"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Monday, August 4, 2014

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre (crime drama book review)

Author:  Pierre Lemaitre
Published:  2013
Publisher:  MacLehose Press
Distributed in US and Canada by Random House Publisher
Pages:  375 including A Note on the Translation and a Glossary
Genre:  Crime fiction/drama
Source:  borrowed

*Awards:  CWA International Daggar Award Winner: Best Crime Novel 2013

Alex Prevost--kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage--is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die. Will hunger, thirst, or the rats get her first?

Apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. The diminutive and brilliant detective knows from bitter experience the urgency of finding the missing woman as quickly as possible--but first he must understand more about her. 

As he uncovers the details of the young woman's singular history, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful. Before long, saving Alex's life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven's considerable challenges.

This is the second book in a forecasted trilogy, the first book was titled Irene and was the introduction to Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven.  Alex is the first of Lemaitre's books to be translated to English.

When was the last time you read a crime drama/mystery that was so tumultuous that you didn't know the victim from the perpetrator?  For me, well, I cannot remember any such time.  Until I picked up Alex.

Alex begins with the kidnapping of a beautiful woman.  She is beaten, naked and left in a crudely constructed wooden crate strung from the ceiling in an abandoned warehouse of sort. The crate is too small to do anything but crouch in.  Left with kibble and small rations of water, her kidnapper returns to take photos, watching her slowly die.

Five men and one woman are brutally murdered in this book and it is quite graphic, the means with which they are killed and I actually turned my head away as I read, the images far too cruel and violent.  But I read on.

Alex is the story of the most brutal of crimes and of a police force in France charged with solving them.  One of the detectives on the case, Camille, has recently lost his wife and unborn child - kidnapped and murdered.  So this case is too close to home for him but he does his level best to remain professional.  Sometimes facing horrible truths in one form helps to heal pains of the past.  At least that is what his commander hopes.

Though brutal, the story behind it all, the revealing of truths, though graphic in themselves, answers everything so clearly and cleverly.  The story is fast-paced, the chapters short and it is difficult to put down.  Alex was recommended by a co-worker and now that I am finished I can understand why.  I am glad to not have given up on it because this is a crime drama that is intricately plotted, cleverly contrived, and has a deep mystery running through it.  Alex is the second book in a trilogy written by Pierre Lemaitre but the first to be translated to English.  I hope the first, Irene, will be translated as well.  I believe that story would offer great insight into Camille, the detective (police commandant) and background for this story.  Mind you, Alex can stand on its own very well.

Meet the Author:

Pierre Lemaitre has worked for many years as a teacher of literature. His novels to date have earned him exceptional critical and public acclaim as a master of the crime novel and have won him the Prix du Premier Roman de Cognac 2006, the Prix du Meilleur Polar Francophone 2009, and the Prix du Polar Europeen du Point 2010. Alex is his first novel to be translated into English, and won the presitigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award. In 2013 Lemaitre was the recipient of the prestigious Prix Goncourt, the highest literary honor in France, for Au revoir la-haut.

Frank Wynne has translated works by Michel Houellebecq, Boualem Sansal, and many more. He won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2005 for his translation of Frederic Beigbeder's Windows on the World.

1 comment:

  1. Not recommended for the sensitive reader due to graphic content, abuse and language.


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