I had seen a few mentions of Alex by Pierre Lemaitre around the blogosphere and thought it might be a good fit, given my penchant for crime thrillers.
Was it ever! I was hooked from the first chapter. (And more than a little annoyed at myself that I didn't start reading earlier in the night) Fair warning right from the start - Gentle readers this one's not for you - there is graphic violence and disturbing situations.) Back to that first chapter.....a beautiful young woman named Alex is snatched off the street, taken to an abandoned warehouse and forced into a small wooden crate which is then suspended from the ceiling. Her captor says nothing more to her other than he is going to watch her die. But Alex is resourceful....very resourceful...
A kidnapping is reported and the case is given to Commandant Camille Verhoeven - a man who lost his pregnant wife to a kidnapper - her body was found, but not the perpetrator and he has eschewed all kidnapping cases since. Verhoeven's boss LeGuen assigns him to the case as he says there is no one else and so Verhoeven reluctantly takes on the case. LeGuen has brought Verhoeven's old team back together. Lemaitre has created a memorable group of investigators that I really enjoyed. But the most memorable is of course Verhoeven.
"People rarely get the measure of Camille on first meeting and rarely appreciate him. This might also be because he's not exactly cheerful. Camille doesn't like himself very much." Camille is also a victim of fetal hypotrophy and stands only 4'11'. "Camille is positively stunted. He sees the world from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old." In contrast, his superior and old friend LeGuen is quite large - the scale is somewhere near three hundred pounds. Armand and Louis fill out the team. Again opposites - Louise is wealthy with no need to work and Armand is a notorious penny pincher. (His scavenging ways provided a light note in a heavy plot)
And what a plot! Lemaitre is fiendishly clever, leading the reader down one path initially and then veering off in a direction I didn't see coming. I really don't want to give much more away - I love being surprised and Lemaitre successfully caught me unawares. Loved it!
I have to also mention that Frank Wynne did a fantastic job with the translation - very smooth reading with no wooden clunky sentences or form.
Alex is an excellent thriller and a great introduction to a prickly character I want to see more of. Alex was the winner of the CWA International Dagger Award 2013. Read an excerpt of Alex.