Irene by Pierre Lemaitre
Genre: Crime fiction.
But his blissful existence is punctured by a murder of unprecedented savagery. Worse still, the press seem to have it in for him – his every move is headline news. When he discovers that the killer has killed before – that each murder is a homage to a classic crime novel – the fourth estate are quick to coin a nickname… The Novelist…
With both men in the public eye, the case develops into a personal duel, each hell-bent on outsmarting the other. There can only be one winner – whoever has the least to lose…
As it turned out, Alex was the second novel in the Commandant Verhoeven series, but the first to be translated to English from the first language of French. The debut novel Irene, Commandant Verhoeven’s first outing was released in the UK after Alex had received rave reviews. Because I loved Alex so much and I loved the writing style and twists of Lemaitre, I snatched Irene up when I saw it in my local library.
Now I wish I hadn’t been so fast about it.
I will start this review by disclosing that I have only read half of this novel, but of a 400 page novel, I think reading roughly 200 pages gives me enough of a feel for the book to give my view. I won’t be finishing it. I just don’t want to pick it back up.
The novel starts with some pretty horrific murders and when I say horrific, I mean horrific. Every detail is described and it’s grim and violent in the extreme. In a way that we discussed about violence being gratuitous in the blog post Here. Two women are dismembered as well as having other rather violent things done to them. It’s not a brief description either. Lemaitre seems to drag it out as though this is what crime fans love about the genre. And I guess some do. But it’s sickening. I skim read several pages just to get past the description of the scene.
As it turns out, the murderer is simply following descriptions to the letter from past crime novels, so there are novels out there that are already this sickening!
Commandant Verhoeven is only 4 foot 11 inches and this is played on A LOT. I am only 5 foot tall so there’s only one inch between us. I admit that for a male, there is a massive difference for him with his colleagues, but there were comments about his height in relation to everyday items around him and how difficult it was for him. For instance sitting on chairs. His feet were dangling and not able to touch the floor. Well unless he’s not proportioned properly, all he’d have to do was sit on the edge of the chair and it’s better. I think in this respect, with it being the debut, Lemaitre wanted to firmly show he had a detective with a difference and it was overplayed a little. So much so, it sounded as though he had fully genetic dwarfism instead of him just being ridiculously short for a bloke. It wasn’t played on so much in Alex. (I’m sorry I can’t help but compare it to Alex.)
I also know due to the fact that I’ve read Alex, one of the major plotlines that will occur in Irene, and I just didn’t want to read any more gore and nastiness. After all, only halfway through, I’m sure the murderer was going to kill again as well.
If you’re going to start this series, I do recommend you start with Alex and go from there or start with Irene and know that it’s a decent enough debut (Remember his writing style is good) and the series gets much much better, but I don’t recommend going backwards if you’ve read Alex.