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Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Review: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Book Type: crime drama, thriller

Stereotype Alert: Other than the jaded cop with a personal tie to a case, no. 

Cover Art: Big face with a blindfold?

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Oh geeze.  Verhoeven/Armand/Vasseur. 

Character Score: 5 out of 10 Mr. Micawbers

What's the Story?: A woman has been abducted off the street in Paris.  Can Commandant Verhoeven find the victim before she is murdered?  And is she really a victim?

X-Factor: France!  

Anti X-Factor: Acid

Cover Art: Well big face, it's, uh, nice to see you.  My advanced copy was a sort of tan color instead of blue but the effect is the same.  Is that really what Alex looks like, or is that a wig?  That's all I'm sayin'. 

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: This was a bit tricky.  I wasn't really invested in any of the characters enough to want to sleep with or marry them.  But Verhoeven quite obviously needs more action in his life and Armand was just crazy enough that I sort of wanted to know more about him personally.  And Felix Vasseur?  There is a special place in hell for that mother f*cker.  

Character Score: Again, not totally in love with the characterization in this book, but that wasn't the point.  Lemaitre told a great detective story with lots of twists and turns.

What's the Story?:
Alex by French author Pierre Lemaitre will be published in September by MacLehose, and imprint of Quercus Books.  What's so special about Quercus?  They were the lucky publishing group who snagged Stieg Larsson's wildly popular Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium) trilogy.  Quercus is again hoping to strike crime fiction gold with Lemaitre's newest novel.  

There are a few similarities between Larsson's Lisbeth Salander and Lemaitre's Alex Prevost. Both are strong, vibrant characters who are stuck in rather unfortunate situations.  And like Dragon TattooAlex has another main character who is trying to solve a crime/mystery; in this case, police Commandant Camille Verhoeven.  And guess what, this is going to be a trilogy!  But the similarities pretty much end there.

Camille has worked for the brigade criminelle for years and there is only one kind of case he won't work: kidnappings.  It isn't any wonder, considering his wife (who was eight months pregnant) was abducted on her way to the hospital and later found murdered.  But Camille's boss has forced him to be the lead investigator on a new case which involves, of course, a kidnapped young woman.  The Commandant tries his best to ignore his emotions and does what he can to try to find missing Alex Prevost.

Alex was out for a night of shopping and dinner when she was pummeled by a very large man, tossed into a van and taken to a secret location.  When she wakes, the man forces her into a rough wooden crate and suspends her from the ceiling of what appears to be a warehouse.  After who knows how many days, Alex realizes that the water and dog kibble the man has been feeding her daily, was not to keep her alive but to attract a horde of rats that live in the building.  More terrifying than being eaten alive by rats, however, is the fact that the crate is too small for Alex to even stretch out and, being a nurse, she knows her muscles are beginning to deteriorate.  
Camille is working with a very small pile of evidence.  There was witness who saw the woman get thrown into a van, there is a little bit of vomit on the street and not much else.  Camille knows that the more hours that pass, the less likely they are to find their victim alive.  After a stroke of luck identifying the van that the criminal used, the police now know who they are looking for.  When they find the man, he throws himself off a bridge into oncoming traffic rather than tell the police who Alex is or where he has hidden her. Back to square one and the clock continues ticking.  More investigation into the kidnapper leads to the discovery that the man's son went missing year or so ago.  When they go to ask questions at the former home of the son's girlfriend, they discover the son's body.  Is Alex really just the victim of a kidnapping or is she a murderer?  By the time Camille and his men have discovered the warehouse where Alex was taken, she has managed to escape.

X-Factor: Paris!  Who doesn't want to see a little bit of France from time to time?  I know I do.

Anti-X Factor: Acid.  Seriously.  You think it's horrible to hear a description of someone being hacked to death by a machete?  Try descriptions of people being forced to drink sulfuric acid.  Gross.

This book is full of twists and turns and is a fascinating detective story.  A word of warning, however, for the folks who were put off by the sexual violence in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- this also appears in Alex.  But it is a thriller that will keep you guessing.  A thriller that might just answer the question: is there a worse way to die than being eaten alive by rats?

Alex is available everywhere in the US on September 3rd.


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