cover image Vernon Subutex 3

Vernon Subutex 3

Virginie Despentes, trans. from the French by Frank Wynne. FSG Originals, $17 trade paper (370p) ISBN 978-0-374-28326-1

A cultlike group of ravers who left Paris with their reluctant DJ messiah continue to face racism, economic injustice, and sexual assault in this uneven conclusion to Despentes’s trilogy. The group’s countryside idyll, where Vernon Subutex’s transcendent sounds get them “lit up with no need for pharma,” is disturbed by dissent over what to do about a fortune left by a recently deceased member. Meanwhile, corrupt film producer Laurent Dopalet is stalking Subutex disciples Céleste and Aïcha, both of whom previously branded him by tattoo as a rapist. To find them, Dopalet hires erstwhile Subutex associate Max, who inadvertently sets in motion a nightmarish scene involving Céleste and a brutal pair of Hell’s Angels. In Frankfurt, the devout Muslim Aïcha has been working as a nanny and is pregnant by her employer. This subcultural soap opera unfolds against the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and by the conclusion, the looming specter of terror manifests in sweeping fashion. Throughout, Despentes leans a bit much on cultural conflicts to advance the action, though the characters’ affinity for the music and one another remain palpable. This series ender overreaches as sociocultural commentary, but wins as a paean to the power of rock. (May)