Nicholas Royle has pulled off an enviable feat with "Antwerp", constructing an intelligent, richly-detailed slice of literature that works as a fast-paced, grimly-fiendish thriller whilst also engaging as a vibrant dissemination on life -v- art and the interconnections inbetween. Royle's prose is elegant and flawless, his descriptions of the city are spot-on, and his handling of plot and tension is both intricate and gripping. Whilst readers of his previous books will note familiar threads (abandoned buildings, the surrealist artist Paul Delvaux, abducted girlfriends - and indeed, "Antwerp" is a loose sequel to "The Directors Cut"), all these familiarities engage in such a way that it feels the previous novels have been building blocks to this one. For previous Royle readers the shared experience creates a multi-layered book from a multi-layered author. Unequivocably recommended.
I endorse the other reviews. This is a beautifully written book and deserves a blockbuster-sized audience. It has all the elements of a first rate crime novel but it's so much better written than most in this genre. I'm told that the sequel to this one, 'Rotterdam'is out next year. Can't wait. It should sell millions.
Only Nicholas Royle can take you to a world more seedy than you've experienced, and make it a beauitful place. He manages to be entertaining without being flippant, and renders characters who are, at times, frighteningly real. His best book by far, and that's saying something.
A frustrating book that wallows in received notions of Cool but never comes within a country mile of evoking the kind of response it envies in the works it references and the names it drops. For example: Yes, the films of Harry Kumel are wonderful and mysterious, but attaching that fact like a credential to this novel only serves to point out the chasm between the author's intentions and his own failings as a storyteller.
It's a murder story; it's a kidnap story. It trots out a few Cool ideas about art and death. The author isn't interested in (or aware of) the kind of resonance his book might have attained if he had allowed his characters to be more than types; pieces to be moved around in order to enable his next Moment or Stylistic Flourish. Some of the shoehorning-in of Ideas is done so ridiculously badly that one is left guessing that the writer is an academic of some kind; the Cool one in the staff room who wears a black coat and snorts when people think he's talking about a Matt Dillon film when he mentions "Crash".