Why Join?

  • Add New Books

  • Write a Review

  • Backpack Reading Lists

  • Newsletter Updates

Join Now

Book set in Paris (A fillette in France)

30th October 2013

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre: book set in Paris, France

1782060790.01.ZTZZZZZZWhere to start without giving away the plot? An ingenious if at times incroyable plot bowls along at a very good pace, pulling the reader this way and that. And despite the twists and turns, it is still easy to keep abreast of the storyline, as recaps and summaries are plentiful, without detracting from the flow.

Alex Prévost is a young woman who, one evening, is kidnapped from a Parisian street, just like that. There is minimal evidence of the crime, very few witnesses, the police are brought in to investigate. Yet no-one reports her as missing – whoever she is – and there are no real clues to her identity.

Three police officers arrive to oversee the enquiry, Camille, Louis and Armand, under the command of Divisionnaire Le Guen from the Brigade Criminelle. They have a long and varied history of working together and, in part, this is the backstory of their team, and how each responds to the situation, a good cop/bad cop (and a third cop) routine. There is a sense that the author is laying the foundations for a series of crime novels revolving around these three very different individuals, all with terrific French flair.

So, back to the plot. Alex is not quite who she seems and the book fairly early on introduces the reader to the concept of the Fillette, in which, we discover, Alex is imprisoned (without giving too much away); it is “an instrument of torture created under Louis XI for the Bishop of Verdun. He was kept in it for ten years. It’s a passive but very effective torture. The joints fuse, the muscles atrophy…and it drives the victim insane”. Add into the equation some rats (do not read this novel if you suffer from musophobia!); some sadistic acts that involve sulphuric acid down the line; a good array of plausible characters and you have the perfect recipe for some truly gory sequences. Suffice it to say that justice prevails at the end.

This is a beautifully translated book by Frank Wynne and really retains the French flavour of the original, which is a skilled accomplishment (we have read plenty of novels where the translation has largely ruined the voice of the author, here is just one example that merited a few arch comments from the TripFiction Team). Paris, in parts, really comes to life, whether the action takes place on the Périphérique or the Porte de Vanves, but it is not a strong character in its own right (unlike other novels we feature, where setting is wonderfully evoked). The focus remains with Alex (an avid reader in her own right BTW), the woman behind the title of the thriller.

As for the actual book: It has an eye-catching cover, simple and dramatic, with a bright slash of blue. Job done! Included in our copy was a Glossary of the French judicial structure (which you probably don’t need as it is all fairly self evident from the text). Why, though, is this cracking novel printed on paper that is akin to blotting paper (cost-cutting comes to mind), which is a shame, and which detracts just a smidgeon from the overall excellent read.

‘This is an off-beat and slightly surreal Parisian mystery …A warmly recommended read, even though it contains some details that I had to skip’ Jessica Mann, Literary Review

‘What begins as a search for a missing person soon becomes a beguiling series of investigations linked only by Alex, a Parisian version of Lisbeth Salander. Camille, volatile, brilliant and just under 5ft, is an equally riveting figure’ John Douglas, Sunday Times

Come and say hi on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook where we chat books, travel and lots more……


Subscribe to future blog posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *