ALEX by Pierre Lemaitre


Pierre Lemaitre (translated from French by Frank Wynne)




ALEX, by Pierre Lemaitre, is the first title brought to us by Quercus’s Maclehose Press imprint – translated lit and crime fiction. Quercus, a UK publishing company, has reached across the ocean to release books here in the United States. Though it’s actually the second book in the Verhoeven trilogy, Alex (Lemaitre the CWA International Dagger award) is the first of Lemaitre’s works to be translated.
I don’t want to die not now.

Alex Prévost recognizes a man that had been following her around Paris all day before she he hits her, hard, and forces her into a white van. Later, a witness will describe her and the van to the police. Her description brings up no missing person reports. The white van sounds like hundreds that can be seen all over the city. With reluctance, Commandant Camille Verhoeven is assigned the case. Verhoeven is a last resort. He hasn’t taken one on since the heartbreaking outcome of his wife, Irene’s, kidnapping while eight months pregnant. But Divisionnaire Le Guen has given him no choice. Preferring to work on his own in the non-violent criminal division for the past four years, works once again with former team members Louis and Armand.

For the first third of the book, Alex keeps wondering “why me?” The kidnapper brings her dog kibble and bottled water to sustain her. He photographs her in her cage. He antagonizes her, beats her and then leaves her to die, telling her he will be watching.  “Why me?”

“Because you are you.”

That is when the first twist twists.

With a narrative that switches from Alex to Verhoeven, the reader slowly finds out who both of them are.  And therein doth the twisting begin.

ALEX is dark, turbulent and fraught. As a reader, I wasn’t caught immediately. I never became invested in the characters. But I had to know who and what Alex was.  I had to see this story to the end. And it was well worth the puzzling sloped climb to get me there.
Jennifer Jordan