Irene – Pierre Lemaitre

After the delightful pleasures of this author’s first book (see here for my review) there was an inevitable sense of trepidation on securing his second. Could he keep up the high standard?

In short, the answer is yes. But this is no formulaic follow on. Instead, it’s a fresh – almost classical – tale of the forces of law and order racing against time to identify and apprehend a serial killer.

First, we have the well drawn and intriguing character of Commandant Camille Verhoeven.

Second, we have the plot which ties this book by way of homage to some of the all time classics of crime fiction. (One of these is Laidlaw by William McIlvanney. This provides a short detour for Verhoeven to visit Glasgow and allow the author an accurate snap sketch of the city, its people, and the weather. And a tribute to McIlvanney.)

Third, we have the writing itself, which is measured and lacking in pretension. It is let down by a couple of shoddy editorial slips, but to balance that I must thank translator Frank Wynne for his superb contribution.

Finally, we have the author’s stylistic flourishes which mean that although he delivers a cracking story, it’s neither neat, nor wrapped up in an easy to consume package. There are some passages that are deliberately opaque, some shades of grey and one or two loose ends.

Maybe the fist book still wins out by a whisker, but this is a great crime book. It is violent, nasty, and clever. How good is it? Well, I almost cannot wait for the next one to be available.

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