Three Days and a Life – Pierre Lemaitre

Three Days and a LifeThe story: Aged just twelve, Antoine acts out of in a fit of anger, with horrific consequences. From that day, he lives his life in the constant shadow of shame and doubt, driven by an overwhelming desire to escape from the consequences of his actions. As an adult, he’s determined to get away from the small town where he grew up and make a different life for himself. But when unforeseen circumstances draw him back home and into the orbit of old friends and acquaintances, events transpire to bring old truths to the surface, no matter how hard Antoine tries to keep them buried forever.

 

My thoughts: Pierre Lemaitre is a French crime writer that I’ve been following for a while, and I think I’ve read all of the books he’s written that have been translated into English. His previous novels have been much more intense and focus on a series of grisly murders and psychological abuse. In contrast, Three Days and a Life was a bit of a departure from what I was used to reading from this author.

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Blood Wedding – Pierre Lemaitre

Blood WeddingThe story: Sophie is convinced she’s losing her mind. She forgets things, has erratic mood swings and there are stretches of time that are complete blanks. Her carefully ordered life has fallen apart. Things come to a head when she’s working as a nanny,  and one morning finds her six year old charge brutally murdered – and all the evidence says it was Sophie that did it. Fleeing the scene, she must find a way to survive while she tries to come to terms with what’s happened.

My thoughts: Sophie as a narrator is as unreliable as they come. While she has fragments of memories that convince her of her own guilt, she cannot explain her actions, even to herself. She has a natural instinct to survive and evade capture, but to do so she must go to places that she never thought she could. She thinks she’s lost her mind, and maybe she has. But then again, maybe she hasn’t.

Pierre Lemaitre specialises in switching up viewpoints mid-way through a story and turning everything we thought we knew completely on its head. He’s done it before, in Alex, and he does it again here superbly. I can’t go into detail or it would completely spoil the story, but there are some intense scenes of psychological torture and violence. It’s very dark and very twisted. It’s like Gone Girl on steroids.

Not everything is as it first seems. We get a unique insight into the minds of two main characters, who are each seeing events from a different point of view and force us to re-examine everything we’ve been told in a new light. Whether or not you believe Sophie is guilty of murdering her charge, she certainly crosses numerous lines as the novel progresses – playing with our concepts of responsibility and blame.

As much as I appreciated the clever plot and the masterful character development that we see in Sophie throughout the novel, I personally found the subject matter to be a bit too intense. I’d like to point out that I read a lot of crime fiction and psychological thrillers, including a number of other books by Pierre Lemaitre (Alex and Camille), and I’d say that generally I’m not too squeamish. However, the more I read of Blood Wedding, the more disturbing I found it. Sophie’s thought processes and experiences are deeply troubling, and I found it a really uncomfortable read.

I still think that Pierre Lemaitre can write a cracking psychological thriller to rival the best in the genre, but this one wasn’t for me. I’m not going to let it put me off reading his books in the future though.

‘Camille’ by Pierre Lemaitre

CamilleThis is the third novel in a series from Pierre Lemaitre focussing on Camille Verhoeven, a detective with the French police, of which I’ve only read one – ‘Alex’.

When Camille’s lover, Anne, is caught up in what seems to be a jewellery store robbery gone wrong and left with horrific injuries, he immediately breaks all the rules to take on the case. But what seems to have seen a simple robbery soon takes a more serious turn, as the perpetrator sets out to remove all witnesses who could tie him to the crime – including Ann.

As he attempts to keep Anne safe, Camille’s attempts to hide his involvement with her from his colleagues grow more and more frantic. He comes under increasing scrutiny from his team and his senior officers, threatening to derail his career and destroy his friendships. Despite this, he preserves on regardless, throwing caution to the wind as he grows more and more desperate. Continue reading