Alex Prévost is a beautiful woman – a thirty year-old agency nurse who tries to do good. A beautiful woman who has been abducted for reasons at first unknown, and she is the victim of inhumane torture at the hands of her abductor. Your stomach turns just reading about her plight…
Commandant Camille Verhœven and his team are tasked with finding Alex and saving her from her abductor. Though they don’t know her as Alex, they have no idea who she is, nor do they even know for absolute sure if the abduction took place as there was only ever one single witness. On a personal note, Camille is very reluctant to take on this case. It reminds him too much of the case in which his wife Irène was abducted. She didn’t survive her ordeal and it has been four long years that Camille has been a widower.
Camille is a very interesting character. He has risen in the ranks of the Prefecture of Police of Paris due to his brilliant detecting skills coupled with his stubbornness. A man of almost fifty years, he stands only 4 ft. 11 in. due to poor prenatal habits of his artist mother. He too is an artist and he sketches constantly during his more pensive moments. Due to the tragic death of his wife and unborn baby, he lives a solitary life with the exception of his little tabby cat Doudouche. He spends most of his waking hours at work.
His team are well drawn characters who are unique and interesting in their own rights. Louis Mariani, his second in command, is an independently wealthy man, always dressed to the nines, but otherwise keeps a low key. Armand, a man generous in spirit, but embarrassingly frugal. He is constantly scouting out ways he can get ‘something for nothing’. Both of these men are steadfastly loyal to Camille Verhœven.
Alex, the protagonist and title character is unforgettable. She has endured the most inhumane, barbaric, and atrocious acts, yet, in her own way remains not the victim, but the victor.
This crime novel is a page-turner with great characterization. However, be warned… this is a graphically brutal and at times shocking read which will test your endurance as a crime reader. The author masterfully manipulates your emotions and reactions to tell his provocative tale. Kudos also go out to the translator, Frank Wynne, who translated the author’s story seamlessly and with eloquent language.
Some thrillers are very difficult to review sometimes – and this is one of those. The reason for this is that if you give any kind of detail, you will take all the joy of reading the book away from the prospective readers. You simply cannot tell much about “Alex” without giving away ‘spoilers’ and I absolutely refuse to spoil this read for others.
I purchased the Kindle edition of this novel because “Alex” was the chosen title for discussion at my bookclub, ‘Whodunit‘ I will be anxious to discuss it with others who have read it. After my bookclub meeting I may add an addendum to this post.
I had one small reservation about the plot. How did the abductor know to kidnap Alex. Though he had a sound reason, I do not understand HOW he learned of this motive…
The ending wraps up the plot in a satisfactory manner utilizing several ‘twists’ and/or startling revelations along the way. Justice reigns!
I highly recommend this crime thriller to all fans of the genre with the proviso that the book is not for the squeamish. A ‘Whydunit’, my favorite kind of suspense novel. I know that I will remember it for some time to come…
“Alex” was the CWA International Dagger Award winner for Best Crime Novel 2013, and it was well deserved. It is a crime novel which takes the reader on a journey into the darkest recesses of the human mind. “Alex” is actually the follow up to “Irène” making it the second novel in the Verhœven trilogy, though it was the first in the trilogy to be translated into English from the original French.
I have heard from other reviewers that it is advisable to read the series in order and I wish I had done so. Not because I didn’t find reading “Alex” perfectly enjoyable without reading “Irène” first, but because I personally prefer to read series in the order in which they were intended to be read. It is a pet peeve of mine when foreign language works are translated into English out of series order.
Addendum to post following my ‘in person’ bookclub meeting held June 28th:
Of the ten persons who voted at our bookclub “Alex” received a score of 8.5 out of 10 with members saying that they would definitely like to read the other titles in the trilogy!
He worked for many years as a teacher of literature. His first novel to be translated into English, Alex, is a translation of the French book of the same title, it won the CWA International Dagger for best crime novel of 2013.
In November 2013, he was awarded the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary prize, for Au revoir là-haut, an epic about World War I. The translation of another of his French novels, Camille won the CWA International Dagger in 2015.