Review: Pierre LeMaitre – Camille

9780857052773One of the most anticipated books this year, I was delighted when a review copy of Camille by Pierre LeMaitre dropped through my letterbox. It completes the trilogy featuring diminutive detective Commandant Camille Verhoeven. The series has been translated from the French out of order so we began with the second book, Alex, before starting the tragedy of Camille’s personal life with Irene. This is an excellent series. Any of the books can be read as standalones but with Camille, we do get a sense of the detective’s story coming full circle.

It is a series of seemingly random events that leads Anne Forestier to be shot three times in a bungled raid on a jewellers. She is taken to hospital but an attempt is soon made on her life there. For Commandant Verhoeven, it is an echo of a past tragedy when his wife, Irene, was murdered by a killer exacting revenge on Camille. He is determined to protect Anne at all costs but is hampered by the fact that he fails to tell his superiors of his relationship with the victim.

Camille is a dark tale with the detective once more at its heart. It’s the personality of Camille who, as with earlier books, dominates the narrative. It’s a clever ploy to make him physically small because he is a lion at heart and life’s vicissitudes appear to have only made him more determined. It is a difficult book to review because it invites comparisons to the wonderful Alex. I don’t think the story is was ingenious as the previous book but I did prefer it to Irene. I think this was partly the plot. It’s tightly contained and barely gives the reader a chance to consider what is happening.

Fans of the two earlier books will want to read Camille to complete Verhoeven’s tale. I think it’s a greater book than that as it shows how love, mistrust and acceptance aren’t mutually exclusive. And LeMaitre is a beautiful writer. The excellent translation was by Frank Wynne.

The Best of March’s Reading

I read five books in March, all of which were excellent. This isn’t always the case so I’m pleased to see that quality is winning over quantity. I also have some great books lined up for my April reading, including Anya Lipska’s Death Can’t Take a JokeMy crime IMG_0971fiction highlight of the month was attending Anya’s book launch at Daunt Books in Holland Park. Watch this space for the review.

My pick of the month, as you can probably guess from the review, is Irene by Pierre Lemaitre. Although breathtaking in its violence, it is also highly original and is shaping up to be my book of the year. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The five books I read for Crimepieces were:

1. Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

2. Irene by Pierre Lemaitre

3. I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum

4. Scarred by Thomas Enger

5. Emperors Once More by Duncan Jepson

Crimefest – Day 1

BloggersIt’s that CrimeFest time of year and it’s been great to say hello to old friends and meet new authors, bloggers and readers. For me, the event kicked off with the quiz on Thursday evening. We were a team of bloggers – Mrs Peabody, It’s a Crime, Raven Crime Reads and Eurocrime. Given the amount of crime fiction that we read, you’d have thought we’d do OK. Well, we came fourth. Some questions were alarmingly obscure – would any regular readers of this blog know that the Crime Writer’s Association consumed corned beef sandwiches and a pot of tea at their inaugural meeting? A picture of our quiz team is on the left. As many of the bloggers use aliases I’ll leave it to you to guess the faces to their websites.

My first panel of Friday was entitled Crime in the Country – Going Rural. Participants were Jeffrey Deaver, Elly Griffiths, Stanley Trollip (one half of Michael Stanley) and Martin Walker with the panel moderated by Len C Tyler. JD admitted that his books were largely urban in nature although, not surprising given his output, a couple did have rural settings. MW sets his books in France, EG in Norfolk and MS in Botswana. The panel discussed the nature of ‘difference’. While cities can be largely homogenised, the country has the capacity for depicting violent crimes against the landscape of a lost paradise. MW made an interesting point that while urban police might be looking for ‘connections’ in relation to a victim, in a rural area, these might be more immediately obvious – where long standing feuds are well known. I thought the discussion fascinating, not least because I live in the countryside. While crime is generally low, the capacity to be frightened – dark nights, isloated setting etc makes it rich pickings for crime writers.

The second session was presented by Barry Forshaw entitled Too much sex and violence: British Crime Films. With only 20 minutes to cover the topic, I can say that I was impressed by Barry’s knowledge of the genre and I’m now dying to watch some of the films he mentioned. For most people, the only two British crime films that they would be able to name would be Get Carter and Brighton Rock. These are both excellent films but, as we found out in the presentation, there’s a raft of movies from the 1940s, many starring Dirk Bogarde and Stanley Baker, that portray the underbelly of British society. A film that I’m particularly keen to try is ‘Yield to the Night’ based on the story of Ruth Ellis, last woman to be hanged in the UK, starring Diana Doors.

Another panel I attended was Native and Outside: Different Perspectives. It focused on the difference between writing as an Panel1outsider and a native of an area. On the panel were Adrian Magson and Pierre Lemaitre writing about France and Dana Stabenow and M J McGrath who set their books in Alaska. A theme that emerged from the panel was the importance of research for the writers not from the place. AM uses his brother who still lives in France for information and MJM regularly visits Alaska. For the native writers, it is a case of using the landscape that they are familiar with and attempting to portray the diversity of the setting away from stereotypes. Needless to say, after hearing the writers speak, I’m dying to read their books which are sitting in my TBR pile.

Pierre Lemaitre’s translator, Frank Wynne, was also present on the panel and I afterwards attended a fascinating talk by him on a book he had written. I Was Vermeer documents the life of forger Han van Meegeren and it was absolutely fascinating. I could have listened to the story for hours and I’m definitely going to read the book. Particularly interesting was the vested interest people who unintentionally buy and sell  forged pictures have in continuing the deception.

In the evening, the CWA Awards were announced including the International and Ellis Peters Historical Dagger. All the nominees can be found here.  A fascinating day and, deep breath, on to day two.