Book recommendation: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

Well, I’m back from that little break that I took, and I have a great book to recommend in order to kick things off this week.

I admit, Alex isn’t a book I own myself. I bought it for my mom for her birthday, and, once she finished it, she told me that it was something I needed to read.

I have to say, she was right. This book didn’t go at all in the direction I was expecting it to, which made it so much better than I was anticipating.

The novel kicks off in high gear when Alex Prevost, a young woman living in Paris, is kidnapped by a man who’s been following her. Commandant Camille Verhoeven is assigned to her case, though he’s far from enthusiastic about it. But as the hours tick by and more is revealed about each Alex and her kidnapper, Camille finds that this case isn’t quite as straightforward as anyone was expecting.

I should also mention that this novel is, technically, the second in a trilogy, but it works really well as a standalone novel. Which is good, because I didn’t realize until after finishing it that it is part of a trilogy. Alex was the first in the series to be translated from its original French, while the first novel in the trilogy, Irene, wasn’t translated until this past March, and the third, Sacrifices, hasn’t yet been translated at all. I’ll likely end up reading each Irene and Sacrifices, but I don’t feel its necessary to read either of them in order to enjoy Alex.

Not that that’s said, let’s move on to why I recommend this novel.

First, I loved that it’s told from the point of view of each Alex and Camille. It gives us an extra bit of insight into what’s happening, and actually manages to add to the suspense of the novel rather than take away from it. I found that it helped me to better understand Camille as I was reading about him, and Alex as I reached the end of the novel.

But, as I already mentioned, my absolute favourite aspect of this novel was the path that it took and how everything turned out. I was expecting a fairly common kidnapping-story equation; girl gets kidnapped, detective gets assigned to the case, girl gets rescued, kidnapper ends up either arrested or dead. But, well, that equation doesn’t come close to describing what actually ended up happening.

Throughout the novel, Lemaitre throws in twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting. Sure, looking back, I was able to see the clues that he laid out, but they weren’t anything that I thought were important as I was first reading them. And, yes, there were times when I wondered what on Earth was happening and why certain characters were behaving the way they were.

And then, in the last few chapters of the novel, everything came together. A switch flipped in my head, and I got it. And all I could think was that what had been orchestrated by a particular character was brilliant. Honestly, there’s no other word for it.

So, if you have any love for thrillers or suspenseful novels, definitely read this book. It can get a bit graphic at times, but I don’t think there”s anything that’s too hard to handle. And the few graphic elements included aren’t just there for show; they are integral to understanding both the plot and the characters.

Goodreads summary

Alex Prévost—kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage—is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die. Will hunger, thirst, or the rats get her first?

Apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. The diminutive and brilliant detective knows from bitter experience the urgency of finding the missing woman as quickly as possible—but first he must understand more about her.

As he uncovers the details of the young woman’s singular history, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim. She is beautiful, yes, but also extremely tough and resourceful. Before long, saving Alex’s life will be the least of Commandant Verhoeven’s considerable challenges.

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