Book review: Alex. I love France #125

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(Verhœven Trilogy #2)

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this book for free in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post
as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.
Pierre Lemaitre
Translated by Frank Wynne

Publisher: Quercus
US Pub. Date: September 2013
Originally published in French in 2011

Pagespaperback, 368
Crime Fiction

Source: Received
from the publisher


 The Crime Writers’ Association International Dagger (2013),
Kono Mystery ga Sugoi for Best Translated Mystery Novel of the Year in Japan (2015)

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= also available as ebook

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

   books-on-france-14 my-kind-of-mystery-2014


 Rating systemRating systemRating systemRating system

I recently presented to you Irène, so this is the sequel: Alex. Very good too, it will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s definitely not your usual crime fiction.

Pierre Lemaitre manages again to orchestrate a complex crime novel rich with many layers.

The book opens with Alex. She’s an agency nurse, in her thirties, but still very pretty, though rather insecure and full of self-doubt. As she is trying wigs in a shop, she realizes with fear that a man seems to be following her. Thinking he finally left, she gets out of the store, to be actually abducted later on by that very man.

From then on, the plot thickens. Be ready for a crazy ride, with turns and twists you won’t see coming. Be prepared also for awful scenes both at the beginning at the book and really all along, both physically and psychologically speaking. For indeed this is an important layer that Lemaitre uses here. And as the synopsis highlights, it’s actually more a whydunnit than a whodunnit, that will lead you from one track to the next until finally you get it, unless it keeps you still wandering once you turn the last page.

The whole crime setting is also set on the background of Camille’s grieving over the death of his wife and mother, another interesting layer, that makes him first take the case very reluctantly, but then makes him extremely and personally involved, as if desperately trying to save a young woman would redeem what happened to his own wife four years earlier. Because of that, he is more edgy than in the first book, more fragile, more extreme, but still always so astute, seeing beyond what other protagonists would quickly judge as a closed case. No, Camille always wants to understand why.

I also liked the layer of his friendly relationship with the guys of his team.

As for the construction of the book, the suspense going back and forth between Alex and Camille pushes to the limit of suspense you can bear. And the ending is just brilliant, with the question of choice between truth or justice.
Here and there, you can find gems of images. I’ll share this one:

Louis pauses for a beat. Vasseur, caught off guard, glances from Louis to Camille and back again, his mouth hanging open. The atmosphere is like a late summer day when a storm breaks unexpectedly and you suddenly realize you’ve come out without a coat, the sky is black as thunder, and you’re very far from home. Vasseur looks as though he’s about to pull up the collar of his jacket.

Lemaitre shows a fascinating if not horrific facet of human resilience and complexity, but telling you more would reveal too much. You will just have to read it, but be sure to read Irène first. I actually found Irène even more brilliant, because of the extra layer of literary construction going with it.

VERDICT: What’s going on with Alex and mostly why? Who is she, what’s her past? If you are ready to see humanity in the horrific mask it sometimes wear, follow police commandant Camille along suspenseful twists and turns to uncover the multiple layers of this tragic life. You won’t put the book down before its last page.


Upon winning the prestigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award, the judges praised Alex by saying, “An original and absorbing ability to leash incredulity in the name of the fictional contract between author and reader… A police procedural, a thriller against time, a race between hunted and hunter, and a whydunnit, written from multiple points of view that explore several apparently parallel stories which finally meet.”

Alex Prevost–kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage–is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die. Will hunger, thirst, or the rats get her first?

Apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. The diminutive and brilliant detective knows from bitter experience the urgency of finding the missing woman as quickly as possible–but first he must understand more about her.

As he uncovers the details of the young woman’s singular history, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful. Before long, saving Alex’s life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven’s considerable challenges. [provided by the publisher]



“Will keep you turning pages until well past your bedtime–with all the lights on, of course.”—Library Journal

Relentlessly gripping… Various subtle variations of the crime novel are handled with aplomb… By page 200 you may believe that you’re moving to a pulse-raising conclusion. But you will be wrong; in some senses, the novel has only just begun.”—Barry Forshaw,…

“Genuinely unpredictable in a way few suspense novels are.”—Charles Finch, USA Today

“Fascinating… filled with many twists and turns of plot along with a huge surprise.”—Connie Fletcher, Booklist

“An eloquent thriller with a denouement that raises eyebrows as it speeds the pulse.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)


Pierre Lemaitre worked for many years as a literature professor
before becoming a full-time writer.
He has won exceptional critical and public acclaim as a master of the crime novel
and has won the Prix du Premier Roman de Cognac,
the Prix du Meilleur Polar Francophone,
and the Prix du Polar Europeen du Point.
Alex was the co-recipient of the influential 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award.
Also in 2013, Lemaitre won the prestigious Prix Goncourt,
the highest literary honor in France,
for Au revoir là-haut (the link sends you to Words And Peace review in English),
a standalone novel about soldiers coping with the final days of World War I.

Frank Wynne has translated works by Michel Houellebecq, Boualem Sansal, and many more.
He won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2005 for his translation of Frederic Beigbeder’s Windows on the World.




Just a reminder:
If you link your own post on France,
please if possible
include the title of the book or topic in your link:
name of your blog (name of the book title or topic):
example : me @ myblog (Camus)



3 thoughts on “Book review: Alex. I love France #125

  1. Pingback: 2014 – Books on France challenge – My list | Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: My kind of mystery 2014 Reading Challenge | Words And Peace

  3. Pingback: Book Club: 13 titles for our 2015 April meeting | Words And Peace

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