One of the fastest moving trends in the YA genre is the crime novel. John Grisham, Harlan Coben and James Patterson, usually write adult crime, are all producing novels aimed at a younger audience. Next week I will review Harlan Coben Shelter, but first, I thought I should indulge in an adult crime novel so I can compare the two. I chose Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex, it was translated into English and re-published last year, and since that time it has received a lot of praise and won the CWA’s International Dagger award for 2013, so I thought it was a good choice.
The first thing I will say about this novel is don’t read anyone else’s review. This might sound arrogant, but I’m giving this warning for your own well being as many of the reviews reveal too much and I found this tainted any mystery the plot may have held. Most of the reviewers have done this inadvertently, but my readers are an intelligent bunch and I know they can read between the lines.
With that in mind, I will give you a very brief plot blurb. The setting is France (mainly Paris), a girl is kidnapped and the police try to solve this and other evolving mysteries- there. I want to mention a couple of things that bugged me about the novel, I don’t usually do this as opinions can be subjective, but I have an uncontrollable compulsion today to put it out there.
First – the cop, he is the stereotype, white, middle aged, pig headed, flawed character we’ve seen time and again in many crime novels. This is a shame as Lemaitre has a talent for characterization. Secondly- the title, it really “had my goat up” as my mother would say. It did the crime genre, which is unpredictable by nature, no justice.
Now for the good- what I love about the novel is Lemaitre’s keen observations on human nature. He manages to create characters that are incredibly believable. His writing pulls out the subtleties and nuances of the everyday, that most of us are unaware. Lemaitre’s talent is in the detail. I’m not talking of the kind of detail that can bore you to tears, I once read a book that described a fob watch for eleven pages, it’s the kind of detail that forms clear pictures in your mind and allows the story to move along seamlessly. It is that talent that leaves me wondering whether Lemaitre should write in a different genre especially literary fiction.
NB: He did win the Prix Goncourt award for an epic novel Au revoir là-haut on WWII; the highest award for literary fiction in France.
In the end I recommend the book for adults who enjoy this genre, as it was enjoyable. I also recommend it to budding writers, as there is much to be learnt from his style, and its what I found to be the most enjoyable part.
Author: Pierre Lemaitre
Published: French 2011, English 2013 Maclehose