Alex by Pierre LeMaitre
MacLehose Press/Quercus, $24.95, 368 pages, ISBN 978-1-62365-000-1
There’s no other way to say it; the novel we’re reviewing this week is flat-out diabolical in nature, fiendishly clever and as compulsively addictive as a honking great piece of New York Cheesecake smothered in cherry compote . . .
Alex, by Pierre LeMaitre was first published in France in 2011, where it won just about every literary award in sight. It was translated into English in 2013 by Frank Wynne, and was promptly awarded the 2013 Crime Writers of America International Dagger Award as the Best Crime Novel of the year. No amount of superlatives are adequate to describe this impressive, fascinating, horrifying, intricate, unpredictable, suspenseful, thrilling, harsh, fierce, infernal, skillfully written, literary and terrifying tour de force of crime fiction.
The novel begins with a beautiful young woman named Alex Prévost shopping for wigs in an out of the way Paris boutique. After her purchase she leaves the shop, and, acting on impulse, passes up the last bus of the day and decides to walk back to her apartment. Less than an hour later she’s been kidnapped, graphically and violently beaten a couple of times, stripped naked, jammed into a cramped painful position in a tiny slatted cage made of coarse splintery wood and suspended six feet in the air in a drafty, cold abandoned warehouse where no one can hear her scream. Her abductor takes pictures with his cell phone and says he, “Wants to watch her die.” Within five days he’s abandoned her and giant rats, attracted by the dog food she’s been fed, are starting to close in as Alex waits, alone and helpless, while the police search for her. And that ladies and gentlemen, is less than the first hundred pages. Alex will keep you turning pages, trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, reading late into the night. You’ll find more plot twists in this one novel than a whole season of Game of Thrones, and more suspense than an Alfred Hitchcock movie marathon. You’ll probably need to towel the sweat off by the time you finish reading the last page. I only hope that LeMaitre’s other novels are translated into English soon.