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Camille Verhoeven, whose diminutive stature belies his fierce intensity, has reached an unusually content (for him) place in life. He is respected by his colleagues, and he and his lovely wife, Irene, are expecting their first child.
But when a new murder case hits his desk - a double torture-homicide that's so extreme that even the most seasoned officers are horrified - Verhoeven is overcome with a sense of foreboding.
As links emerge between the bloody set-piece and at least one past unsolved murder, it becomes clear that a calculating serial killer is at work. The press has a field day, taking particular pleasure in putting Verhoeven under the media spotlight (and revealing uncomfortable details of his personal life).
Then Verhoeven makes a breakthrough discovery: The murders are modeled after the exploits of serial killers from classic works of crime fiction. The double murder was an exquisitely detailed replication of a scene from Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, and one of the linked cold cases was a faithful homage to James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia.
The media circus reaches a fever pitch when the modus operandi of the killer, dubbed "The Novelist", is revealed. Worse, the Novelist has taken to writing taunting letters to the police, emphasizing that he will stop leaving any clues behind unless Verhoeven remains on the case.
For reasons known only to the killer, the case has become personal.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By W Perry Hall on 01-20-15
Napoleonic Inspector & Lovely, Pregnant Wife Irene
First, a Warning: Do NOT read Alex (the 2d in the Verhoeven trilogy, but the first translated and published in the States) before reading this, or even the publisher's Irene-spoiler description of *Alex*. Regretfully, I did; else this review would be longer.
*Irene* is a hyper-intelligent, noir, (quasi-meta) thriller with a quite original (and short) protagonist Commandant.
Second Warning: This novel is not for the weak of stomach or heart.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
By S. Yates on 02-27-18
Gripping and surprising
Disturbing and fast-paced, this first book in the French crime trilogy plays well with the book within a book trope, making it feel fresh if unsettling. A nice change from British crime fiction (which tends toward the classic or the cozy) and Scandinavian (which can seem unrelentingly depraved), this French iteration relishes in the arts (with themes of visual arts and literature).
Our main character is Commandant Camille Verhoeven, and as a protagonist he breaks away from the typical police leads in a simple way -- his stature. Standing less than five feet tall, his vantage point itself is a departure, as is the way his height impacts how colleagues, witnesses, the press, and suspects interact with him. His quarry is a truly diabolical and well-read serial killer who meticulously plans and carries out his macabre crimes. Mixed into this well-worn serial killer hunt are discussions of class and education, childhood and family, success and love.
The entire book moves well, with more than enough gory crime scenes and clever tête-à-têtes. And there is a fairly big twist toward the end that makes you wonder how much of what you read to that point is accurate. This twist makes a reader feel somewhat toyed with and acts as a parallel to how the killer toys with the police force in general and Camille in particular. The ending comes after a breathless chase (both literally and liturature-ly) and it is terrible to behold.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful