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by Kyle Thomas Smith
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Oct 2, 2013

Not since Simenon has noir looked so good.

And femmes fatales don't come much better-looking than Alex Prévost. That is, when she wants to. How she looks and what name she goes by all depend on whom she's after.

But, first, there's the matter of who's after her.

Pierre Lemaitre's "Alex" begins with the title character walking out of a Paris bar, proud of how she can still turn heads. It didn't used to be this way. As a girl, Alex made boys wince but then she filled out in all the right places, and that's when the trouble started.

As she saunters home, she senses she's being followed. Alex thinks she can dodge her stalker but he cuts her off, rustles her into the back of a van, beats her as close to death as he wants to keep her, and drives to a far-off warehouse.

Not since Simenon has noir looked so good.

Only the Marquis de Sade and a few other sickos could dream up worse tortures than Alex's kidnapper puts her through. Let's just say they involve a Medieval torture chamber called a fillette, yards of rope and a pack of hungry rats. Deprived of all humanity, Alex plots her escape. When that proves futile, she wishes he'd just finish her off. But a quick death is too good for her in his book.

Who is he and why has he singled her out? After Alex works these questions out for herself, we learn that Alex has a hit-list of her own and has gone a good way down it. And even if everybody on it is getting what they got coming, it's clear why even more are coming for her.

For now, all Commandant Camille Verhoeven knows is that a woman has been kidnapped, and time is running out to save her and catch the man with the van. Camille might not be the first cop in crime fiction to have to take on a case that hits too close home, given what happened to his late wife, but he might be the only one who stands at only four-foot-eleven as he leads his entire division to the case's ever-growing list of victims. As underestimated as Columbo, Camille combines the grit of Sam Spade with Maigret's savoir-faire and Napoleon's physical stature.

Winner of the Crime Writer Association's (CWA) International Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel 2013, Pierre Lemaitre's "Alex" brings us into territory that might, at first flush, look well-charted but that turns more bizarre and treacherous with each new clue.

By Pierre Lemaitre
MacLehose Press
© 2011, 2013 (translated)
Release: Feb. 13, 2013
ISBN 978-1-626365-000-1

Kyle Thomas Smith is author of the novel 85A (Bascom Hill, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and two cats.


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