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Monday, October 12, 2015

Styx by Bavo Dhooge

Simon & Schuster, 304 pages, $25, c2014, translated from Dutch by Bavo Dhooge and Josh Pachter (U.S. ed. release date - 11/3/15)

Raphael Styx is one of the most unusual police detectives around. Once he becomes a zombie, his hellish last name fits him better, even though it makes the detecting more difficult. As a blood-coursing human, he was a poor excuse for a man: a gambler, an adulterer, a cop on the take. As a zombie, he has a noble goal and higher purpose: to catch the serial killer who murdered him before he kills again. Styx’s poignant journey also becomes a way to help him admit what an awful person he had been to his colleagues and family.

“The Stuffer” is so called because he eviscerates his victims and plumps up the bodies with sand or some other substance. He then poses his victims artistically — after all he is from Ostend, an area that has served as inspiration for generations of artists.

Styx is one of the detectives assigned to find the killer, but he has made little headway during the six months he has had the case. Just his bad luck to catch the killer, only to be killed himself — initially — by the killer.

Although the resolution of “Styx” is based on pure, dumb luck rather than stellar detecting, it was hard not to be captivated by Styx’s thought processes and Dhooge’s ability to paint a vivid picture of a dead man walking — and dropping putrescent bits of himself along the way. Despite the grotesqueries, there is an inspirational quality to Styx’s newly discovered humility and desire for redemption.

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