Posted: June 11, 2013 in Book Awards, France

51Jx542D48L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_Alex, a beautiful but insecure young woman, is kidnapped off the streets of Paris and bundled into a white van. She is forced to strip and put into a wooden case, a cage, situated in an abandoned warehouse. Commandant Camille Verhoeven, a detective of Napoleonic stature 4’11’, is given the investigation. Camille has returned after a lengthy absence from duty, trying to recover from not surprising severe traumatic stress, after his pregnant wife Irene was kidnapped and found murdered; so this is a particularly difficult assignment for him. As the vital hours go by the desperate race to find Alex before she too is killed becomes frantic. Camille taking the situation very personally has no leads and wonders why has she been kidnapped and by whom?

It’s a hell of an odd team though, thinks Camille. On the one hand you’ve got a kid who’s a rich as Croesus, on the other a miser worthy of Scrooge McDuck. 

There is quite a lot of violence in this book, and a particularly unpleasant description of an unspeakable act, which is perhaps necessary to explain the plot.

But despite this it would be a worthy winner of the International Dagger, because the team of detectives are interesting characters. And more importantly the clever plotting means that nothing is quite as it seems. 

Even when you’re not altogether with it, seeing Louis and Armand standing next to each other is a trip. Louis in his grey Kiton suit, Stefano Ricci tie, Weston brogues; Armand dressed from a clearance sale at a charity shop. Good grief, Camille thinks, staring at him: he looks as though he buys his clothes a size too small to save that much more.

This novel with its multi dimensional plot takes you on an exciting switchback ride that ultimately produces a form of justice. I don’t want to say any more about the plot because the pleasure of reading this book is seeing the detectives  gradually uncover the facts, while you also accompany Alex on her difficult journey.

I can’t wait for Pierre Lemaitre’s next book featuring Camille Verhoeven to be published in the Spring of 2014.

Author Pierre Lemaitre is a teacher of literature and a multi award winning crime writer. Alex is his first book to be translated into English, and confirms my opinion that, while some Scandinavian crime fiction of average quality has been  published over the past few years, we may have missed some top level crime writers from other countries. Well done Quercus, for bringing us Pierre Lemaitre’s Camille Verhoeven. 

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – I’m very glad the characters are well-drawn here. And it sounds as though the novel includes a solid ensemble cast, so to speak. I’ll have to put this on the list for when I’m ready to handle a book with some real violence in it.

    • Blighty says:

      So is it a really nasty book in terms of violence? I have a fairly strong stomach but certain things do upset me – couldn’t bear that Chelsea Cain Sweetheart book for instance. But possibly because it was a bit poor. Back in the day I actually enjoyed American Psycho but nowadays…I did really like Gone Girl.

      • Blighty says:

        Norman, thanks for your guidance on this! I have been very brave and ordered it from the library – Is it ok if I call you at 3am when I am too scared to sleep? Oh – ok…fair enough…

  2. Norman Price says:

    Margot and Blighty- I think the violence is integral to the plot, and explains the action taken by characters. I don’t want to be more explicit as this would be a spoiler. Is it really nasty? No.
    It is only a small part of the novel, and I would not be surprised if it won the International Dagger because the characters and plot outweigh the violence.

  3. kathy d. says:

    Omigod, I don’t think I can read about a woman in a cage. It was hard enough to read Mercy, The Keeper of Lost Causes over here. And another woman kidnapped and murdered.
    I’d have to skip that whole part of the book.
    It’s too bad that the violence descriptions are so graphic? Can’t the reader just be told without descriptions? We have imaginations.
    This may send me back to Nero Wolfe, Precious Ramotswe, Donna Leon, other authors who don’t include this level of violence.

  4. Am trying to grab this from the library before the dagger winner is announced – may have to cover my eyes for some bits though 🙂

  5. […] at Raven Crime Reads), at Novel Heights (suzigun), at Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog (Keishon), at Crime Scraps Review (Norman), at Crime Fiction Lover (MarinaSofia), at A Work in Progress (Danielle), at Crime Thriller […]

  6. […] up the book as well as I could. Have a look at The Independent, Words Beyond Borders, Eurocrime and Crime Scraps. Suffice to say, I agree with them all. It’s a book to be read and savoured. However, once […]

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