Camille by Pierre Lemaitre
Translated by Frank Wynne
I was meant to be reviewing this for Shiny New Books‘ in the ‘Extra Shiny’ edition (coming to you on May 12th). I loved it, it is definitely a ‘Shiny’ book, but it is the final part of a trilogy and I felt it would be too difficult to write at length about it without spoilers of the whole trilogy – although if you were to read each book’s blurb, you would get the main gist of what happens!
Although Alex was published first in the UK, the trilogy begins with Irène, then Alex (links to my reviews) and is concluded by Camille, . All three have been translated by Frank Wynne, and he’s done a wonderful job.
One character dominates throughout – Commandant Camille Verhœven, the pint-sized detective in the Paris Brigade Criminelle, and as Camille starts the scene is set for us with the calm assurance that when we turn the page all hell will be let loose:
An event may be considered decisive when it utterly destabilises your life. … This decisive, disorienting event which sends a jolt of electricity through your nervous system is readily distinguishable from life’s other misfortunes because it has a particular force, a specific density: as soon as it occurs, you realise that it will have overwhelming consequences, that what is happening in that moment is irreparable.
To take an example, three blasts from a pump-action shotgun fired at the woman you love.
This is what is going to happen to Camille.
And it does not matter, whether, like him, you are attending your best friend’s funeral on the day in questions, or whether you feel that you have already had your fill for one day. Fate does not concern itself with such trivialities; it is quite capable, in spite of them, of taking the form of a killer armed with a swan-off shotgun, a 12-gauge Mossberg 500.
All that remains to be seen is how you will react. This is all that matters.
Camille’s lover Anne Forestier is in the wrong place at the wrong time when she gets caught in a raid on a posh Parisian jewellery shop. Beaten and badly injured, she survives, but she may have seen the assailant’s face – and they’ll be coming for her. Camille should declare a conflict of interest, and hand over the robbery and assault to another investigator – but can’t. He can’t let history repeat itself and is prepared to break all the rules …
I’m not going to say any more about the plot specifics. It careers along taking place over three days with the time given at the start of each section. We’re constantly wrong-footed and it’s clear that Camille is out of control – yet knowing what happened before, we can’t blame him for it. Thank goodness his assistant Louis and boss Le Guen are still around to help where they can, but it’s all about Camille, Anne and their adversary, the others are secondary characters to this case which is so personal, not a team effort.
A crime trilogy is rather a daring thing these days, when detective series seem to run and run. I liked the finality that announcing that Camille is the final part of a trilogy brings. The anticipation of how it could all end was palpable from the start. You feel Camille’s pain, anger and desire to avenge so acutely this time – these strong emotions have been there from the first book, but come to a head at the end.
I can’t think of a series of crime novels that have so engaged me before that I’ve given each volume 10/10 – but the Verhœven trilogy gets exactly that, I can’t recommend them enough – but do start with Irène. (10/10)
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Source: Publisher – thank you!