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What connects the brutal murders of Antwerp prostitutes to the melancholy and sinister canvases of Paul Delvaux and the films of Harry Kümel, director of lesbian vampire shocker Daughters of Darkness?

Cult US film director Johnny Vos is making a low-budget biopic about the Belgian surrealist artist Paul Delvaux. He hires women from Antwerp's red light district and from a nearby internet voyeur house as extras in order to recreate the poses of Delvaux's sleepwalking nudes.

When two prostitutes end up murdered, their bodies found with videos of movies by Harry Kümel, English film critic Frank Warner, in town to interview Vos, turns investigative journalist and becomes personally involved when his own girlfriend goes missing.




‘Beautifully written... I salute Royle for his sound effects and reportage, for his fine prose, and for his love of cinema’
Roger Clarke, Independent



‘Atmospheric tour through the streets, squares and creepy abandoned buildings of Antwerp... The novel has a pleasing texture and impressive depth of inquiry into the darkest nooks and crannies of human pathology... Pungent writing... Terrific thriller... The denouement is both frantic and chilling’
Matthew Lewin, Guardian




Antwerp, a gory but erotic thriller, uses the language of cinema to tell its complicated story, using rapid cutting between scenes and characters both to provide pace and keep the reader off-balance... A chilling and exhilarating read’
Peter Guttridge, Observer



‘Royle takes great narrative and structural risks... In a lesser writer such tricks would be disorienting, but it is an indication of Royle’s growing skill and maturity as a novelist that he exploits them to produce a story of real tension. Antwerp shows Royle at the top of his game, a master of the literary thriller’
Ian Critchley, Zembla




‘Royle pulls off some spectacular effects — narrating the psychopath in the second person is a creepy, clever device’
SB Kelly, Scotland on Sunday




Antwerp is a literary thriller, rich in references to European film and art, with a strong narrative... A stylish contemporary story, refreshingly different... wry humour’
Cath Staincliffe, Manchester Evening News




‘Though grounded by Royle’s use of real-life characters, Antwerp is lit expressionistically, with a palette that combines the vulgar neons of the city’s red light district with a silver nitrate glow. Cinema-going has clearly equipped Royle with a keen understanding of the mechanics of voyeurism, and he repays the debt by imitating the grammar of cinema. He crosscuts rapidly while constructing his devious plot... And he uses the second person for the bits about the killer, like those unsettling point of view shots in slasher movies that implicate the audience’
Laurence Phelan, Independent on Sunday




‘The Belgian port turns sinister in this mesmerising blend of surrealism, satire and thriller... Uncanny, stylish and elusive: a fictional answer to the strangest art-house noir’
Independent




‘A mystery set in Belgium’s second city may sound unpromising, but Royle paints it as evocatively as Raymond Chandler’s LA... A trip into a world of sleaze and surrealism that will have you wiping your hands on your trousers. It’s good to see a crime writer from these shores turn his eyes to Europe, not America’
James Hundleby, Jack




‘The deftness with which subtle nuances of personality are captured is a hallmark of Royle’s work... Few killers in the annals of crime fiction combine the mundane and the bizarre to such telling effect, making the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates seem almost two-dimensional by comparison... Another joy of the book is Royle’s assured sense of atmosphere, the skill with which he brings to life the abandoned buildings and isolated places that are the stage set on which his cast act out the drama, so that the reader can sense the decay and the hint of an emptiness at the heart of modern civilisation itself... this complex and absorbing novel, a work of ambition that will reward several readings’
Peter Tennant, The Third Alternative




‘A satisfyingly atmospheric thriller’
Chris Power, Times




‘This accomplished novel is highly readable and is especially memorable for its strong sense of place... Royle has also succeeded in convincingly depicting a visual artist through fiction, something few novelists have ever really done before’
Philip Hamer, City Life




‘It’s rare to find a novelist who appeals to fans of both serious literature and crime fiction. He’s the only writer I’d happily describe as a cross between Iain Sinclair and Ian Rankin... Both Royle and his books are weird but engaging. Just when you think you’ve got the picture something flares up and obscures it. Antwerp is both serious entertainment and a page turner. Both the book and its author delight in unnerving and surprising the unwary. You have been warned’
Stewart Home, Big Issue in the North




‘Royle writes with a dark intensity... This intelligent author has created a thrilling and complex murder story with a sophisticated structure, detailed descriptions and numerous references to film and art. Not that his aim is simply to impress the reader; his references have a purpose. What binds the artists to the other characters is their fascination for the beauty of decay... Antwerp is a thriller that honours the World Book Capital’
John Vervoort, De Standaard




‘In Nicholas Royle’s latest novel, Antwerp, truth and fiction, fact and fancy, become intertwined so imaginatively that each twist in the plot gives us a unfamiliar glimpse into our own familiar world. The narrative thread unravels itself and reforms into a Moebius strip of ever-increasing ingenuity. As images and events turn back on themselves, the drama develops, the plot tightens — and the reader turns the pages faster and faster to keep pace with the headlong rush towards a satisfying resolution... Not surprisingly, given the location, diamonds play a crucial part in the story, and provide a clue to Royle’s sense of narrative structure. At one point he details the art of their cutting: “The cut is all important. The goal is to cut the stone in such a way that the light goes in and is reflected off as many facets as possible before coming back out again.” ... The novel is told by the characters themselves as they experience it, in a series of intercut narratives related in the first, second or third person. Nobody knows the whole truth; even the parts they are uniquely privy to are always, in diamond-speak, “flawed”... When cutting diamonds, things can go wrong: “Cut it badly and the light can get trapped in the stone, making it appear dull and lifeless.” Royle, however, is a master craftsman. In his hands, Antwerp is a novel that glitters with its own imaginative truth’
Ron Butlin, Sunday Herald




‘Like all his novels, it hovers between genres in a realm where noir is less a matter of mean street gestures than a moody state of mind... One of the things Royle does excellently is portray the inner life of contemporary urban intellectuals; one of the reasons for the game of genre is that he wants to do this without getting stuck in the Hampstead or campus novel rut’
Roz Kaveney, Time Out




‘Nobody writes novels quite like Nicholas Royle. Nobody else’s novels have this extraordinary texture: full of bizarre cultural reference points, but always shaped into something coherent and accessible by his natural gift for storytelling — a gift that few of his contemporaries can rival. His books are a tonic for our jaded palates. After reading this one I almost bought a ticket to Antwerp’
Jonathan Coe




‘Whether Antwerp is a literate thriller or thrilling literature or — most likely — a combination of both, among other things it’s an irresistible meditation on the movies, and all the memories and madness they evoke and inspire. Nicholas Royle is a novelist for our time, writing in the no-man’s land between the image and the word, where the Old World is confronted by the New and the 20th Century seeps into the 21st’
Steve Erickson
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