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3.8 out of 5 stars24
3.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 June 2012
I have not read a crime thriller as utterly compelling and emotionally powerful as `Bed of Nails' for many years and, having been promised a unique crime reading experience by those lucky enough to have read this before publication, I would implore that you seek this out and prepare for an unparallelled master class in crime writing. A novel that metaphorically slaps you round the face from the opening scene of a harrowing suicide and a plot that continues to pummel the reader's senses throughout, plunging you unreservedly into the seedy underbelly of Parisian life, police and foreign diplomatic corruption and a twisting thriller peopled by a cast of beguiling and emotionally flawed but totally engaging characters. Being reluctant to divulge any further details of the plot, I would say that this a novel that is best approached from another angle entirely and for the following reasons:

There's that awful reviewer's cliche that `this is a book that stays with you long after the final page is turned' but I would absolutely endorse this statement in relation to this novel. The ending is so emotionally bleak for all the main protagonists, but you have engaged with them so much during the course of the book, gravitating between moments of violence to tenuous but touching interludes of human connection that it genuinely strikes a powerful chord. As the denouement unfolds with such devastating consequences for the characters , there is a calm and understated depiction of human frailty. In the death of one character in particular, whose violent end is tinged with a moment of complete serenity, there is a beautifully wrought and succinct juxtaposition with a solitary image that is wholly resonant of the natural world . With assured vignettes like this at absolutely the right moments, the manipulation of language to suit the change of tempo and tone in the plot, and the deeper philosophical context, this crime novel just draws you in and adds to your sense of this being more than a thriller, but a literary exploration of the boundaries of mainstream crime writing. Simply wonderful...
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on 29 December 2012
If you've watched the French series Spiral (Engrenages in French) or seen the film 36 Quai des Orfevres, you'll feel right at home with this book. It's populated with a series of surreal and , let's admit it, pretty grotesque characters and yet they are also very real and strangely compelling so that you do actually care what happens to them. I say it requires concentration because there's a multitude of characters and it's difficult keeping track of them all. The writing seems dense (I'm much more used to the short chapters of James Patterson or Harlan Coben) and I'm guessing that this stems from it being written in French originally. It's worth perservering with and the other reviewer who wrote that it stays with you after you put it down is absolutely spot-on. I'm still mulling it over now, a full week after I finished it.
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on 9 January 2013
Very 'noir' even by the standards of contemporary 'noir' crime fiction, but an ingenious plot.
Eccentric Lieutenant Guérin, shunned by his colleagues, is sidelined into investigating suicides together with a new and relatively fresh junior - Lambert. Other characters include two expat Americans, one who appears to have committed suicide while performing an S & M act in a seedy Paris night club, and one attempting to live a rural idyll complete with bow and arrow in SW France. Also involved are an ex-con working as a night watchman in the Luxembourg Gardens and an American diplomat. The most likeable characters are a parrot and a dog who both finish up dead.
Despite the unrelieved gloom which is realistically, but fascinatingly portrayed, the plot with its many twists and turns is
surprisingly credible.
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VINE VOICEon 20 December 2013
Loved it! First let me say that the translation is exceptional. With a lesser translator this may well have been a very difficult book to understand.

There is a cast of characters who would not be lost in a Feydeau farce but, after all, this is a crime thriller so let's just say it has some farcical undertones. The strangest point is that thy all connect together even though, initially, you start to wonder what's going on.

I just loved the sentence: there was a look of ambiguous satisfaction on the face of a man who has nothing. Just brilliant.

This is a stand-alone book, deep in harm, in hurt, in love, in lost youth, in lost reality with a cruncher of an ending which moves the reader almost to tears. If only there could be a sequel; some of the characters - though not many - still should have a lot to give.

Nevertheless, this is an author who just shouts out to be read - even twice if you must just because his take on the crime and the people is so different from the everyday trackers-down of clues to a death. I urge you to read it.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 December 2012
Antonin Varenne has written a seedy Parisienne thriller, one of subterfuge and mystery. Alan Musgrave has bled to death and his body found by his friend John Nichols. Together with honest,eccentric policeman, Guerin and officer Lambert, Musgrave's friends (who believe he is the subject of ridicule despite being dead), set out to investigate. Suicides, cruelty and shady lives come to the forefront. Police abuse and threats pressurise witnesses in intimidatory style. The corruption by criminals, diplomatic and amongst establishment figures become blatantly transparent. The suspense and build up to the emotional yet bleak climax beggars disbelief. Nichols is a key figure as is Guerin. A top-class thriller that deserves more widespread recognition. A novel of immense intensity and power. The ending is incredibly memorable and believable. Character development by the author with twists and turns in the plot provide the reader with an intense feeling of reality. Brilliant.
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Eccentric, pint-sized cop Guérin has been sidelined from the corrupt homicide squad into running the lowly suicide division with a team of one, the loyal Lambert. Guérin has long suspected that something more sinister lies behind a spate of unlikely suicides. When John Nichols, an American behavioural psychologist, emerges from a remote French forest to identify the latest suicide, is he going to help or hinder the enquiry?

It's hard to tell in a translation whether the author or translator is at fault but this macabre plot is not enhanced by the clunky and rather strange writing style. Nevertheless, Bed of Nails is quite an intriguing read and I reckon the Spiral tv team would have a field day with it.
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To me strange is the word that sums up this book. The main characters are strange. Guerin, Headquarters' main suicide investigator, was relegated to this department after an unspecified breakdown and an ostensibly botched investigation into a fellow policeman's conduct and Lambert, his sidekick, is an outsider and generally derided by other cops. The plot starts with Guerin trying to link certain suicides but then morphs into police corruption and American diplomats behaving badly. As I said, strange, but also very compulsive. It was one of those "I'll just read another chapter to see what happens next" type of books. In some ways the plot reflects Guerin's mind as it jumps from one subject to another but in a very coherent and disciplined way. I don't know how to describe it better but I do think it would suit the more adventurous reader because if you want straightforward detection it may not be the book for you.
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on 6 February 2013
Bed of Nails is somewhat of a curious book - a police procedural that doesn't easily fit the genre, with a misfit, and at times almost cartoonish, lead character. The plot is quite complex, weaving together different strands, which veers towards being opaque on occasion; it not always clear quite how Guérin is fitting his clues together or what exactly is going on. As a result, the first half of the book was interesting, but was not compelling. In the second half, the narrative becomes more engaging, and in the last quarter shifted gear into a different register which recast the whole story. The closing pages in particular were an emotional rollercoaster as Varenne provides a thoroughly noir ending to the story; one that opened up a number of questions about morality and just rewards. Overall, a dark, quirky tale that progressively became more gripping, noirish and philosophical.
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on 1 March 2013
It is an interesting book and its characters are pretty original. I did mostly enjoy reading it but as others have observed it is slightly dis-jointed and the ending was unsatisfactory for me.
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on 16 January 2015
Interesting section on a soldier's experience in the interrogation camp of the Algerian War.

Otherwise a right load of ottt tosh.
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