Literature Review: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

By Jennifer J. Lacelle

Wild. Ferocious. Diabolical. 

Three words defining the novel Alex, written by Pierre Lemaitre, published in 2011. The version this review pertains was translated to English by Franke Wynne. It is Lemaitre’s first novel to undergo translation and was republished as such in 2013. 

Lemaitre is a French novelist who has received numerous awards for his writing during the span of his career, including the CWA International Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel 2013 for Alex. He was originally a professor of literature. Some of his other work happens to include screenplays such as See You Up There and Three Days and a Life

He specialises in crime fiction, but is particularly known for writing about fictitious crime detective, Commandant Camille Verhoeven. Thus far, Lemaitre has four novels revolving around this character and he is not the typical detective you see in movies and television when it comes to physical appearance. Rather than a towering and muscular man he is under five feet tall, bald and lanky. He makes up for the supposed lack of “traditional hero” with his superior intelligence.

Alex follows Commandant Camille Verhoeven who reluctantly begins solving a kidnapping case, the type of work he normally refuses, while trying to deal with his own trauma. 

Another important point of view in the novel is that of Alex Prévost, the girl who has been kidnapped, as she reveals her horrific story piece by piece.

Lemaitre’s methodical regaling will leave readers on the edge of their seats as Verhoeven and Prévost’s past traumas haunt them, leading them down winding and questionable paths. Their two stories come together cohesively as he solves the crime and she runs for her life. 

It is worth noting that the plot twists in this novel are unexpected and jaw-dropping.

In no way does Lemaitre shy away from descriptive and gory details in his writing. Rather, he descriptively shares the intricacies of the fictitious world he has created. This leaves his audience with dazzling, though grizzly and occasionally brutal, analyses conveying the scenes without revealing too much information. 

It is sure to be a piece that will have long-standing in the literature world and you’ll want more with every page you complete. Good luck closing the covers if you choose to pick up the crime novel, Alex.

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