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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Anglophone reviewers of Irene are going to be coming to this having read Alex. That's a pity.

In French, Irene was published first. Alex was the sequel. The strength of Alex was in plunging straight into the action without the need to introduce the detective and those around him. It also created a detective with a backstory that was described briefly. In Alex, we find that introduction to a detective we already know, and the backstory that we already know is what is supposed to drive the suspense in Irene.

In truth, Alex is a better book and does shine when read first, but that is at the expense of getting the most out of Irene which is, on its own, still pretty good.

Pierre Le Maitre is an excellent writer who has benefitted from a wonderful translator. The novel appears to be a standard police procedural centered around a warped but intelligent serial killer who plays games with the investigating team. This isn't what happens in real life and it does feel a bit pedestrian. Especially coming on from the brilliant Alex, it seems ordinary. Actually it isn't - it is very clever indeed. But by the time the reader realises this in the last fifth of the text, there is a fair chance that some of the readers will have either been lost or be skimming. Their loss.

Le Maitre creates a real, three dimensional world. Yes, it's Paris and it still feels authentic without being romantic. It's a world more of Gitanes and brandy than the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Couer. But we do still have Camille's love of painting and a fair dose of literature to remind us we are in a city of art and learning.

It would be unfair to reveal the trick, but it is a good one. When it happens, it's probably best to sit back in amazement than probe too deeply.

I recommend Irene as a work of literary fiction, not just as a detective fiction. Pierre Le Maitre is real talent and I hope we can see more of his works coming into English translation in the near future.
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I read this author's first book "Alex" and found it compelling reading but a little gory - I felt that the author had rather revelled in the violence done to women. In this book the crime scenes are as brutal but we only see the results after the victims are dead and don't live through the actual crime which helps to distance us from the violence whilst in no way hiding the impact of the killer's work. The author reveals as the book progresses that each crime is a reenactment of a scene in famous crime books so he can blame the gore on other writers anyway !

It is difficult to review this book without reference to an amazing twist which occurs towards the end of the book and which I in no way saw coming. It is an amazingly clever piece of writing which turns your perceptions of the whole story around and causes you to reexamine everything you thought you knew about the story. This twist made the book a five star read for me because it was so clever but I also thought that the characterisation and the plot were gripping before that point. I wish that the author had spent a little more time after the twist is revealed helping us to work out exactly what is real and what isn't, I had to stop reading from time to time to work it out. It is possible, however, that the impact of the story, the twist and the ending is enhanced because of the way in which we have to continually rethink what is happening.

I thought that this was a good book up to when the author makes his revelation when it becomes an exceptional book that even several days after reading I am still thinking about. The detailed characterisations of Camille Verhoeven, his colleagues and his wife stop the book being merely and academic puzzle and make it engaging reading.

Thank you to the publishers who provided a free copy of this book to me in exchange for a review via NetGalley.
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on 10 March 2014
Perhaps not as good as Alex and the final result is a little obvious particularly if you read Alex first (the second in the series but translated into English before Irene), but a great read that is genuinely difficult to put down. Highly recommended.
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on 7 May 2015
This book was recommended to me by my writing tutor as an example of some of the writing techniques I could potentially use in my own writing project. So I read this as a writer and admittedly did not relish the thought of reading a crime detective novel as this is not a genre I normally read.

Having said all that, this is a brilliant book on many levels. It's not a literary book but it's not trying to be so that's fine. However, the plot is creative and very well executed. The characters are well defined and the story hits all the story structure beats that you would expect in a great novel. It is a rollercoaster of a read and, whilst I struggled to initially get into the book, by the mid-point, I was absolutely hooked and had to keep reading to find out what happened.

Highly recommended
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 September 2015
I came to Irene after the truly amazing Alex, the second book in the trilogy but published first, so I knew some of the outcome already but it didn't detract from my reading experience and I really enjoyed it. We are introduced to Camille Verhoeven, head of a serious crime team, as he starts his investigation into a very brutal double murder which soon morphs into a serial killer hunt as more crimes are linked to the perpetrator.
I don't really know how to describe this novel as on one level it is a straightforward police procedural and yet by the end it is something completely different due to an amazing twist which I can't say anything about without spoiling the read. All I will say is that I found it totally engrossing and can't recommend it enough.
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on 11 May 2014
Reading this before Alex did not help. Knowing the ending distracted me from the intrigues of this well written novel. I think the book is really a homage to the crime thriller and it's classic origins. Not a bad book but not really enthrall ing. Alexi is so much better. But if you are going to read Lemaitre, and I think you should, then read what is being touted as a trilogy, in order.
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on 18 July 2015
A good read, but unfortunately read Alex first as it was published in English a while ago. Can definitely see that Lemaitre was learning his craft as Alex was a much better book, particularly in how it was concluded. If you haven't read Alex yet, make sure you read this one first. In it's own right, Irene is pretty original and stands as an homage to crime fiction. Very gruesome in places, but not for the sake of it. The characters are what make Lemaitre's fiction so good, particularly Camille Verhoeven, who is one of the most memorable detectives of modern times.
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on 15 May 2014
5 stars.
Having enjoyed many Scandinavian noir thrillers I was looking for something that would match the best of these, Jo Nesbo, Jussi Adler Olsen etc
This book is a terrific thriller. A fabulous leading character who is very different from the usual investigator. Great characters throughout a dark story that has you turning every page desperate to see what unfolds.
Whilst it is the second book to be translated in the series it is set before Alex and I would strongly recommend reading it first
I shall be on the lookout for more books by Lemaitre
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on 22 January 2016
An interesting read, the premise of which is an old story of a murderer recreating a murder from a book, but well told all the same.

The ending is a brilliant bit of writing.

Will need to re-read Alex again now.
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on 30 August 2015
I don't really know where to start with this one. Just to say that Irene had been recommended to me from different directions and I became so intrigued by the positivity of it all that I just HAD to read it. And I'm so glad I did. I LOVED it.

Irene is the first in a trilogy of books but for some reason the second, Alex, was translated first. Luckily I was warned of this many times and I'm glad I'm reading them in order!!

It tells the story of Commandant Verhoeven a senior police officer working in homicide. A man very small in stature, due to medical reasons, but not in personality. Newly married and with a child on the way life is pretty good for the commandant at the moment. Darkness ensues when a serial killer enters the scene, a killer so brutal it simply takes the breath away. Murders that appear to be based on crime fiction novels whether famous or obscure. It's difficult to say much more about the storyline without giving spoilers away. But what can be said is that the writing is top notch, the fear factor is ratcheted up to the highest level and the gory gruesomeness is definitely not for the faint hearted. I'm pretty unshockable (or so I thought!) but the descriptiveness and shock factor was taken to a whole new level that is both stomach churning and terrifying. I mean seriously, the lights were left on everywhere around the house, that chilling is this read!

What also sets this apart is the level of writing. I read a lot of crime novel, I mean A LOT!! But this in my humble opinion was in a different league to most that I've read. Seriously compelling in it's entire approach it was read with ease and much hiding under the duvet! In amongst all the darkness there was even the odd laugh out loud moment. Characters were brought to life vividly and were totally engrossing with their nuances and idiosyncrasies and yes I did have my favourites!! This is a very very dark book and is not for everyone. A lot would find this too much, there is not too much left to the imagination - but I loved it and I don't know what that says about me?!! :\ Hopefully a penchant for great writing when I read it.

I highly recommend this book and will definitely be reading the next one, Alex. You just might want to keep an axe or something by your bed....!! I jest .... or do I?!!
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