Book Review: Alex, by Pierre Lemaitre

In many discussions with book lovers and friends, the aspect of a good horror novel that has been said as most important is its ability to make the reader feel the horror the character feels. And in my notion, the aspects of a good crime fiction or mystery are threefold, viz. the detective, the victim(s) and the motive. These three are in addition to the plot which has to move quickly. Would I classify this novel as a horror or a crime thriller, I do not know, because it has the aspects of both.

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The novel starts off with the kidnap of the character, Alex by a man who was stalking her. He takes her to a warehouse, forces her to strip and enter a wooden cage with the sole objective being to watch her die. The kidnap is witnessed, and the police are alerted, leading to Commandant Camille Verhœven being assigned the case by Jean Le Guen. While the police try to make heads and tails of the kidnapping, the novel takes us to Alex’s predicament at the warehouse, her mental state and thoughts. When the police identify the kidnapper and try to capture him, he commits suicide by jumping into oncoming traffic. Alex somehow escapes. But all is not well. Alex turns out to be a serial killer, and now the victim is the suspect and the case takes a turn. Why was she targeted by the kidnapper, and for what reason did she become a serial killer?

The element of horror is done too well I feel. Reading the mental state, the fear of what is coming, the pain she feels, trapped in the wooden cage where she can’t sit or stand properly, the humiliation of having to defecate from that cage which hangs seven feet off the ground, it comes out vividly. And it is hard to imagine. Also, in the second part of the book, the method of Alex as a serial killer is also quite hard to imagine. The pace in both these parts is quite well done.

Camille Verhœven as the lead detective feels right. He’s a bit reluctant to take the case given his past, but perhaps that’s the best reason for him to be in charge of the case. He’s determined, works in his own unique way, finds the strangest yet most plausible of solutions and has this knack to identify the strangeness of a character by looking at a photograph. He’s also very vocal and confident of his solutions. I enjoyed reading this character, and am eager to go back to reading the first book in the series to see if the character is as interesting as in this book.

I do not know if the victim here is Alex or her many victims, but Alex as a victim of the kidnapper is well chosen. There’s a reason she’s kidnapped, and had it not been for the kidnapper’s suicide, the plot might have been gory for her. Why she becomes the serial killer is also quite well explained later, and her chosen victims make sense then. Her mindset as the serial killer is also neatly done. This covers motive as well, so the aspects of crime fiction work well.

What makes the book a little hard to digest is that the reasoning of Alex’s past and her motive to become a serial killer seems very hurried and that makes the ending to the novel very hurried as well. It makes it seem like the author just wanted to tie everything in a nice bow and get it over with.

This is a book that’ll stay in my favorites for a while. A wonderful crime fiction that I shall read again soon.


The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
The Bookworm Rates This: 4/5
Book Details
Title: Alex Series: Verhœven #2
Author(s): Pierre Lemaitre
Translator: Frank Wynne
Genre: Crime Fiction
ISBN/ASIN: 9781782067481 Publisher:
Hachette India / Maclehose Press
No. of Pages: 354 Price: INR. 399

Reviewed for Hachette India in exchange for a copy of the book. The views expressed here are my own, frank and uninfluenced.


(© 26th July 2015)

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