Irene by Pierre Lemaitre
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What were the publishers thinking when they published the second instalment in the trilogy before they decided to translate and publish the first??? They were thinking right in doing so. Why?? Will come to that. Before that a bit of the plot, where a serial killer is on a killing spree with mutilated victims strewn all around. He kills them, tortures them, and uses classic crime fiction novels as his point of reference on torture methods and settings. As far as the basic premise of his crime and modus operandi goes he is clichéd to the core, with violence and madness mixed with the usual serial killer antics. Camille gets involved in the case and for those who have read Alex, will know gets involves personally too.
Now the publishers thought right because Alex is a far better Crime novel than Irene. If seen from a purely Crime Fiction POV Alex offered a lot of newness, ranging from the plot, the victims modus operandi, the change in the identity of a character from being good to bad, and back to being good again, or the nastiness of the violence made all the more potent with the mental brutality mixed with it. Compared to that, Irene was brutal, but so is most of the Scandi novels, even the new Robert Galbraith novel is brutal. Brutality didn’t work for me in this book. They were horrifying but it failed to create the level of horror which would make me sit on the edge of the seat.
The plot too, was nothing new. A serial killer taking on the main protagonist in a cat and mouse game, trying to show who is the boss. Been there done that. The use of classic Crime novel as a point of reference though new but is not that ground-breaking. Yes, it does offer a comprehensive course on Crime fiction of sorts, but we have had serial killers referencing ancient Spanish inquisition methods to torture the victims to killers leaving classic rock albums in their victims’ tortured bodies. So, this proved to be “not so exciting” to me. As it was the case with the “TWIST” in the last pages. Somehow the book was so long and a bit slow that by the time the twist came it failed to twist me in any way.
So, when the publishers decided to publish the second book first they knew they were publishing the better of the two books. And indeed it was a success, and for the sole reason that I enjoyed Alex, did I decide to stick with Irene up to the end. Had it been the other way round maybe Irene would have been shelved as UNFINISHED. But, the end result is that Pierre Lemaitre is one hell of a writer. Maybe this was a first-book-blues but he got class, and whoever had read Alex will surely agree that though slow, Irene wasn’t a pushover novel, and that maybe the third book in the trilogy will surpass the first two.
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