Thursday, September 22, 2016

BLOOD WEDDING :: Pierre Lemaitre

"I am afraid. The dead are surfacing. In the darkness. I can count them one by one. In the darkness, I see them sitting at a table, side by side. In the darkness."

Pierre Lemaitre has one of the most wonderfully twisted minds of crime fiction and the psychological thriller. On the heels of his award-winning Commandant Verhoeven trilogy (Alex, Irene and Camille, two of which won the prestigious CWA International Dagger Award), Lemaitre has written a tremendous standalone novel in Blood Wedding.

Sophie Duguet is losing her mind. She's forgetting things (where she parked her car, the date she and her husband have theater tickets, items she put in her purse while shopping), becoming uncharacteristically unreliable, and spiraling into depression and paranoia. Worse, the visions she has of hurting people start playing out in real life.

When the bodies connected to Sophie start adding up, she goes on the run, changing her name and location repeatedly to stay ahead of the authorities. Safety is hard to come by when she doesn't understand what she's running from, but as Sophie looks back she begins to figure out she’s up against more than her own mind. Unsettling and smart, Blood Wedding is intricately plotted along parallel timelines, and the screws tighten skillfully as Lemaitre winds through Sophie’s nightmare and toward the ultimate reveal.

Lemaitre's work is inspired and disturbing and can't be trusted. With precise yet elegant prose, he manipulates and unnerves. Like Sophie, the only thing the reader can be sure of is that things aren’t what they seem. Although Lemaitre’s work is not normally for the faint of heart, Blood Wedding is more about psychology than violence and thus relatively safe for the squeamish.

STREET SENSE: If you are a fan of the psychological thriller, of being held in suspense along with your protagonist and not knowing what's happening under the surface, grab this one. If you like a bit of twisted with your thriller, grab this one. Lemaitre is a master. If you're into crime fiction, read the trilogy. Read any Lemaitre, an author this good should be more well-known here in the U.S.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  Sophie never measures the years since she first went mad. It goes back too far. Perhaps because of the anguish involved, she feels the years count double. It began as a gradual descent, but as the months passed she be an to feel she was on a toboggan, hurtling downhill. Sophie was married then. It was a time before...all this...A therapist suggested a spell in the hospital. She refused, until death arrived, uninvited, to join her madness.

COVER NERD SAYS:  Lemaitre's covers are usually quite simple, a single image against a dark background. I'm not a huge fan of the single flower covers, which seem to have flooded the cover market as of late. However, I do like the fact that this dark red rose is tinged with black, and I love what they've done with Lemaitre's name. Overall I think the cover is ominously effective, I just wish the image was something other than a flower.

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is reprinted here with permission.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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