Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Alex - Pierre Lemaitre

Alex is a crime thriller by French author Pierre Lemaitre, translated from the French into English by Frank Wynne, and published by Maclehose Press, an imprint of Quercus.

I had heard some exciting buzz about this novel before I read it, and I had also heard it is dark read with some disturbing episodes. Having now read it, I think the buzz is fully justified. It’s a novel that is difficult to review in terms of plot, because so much of the plot comes as a surprise or a shock, an unexpected twist here, an event that makes you reassess everything there. Nothing of this should be revealed to the prospective reader, if they are to fully enjoy this thrilling read. I will merely say that Alex is kidnapped and it seems like she can’t possible escape, but as we are told in the synopsis for the novel, this is actually just the start of things…

I liked the depiction of Camille Verhoeven, the detective leading the investigation, initially into the kidnapping but then further into the situation that develops; he had his own personal reasons for not wanting to pursue a kidnapping case, and yet wanting there to be justice and never giving up in his pursuit of the answers. I felt we got to know him, and the supporting cast working with him, including the contrasting pair Louis and Armand, but for me they never detracted from the main intrigue of the novel, namely Alex and her movements and actions.

I was a little apprehensive about reading this book as I was worried how scary it would be. Yes, there are some gruesome aspects but I’m glad in retrospect that I didn’t let this put me off. This is a clever thriller with a gripping narrative that kept me completely hooked throughout, and a lead character, in Alex, who held my attention and had me intrigued. This novel shocked, surprised and enthralled me; I found myself reassessing what I had read before in light of what I had just learnt. I would love to read more by this writer.

If you like a crime novel with an addictive narrative that keeps you guessing, that makes you question what you know and expect in terms of the crime genre, making you wonder about the limits of right and wrong, and of revenge, and if you can stomach dark themes, violence, abuse and some admittedly very upsetting episodes, then you should definitely give this a try because it has such a strong plot, great suspense, and a clever and surprising outcome. The conclusion made me stop and think and look back at the whole story again. The translation is very well done. Gripping stuff.

Published by Maclehose Press

reviewed as part of the amazon vine program

This novel counts towards my participation in the 2013 Translation Challenge hosted by Curiosity Killed the Bookworm


  1. This is the first time I have comes across this title but your great review has really sparked my interest - I will definitely look into this one further.

    1. Thanks very much for your comment Joanne.

  2. I have seen lots of buzz about this on Twitter. I can't recall having read much French crime fiction, it is a book I will be investigating.


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