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on 13 March 2014
It's very difficult to explain the plot of `Pierre Lemaitre's Alex' without giving away too much. We open with the kidnapping and torture of a girl. The attempts of the police to track down this girl, with no evidence to show that a kidnapping has even taken place, help to start unravelling a web of lies, violence and deceit.

The book is split into three separate sections, each of which turns the story on its head and takes t in a completely new direction. It's like solving a mystery within a mystery - each section throws up a new conundrum and completely changes our views on what has come before.

All of the characters are hiding secrets and our perceptions of different people shifted depending on the titbits of information that the author slowly released over the course of the novel. The pace moves along at a breakneck pace, shifting how we see characters with just a few short sentences and well-timed revelations.

The cast of police detectives is set up nicely for a series. There was a decent amount of back story around the characters included, probably for this reason, but for me, this took away from the main action too much. I was much too tempted to skim read my way through these sections.

Some people have commented on the violence being a bit much to stomach in parts - but I didn't actually think it was that bad. The thing that makes this book more shocking than others in its genre is the excruciating minute details and the way that the author drags out the descriptions of the torture scenes.

Once I started reading this, I literally couldn't put it down. It got its hooks in and it didn't let go. If you like detective thrillers with a bit of an edge, this is the book for you.
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I absolutely loved this book. It is as complex and clever as Sarah Waters at her best. Pierre Lemaitre does a wonderful job in playing with the readers' emotions - hope, despair, anger, surprise, hate, pity - all of them come into play in this most unexpected package. On the outside, it looks like a run of the mill police procedural, exploring the somewhat arcane French judicial system. But it is so much more.

It is hard to explain just how good this is without spoiling it for those who have yet to read it. Broadly, I suppose, one could say that it opens with the police receiving a report of a young woman being bundled into a van against her will. They then have to work out who she is, where she is, and who is responsible - in whichever order comes naturally. Can't say more - perhaps, just this once, take it on trust.
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on 8 July 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this an amazing book, far above the usual serial killer stories. From the first pages when we meet Alex, in seventh heaven trying on wigs in Paris just before she is brutally kidnapped, to the indeed bitter (but ultimately satisfactory) ending, the pace rarely lets up and the story becomes ever more convoluted.
It's not possible to say much about the plot without revealing what any interested reader needs to discover for themselves, but I found myself firmly on the side of Alex throughout. She is a feisty person, damaged but determined, and for a foil for her we have the Paris police, oddities in their own right: Camille, the senior officer so small his feet swing when he sits in an ordinary chair and who lost his wife to a kidnapper; Louis the rich man, Armand the cadger, Le Guen the much-married, the Magistrate who all agree must have been a highly irritating little boy - all trying to make sense of a situation that for a long time seems to have very little.
Alex and the police are the people we spend time with and get to know and I wanted to spend the time with them, brutal as it often was. From the start I found it hard to put down and I was desperate to find out what the ending would be. It did not disappoint. Great story.
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on 15 March 2015
Excellent! Certain 5 star read. But please read 'Irene' by Lemaitre first. Although 'Alex' was published in the UK in translation before it, 'Irene' precedes it in character plot terms. Ideally read 'Irene' first if you can.
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on 11 May 2015
A beautiful and naked heroine being tortured by a monster, for goodness sake, clichés can't get worse than that! If you like novels in which there is a huge and tittilating dose of sadism , a fair amount of sex and in which most of the characters are constructed to be grotesquely weird, including most of the police officers, then this is one for you.

My own reaction: this novel is over-the-top, highly contrived and far too clever by half. I can envision the author sitting in his modest office and trying to devise new horrors, out of the back of his head. I fail to develop the least sympathy for, or interest in, any of his characters, whether pepetrator, or victim, or cop: it was a matter of indifference to me whether they sink or swim, live or die, or simply fade away. Thus, the first principle of detective stories is not fulfilled. This is what happens when everything becomes over-the-top: it just leads to a big yawn. Big yawn...

I am amazed at the positive reviews. But I suppose that detective novels must become more and more grimly violent and sadistic until this particular fashion fad has run its course. And may be we will then see a few good new detective novels emerging, stories enriched by subtle imagination rather than being full of brute force and ignorance... But this is, as always, just a personal opinion.
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on 30 May 2016
Alex, by Pierre LeMaitre came up on one of those infuriating lists '25 Can't Put Down Books' that you see pop up on the internet every so often and it sounded interesting to me then I found out it was part of a trilogy, so I had to read the three books. They are by French author LeMaitre and translated by Frank Wynne. I'll be honest, some of the translation is a little but odd and I am not sure if that's down to Le Maitre's turn of phrase or issues with translation, so sometimes the flow of reading jars.

That said, this is a really solid crime trilogy with an laconic dwarf at the helm in the shape of Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven who always appears to be at odds with authority. I can't really go over plots as I will give away spoilers for readers of the trilogy but I can say that my favourite book was probably the first, Irene as it has the most engaging crime scenes and perpetrator - it's cleverly thought out and intricate - an intricacy that is missing from the subsequent books.

Highly recommended for a long holiday!
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on 28 February 2014
There's lots to object to in this nasty violent tale of kidnappings, torture and serial murder. Where to start? There's the cliched damaged heroine who gets her revenge by being even more brutal than her abusers. The lingering over her capture and torture. The one-note cop characters: this one's rich, this one's a cadger. The total lack of humour or wit.

But for me the final straw in this pile of old fashioned weirdness was the author's baffling emphasis on the height of his lead detective. So this guy's 4ft 11ins. That's not exactly abnormal. It's not a handicap or a humiliation, as the Prix Concort and CWA prize winning author would have it. He's just a bit short! And what does this add to the plot? Nothing except an opportunity for a bit of sniggering at how his feet dangle from the chair and don't touch the floor. Unreconstructed attitudes pretending to be something more sophisticated.
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on 29 June 2013
At last, a real thriller. Nothing is as it seems and just when you think you've cracked it, one page later, -- you were absolutely wrong. Suspense to the very last line of the very last page. Let's have his other novels translated into English please.
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on 15 June 2014
It was actually my Mum who told me about this book. I wasn't sure as we have very different tastes, but she said it was very gory and really thriller-ish, so I gave it a go. It is in 3 parts and after I finished the first part, I couldn't work out where the story was going to go, but I carried on through the 2nd part, getting a bit more intense the 2nd part finishes, again, I wasn't sure how the 3rd part was going to keep me interested. but damn, it was amazing. I was literally having to slow down to take it all in as I was getting so intrigued. it was a really great book, even though I was questioning it a lot of the time.
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on 23 October 2013
I had seen a few mentions of Alex by Pierre Lemaitre around the blogosphere and thought it might be a good fit, given my penchant for crime thrillers.

Was it ever! I was hooked from the first chapter. (And more than a little annoyed at myself that I didn't start reading earlier in the night) Fair warning right from the start - Gentle readers this one's not for you - there is graphic violence and disturbing situations. Back to that first chapter.....a beautiful young woman named Alex is snatched off the street, taken to an abandoned warehouse and forced into a small wooden crate which is then suspended from the ceiling. Her captor says nothing more to her other than he is going to watch her die. But Alex is resourceful....very resourceful...

A kidnapping is reported and the case is given to Commandant Camille Verhoeven - a man who lost his pregnant wife to a kidnapper - her body was found, but not the perpetrator and he has eschewed all kidnapping cases since. Verhoeven's boss LeGuen assigns him to the case as he says there is no one else and so Verhoeven reluctantly takes on the case. LeGuen has brought Verhoeven's old team back together. Lemaitre has created a memorable group of investigators that I really enjoyed. But the most memorable is of course Verhoeven.

"People rarely get the measure of Camille on first meeting and rarely appreciate him. This might also be because he's not exactly cheerful. Camille doesn't like himself very much." Camille is also a victim of fetal hypotrophy and stands only 4'11'. "Camille is positively stunted. He sees the world from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old." In contrast, his superior and old friend LeGuen is quite large - the scale is somewhere near three hundred pounds. Armand and Louis fill out the team. Again opposites - Louise is wealthy with no need to work and Armand is a notorious penny pincher. (His scavenging ways provided a light note in a heavy plot)

And what a plot! Lemaitre is fiendishly clever, leading the reader down one path initially and then veering off in a direction I didn't see coming. I really don't want to give much more away - I love being surprised and Lemaitre successfully caught me unawares. Loved it!

I have to also mention that Frank Wynne did a fantastic job with the translation - very smooth reading with no wooden clunky sentences or form.

Alex is an excellent thriller and a great introduction to a prickly character I want to see more of. Alex was the winner of the CWA International Dagger Award 2013.
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