New Treasures: Styx by Bavo Dhooge
This flourishing sub-genre of undead detective fiction? I like it. Recent examples include Tim Waggoner’s zombie detective saga The Nekropolis Archives, Stefan Petrucha’s Dead Mann series, Stephen Blackmoore’s Eric Carter books, Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest, Simon Kurt Unsworth’s The Devil’s Detective (a detective in hell), and Ian Tregillis’s Something More Than Night (a detective in heaven).
Bavo Dhooge’s Styx promises an intriguing spin on the zombie detective. Rafael Styx is a corrupt Belgian cop who is gunned down in pursuit of a diabolical serial murder. In death he meets the famous nude painter Paul Delvaux, who gives him his first real clue… and Styx finds his cop instincts won’t let him rest. Returning as a zombie (with an inconvenient taste for human flesh), Styx takes up the case again. Even death won’t stop him from capturing his murderer.
Bavo Dhooge is one of the most acclaimed crime novelists in Belgium. This is his first book to be published in English. It has received some excellent notices — Sandman Slim author Richard Kadrey said “Imagine Dashiell Hammett sending Sam Spade into a dark, off-kilter world of artists, zombies, and serial killers.”
Here’s the book description:
A serial killer is on the loose in Ostend, Belgium. Nicknamed The Stuffer, the mysterious killer fills his victims full of sand and poses them as public art installations — and the once idyllic beach town is in a panic. The fact that Rafael Styx is on the case is no comfort. The corrupt, middle-aged cop has a bum hip, a bad marriage, and ties to the Belgian underworld, but no leads. And if he wants to catch the killer before he’s replaced by the young, ambitious, and flamboyant new cop, Detective Delacroix, he’ll have to take matters into his own hands.
When a chance encounter puts him face to face with The Stuffer, Rafael’s life is cut short by a gun to the chest. But the afterlife has only just begun: Styx wakes up a zombie. Gradually he realizes his unique position. Not only is his body in decay, now that he exists between life and death, he can enter a “different” Ostend, of the Belle Époque in all its grandeur. There he meets the surrealist painter, Paul Delvaux, who gives Styx his first clue about the killer.
With a fresh lead and a fresh start, the dirty cop decides to change his ways, catch The Stuffer, and restore his honor. But as his new hunger for human flesh impedes his progress, he’ll need his old rival, Detective Delacroix to help him out. Only one thing is for sure, even death can’t stop Styx from catching his own murderer.
Styx was published by Simon & Schuster on November 3, 2015. It is 293 pages, priced at $25 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.
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That’s the first undead detective story I’ve thought I would want to read. What an amazing premise. The Stuffer’s modus operandi is a bit off-putting, though, for a horror-challenged reader like me.
Also, I had to go find out what kind of name Bavo Dhooge is. As with Nictzin Dyalhis, the urge to run it through an anagram generator proved irresistible. The most undead-relevant of my findings were “Above God Oh,” “Have Bod Goo,” (will travel?) and “A Bod Veg Oho,” which sounds like something one saucy zombie detective might say upon discovering another.
> Also, I had to go find out what kind of name Bavo Dhooge is. As with Nictzin Dyalhis, the urge to run it through an
> anagram generator proved irresistible.
I see that Sarah Avery’s detective skills are as sharp as usual. Is there a fantasy mystery in your future, Ms. Avery?