Review: Alex, by Pierre Lemaitre


Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

MacLehose Press/Quercus, 2013. Translated from the French by Frank Wynne. First published as Alex by Éditions Albin Michel, 2011. ISBN(TPB). 978-0-85705-187-5. 358 pages.

Alex

This is one of those books which are extremely difficult to summarize without giving away too much of the plot. Suffice is to say that commandat Camille Verhoeven had made it clear that he would never again get involved in a kidnapping case. Some years ago his wife Iréne, eight months pregnant, was abducted and was never seen alive again. But this time he had no option but to accept this case.

“Let me get this down. So, we’re saying an unknown woman kidnapped by an unknown tradesman in a vehicle with no distinguishing marks – am I missing anything?”

….

     ‘And so far:  nothing. The kidnapped woman obviously doesn’t live in the area, or at least not in the immediate vicinity of the kidnapping. No-one seems to know her around here. They have three descriptions of women who might fit the bill: women who are away on holiday, on business …

     Camille doesn’t like the sound of any of this.‘ 

As from the early pages the narrative unfolds alternating two different perspectives, that of the victim, a young woman named Alex, and the one from the chief investigator in charge of this case, commandant Camille Verhoeven.  

‘Obviously being kidnapped immediately connected her to Irène and since that moment Camille has been unable to dissociate the two because this case evoked similar feelings, similar fears, and stirred in him a similar sense of guilt. This is precisely why a detective is not assigned a case in which he is personally involved. But Camille can see that in this case, he didn’t fall into the trap, he created it. His friend Le Guen had simply offered him a way finally to face up to his fears. Camille could have handed the case over, but he didn’t. What is happening to him is what he wanted to happen; what he needed.’

What starts as a thriller soon becomes a police procedural. But things aren’t always what they seem. The continuous changes on the points of view are meant to keep the reader’s attention. The story is well constructed although, at times, it may be very unpleasant for certain sensitivities. This is, undoubtedly, a book which is not suitable for everyone’s taste. But still, I consider it an interesting experiment which is well worth reading. Despite some minor flaws, I have found it a rather exciting book.

My rating: 4/5.    

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 crime novel, and have won him the Prix du Premier Roman de Cognac 2006, the Prix du Mellieur Polar Francophone 2009 and the Prix du Polar Européen du Point 2010. Alex is his first novel to be translated into English by Frank Wynne and have just won the 2013 CWA International Dagger award, together with The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas, translated by Siân Reynolds.

Alex has been reviewed at Euro Crime (by JL who blogs 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 Fella, and at Reactions to Reading (Bernadette), among others. 

Maclehose Press/Quercus

Éditions Albin Michel 

Pierre Lemaitre

The Shortlist for the CWA International Dagger

Alex de Pierre Lemaitre

Alex (Pierre Lemaitre)

Este es uno de esos libros que resultan muy difíciles de resumir sin revelar demasiado de la trama. Baste decir que el commandat Camille Verhoeven había dejado claro que no volvería a hacaerse cargo de un secuestro. Hace algunos años, su mujer Irene, embarazada de ocho meses, fue secuestrada y nunca más fue vista con vida. Pero esta vez no tuvo más remedio que aceptar el caso.

“Vamos a centrarnos. Estamos diciendo una mujer desconocida ha sido secuestrada por un comerciante desconocido en un vehículo sin marcas distintivas – ¿me falta algo?”

….

     “Y hasta ahora: nada. La mujer secuestrada, obviamente, no vive en la zona, o al menos no en la vecindad inmediata del secuestro. Nadie parece conocerla por aquí. Hay tres descripciones de mujeres que podrían reunir estos requisitos: mujeres que están fuera de vacaciones, de negocios …

     A Camille no le gusta cómo suena nada de esto. ”

A partir de las primeras páginas la narración se desarrolla alternando dos puntos de vista diferentes, el de la víctima, una mujer joven llamada Alex, y el del jefe de la investigación a cargo de este caso, el commandant Camille Verhoeven. 

“Obviamente al haber sido secuestrada inmediatamente la conectó con Irene y desde ese momento Camille ha sido incapaz de disociar a las dos, porque este caso evoca sentimientos similares, temores similares, y le proporciona un sentido parecido de culpabilidad. Esto es precisamente por lo qué un detective no es asignado a un caso en el que está implicado personalmente. Pero Camille puede ver que en este caso, el no cayó en la trampa, él la creó. Su amigo Le Guen sólo le había ofrecido un camino para finalmente enfrentarse con sus temores. Camille podría haber entregado a otro el caso, pero no lo hizo. Lo que le está pasando es lo que el quería que sucediera, lo que necesitaba “.

Lo que comienza siendo un thriller pronto se convierte en un procedimiento policial. Pero las cosas no son siempre lo que parecen. Los continuos cambios en los puntos de vista tienen el propósito de mantener la atención del lector. La historia está bien construida, aunque, a veces, puede resultar muy desagradable para determinadas sensibilidades. Este es sin duda un libro que no es apto para todos los gustos. Pero aún así, creo que es un experimento interesante que vale la pena leer. A pesar de algunos defectos de poca importancia, he encontrado que es un libro bastante interesante.

Mi valoración: 4/5.

Pierre Lemaitre ha trabajado durante muchos años como profesor de literatura. Sus novelas hasta la fecha le han otorgado el reconocimiento de la crítica y del público como un maestro excepcional de novela negra, y han sido galardonadas con el Prix du Premier Roman de Cognac en el 2006, el Prix du Mellieur Polar francófono en el 2009 y el Prix du Polar Européen du Point en el 2010. Alex es su primera novela traducida al Inglés por Frank Wynne y, recientemente, ha sido galardonada con el premio CWA International Dagger de este año conjuntamente con El ejército furioso de Fred Vargas, traducida al inglés por Siân Reynolds.

Grijalbo

7 thoughts on “Review: Alex, by Pierre Lemaitre

  1. José Ignacio – Thank you as ever for your thoughtful review. I’ve been thinking and thinking about whether I was going to read this one and to be honest, I think the level of violence is probably more than I want to read. But I’m glad you found the pace and plot enjoyable.

  2. Thank you for the mention Jose! Appreciate that the level of violence- although not in any way gratuitous -would not be for everyone, but I found this utterly compelling. Pleased it was joint winner of the CWA International Dagger.

  3. It did make me cringe at times (the descriptions of the rats, the imprisonment, grrrr). But I thought it was a very well-crafted, exciting read, felt very fresh and different.

  4. I’d have to skip half of it due to violence and repugnant descriptions, so I’ll skip it. However, glad you found it exciting.

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