Blood Wedding – Pierre Lemaitre

Sophie is slowly going mad. Those around her are suffering, some fatally, and there seems no way out of the nightmare. But will things get worse when she goes on the run?

This is a white hot novel, full to the top with suspense and twists, and rushing along at a frantic pace. There’s a lot to recommend here, including the carefully weighted portrayal of Sophie, and the slick plotting. It’s a story well told, and well worthy of your time. Highly recommended.

Camille – Pierre Lemaitre

After thoroughly enjoying parts one and two, I was looking forward to the final part of the trilogy about Commandant Camille Verhœven. I was not disappointed.

After the events of the second book, Verhœven is out of action for a while. He returns to work, and a woman becomes part of his new life. Anne Forestier suffers badly from wrong place, wrong time syndrome when she walks into the start of a raid on an upmarket jewelry store in Paris. Beaten and shot, she survives, but seems doomed by being able to recognize her attacker. And the attacker wants to do something about that, even if the poor woman is in hospital with a police guard.

For Verhoeven, this is a call to action – including trampling all over the rulebook – to protect the woman he loves, and hunt down the attacker before it is too late. The action begins, if you will excuse the pun, with a bang, and keeps up a right royal rhythm.

Verhœven’s character carries virtually the whole burden. There are some fine moments of pathos as we are reminded of Verhœven’s relationship with his late mother, and his interactions with the world as an undersized overachiever.

The surrounding characters rarely make a significant impression. Anne Forestier is an exception, as is the loyal policeman Louis. And the glimpses we get inside the attacker’s head are wickedly warped, and entertaining in a truly macabre fashion.

As is usual with this author, the plot doesn’t go, or end up, where you expect, and the surprises are part of the feel good factor. The writing is a joy – kudos again to translator Frank Wynne – in delivering a heartfelt portrayal of love, evil, and endangerment.

If this interests you, do read the books in order to get the best out of them. Then form an orderly queue to petition the author for more Verhœven stories.

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.

Alex – Pierre Lemaitre

After the disappointment of the Republic of Thieves, this was a welcome surprise – a very, pleasant surprise. It is a modern French crime novel, featuring another of those defective detectives that inhabit this literary genre: Commandant Camille Verhœven. The detective, a man on the short side of average, is sent to investigate a kidnapping of a girl off the streets of Paris. No name, no evidence, no ideas. But when he does make progress, it’s the start of twist upon twist.

I won’t give any plot spoilers, but I will say that this story starts off in one direction and then takes a sudden change. And there’s more. It’s an exquisitely unwrapped plot, with fine writing, good characters, great pacing, and a thoroughly satisfying read.

The only disappointment? This is the only one of the author’s books available in English. However, more are coming.

In short, read it.

Score: 8/10.