Author: Pierre Lemaitre (Frank Wynne, translator)
Rating: 4 Stars
Review By: Shana
Disturbing and fast-paced, this first book in the French crime trilogy plays well with the book within a book trope, making it feel fresh if unsettling. A nice change from British crime fiction (which tends toward the classic or the cozy) and Scandinavian (which can seem unrelentingly depraved), this French iteration relishes in the arts (with themes of visual arts and literature).
Our main character is Commandant Camille Verhoeven, and as a protagonist he breaks away from the typical police leads in a simple way – his stature. Standing less than five feet tall, his vantage point itself is a departure, as is the way his height impacts how colleagues, witnesses, the press, and suspects interact with him. His quarry is a truly diabolical and well-read serial killer who meticulously plans and carries out his macabre crimes. Mixed into this well-worn serial killer hunt are discussions of class and education, childhood and family, success and love.
The entire book moves well, with more than enough gory crime scenes and clever tête-à-têtes. And there is a fairly big twist toward the end that makes you wonder how much of what you read to that point is accurate. This twist makes a reader feel somewhat toyed with and acts as a parallel to how the killer toys with the police force in general and Camille in particular. The ending comes after a breathless chase (both literally and liturature-ly) and it is terrible to behold.