of the story in a sometimes confusing way. But again, the character of Montale, the very real feeling of empathy one gets for him as the trilogy progresses makes the occasional dangling character or story line seem less bothersome.
All in all Solea is a fitting conclusion to the Marseilles Trilogy. As with any good series I was sorry to see it end. However, anyone who finishes Izzo's trilogy may want to have a look at the television series based on the book and starring Alain Delon. Fabio Montale
The Marseilles Trilogy was well worth the time invested in reading the three volumes. Highly recommended.