Thierry Jonquet was a French crime writer who died in 2009 at the age of of 55. Tarantula was published in French in 1995 under the title Mygale and was translated into English under the same title in 2003 and under the title Tarantula in 2003.
Tarantula has three separate plot lines. The first is about Richard, a world famous plastic surgeon, who keeps a woman locked up in a room and verbally abuses her via an intercom system. She is let out to attend social functions with him and to be put in degrading situations. The second is about a young man who is held captive and tortured by a mysterious captor. The third centers around a criminal on the run after a robbery goes wrong and leaves a cop dead.
Though it is expected for these story lines to cross there is an impact to be had in how they come together so I won’t get into plot mechanics here.
Tarantula was filmed in 2011 as The Skin I Live In. I would recommend avoiding other reviews and the clips and trailers of the movie available on Youtube so that the full power of the reveals can be felt.
Revenge lies at the heart of Tarantula and the final act is shocking in the best way possible. Tarantula is a short novel and has all the power that the best fiction has packed into it’s 124 pages.
Tarantula also plays with and directly confronts ideas of gender, sexuality, identity, submission, abuse, transformation and how the lines of these can shift.
The internet has allowed the readers of noir fiction to more easily find it. And the practitioners of noir more direct access to their audience. It also has allowed a certain dilution of the term as more and more personal brands of noir are developed. In this age of noir self identification the notion of the true black novel can be lost and reading one can be an unexpected pleasure. Tarantula is a true black novel and a tour de force of psycho-sexual noir and shouldn’t be missed.